HOW THEY PLAY This is the fastest, most skilled and smallest club of the four. They make up for a lack of size with feistiness. Sixth-year coach Scott Owens's forwards do their share of backchecking.
PLAYERS TO WATCHLinemates Marty Sertich (above) and Brett Sterling are two of the three finalists--along with Cornell goalie David McKee--for the Hobey Baker Award, which will be announced on Friday. Center Sertich is an elusive playmaker (team-high 37 assists) with superb vision and sweet hands, a true hockey artiste. (The black-rimmed glasses he wears off the ice heighten the effect.) Left wing Sterling is a powder keg, a pure scorer ( NCAA-leading 34 goals) who will mix it up in high-traffic areas.
NEED TO KNOW Scott Polaski, the big right wing on Sertich's line, is a nephew of Olympic speed skating champion and 1994 SI Sportswoman of the Year Bonnie Blair.
HOW THEY PLAY The superbly balanced Pioneers are not as defensive-minded as the Denver team that blocked 27 shots in a 1--0 victory over Maine in last year's title game, but they remain adept at getting into shooting lanes. They also have shown a willingness to open up offensively and forecheck with a purpose.
PLAYERS TO WATCH Matt Carle (above, foreground) is a second-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks and the best two-way defenseman in the country. Brett Skinner is a high-risk but brilliant offensive defenseman. The blueliners quarterback a punishing power play that features puck movement and an ability to get point shots to the net. Also watch for freshman second-line center Paul Stastny, son of NHL great Peter Stastny.