This week was affected by the weather, resulting in a few cancellations and time changes. The top three escaped without losses yet again, although Denver’s tie dropped them down to third. Once again, Penn State took a tumble after being swept again and Minnesota wasted all good vibes from their sweep of Notre Dame by losing twice in East Lansing. In the WCHA, Michigan Tech struggled in northern Minnesota and Minnesota State kept their sizable lead atop the standings. Finally, the NCHC created more distance between their top tier and second tier with Western Michigan and Miami being swept by St. Cloud and Duluth, respectively. Once again, we give a quip on the top 10 and a few select others.
The “Don’t Lose to Us If You Want an At-Large Bid” Tier
26) Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 26)
25) Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 25)
24) Alaska-Fairbanks (LW: 24)
23) Ferris State (LW: 23)
The Massive Middle Tier
22) Nebraska-Omaha (LW: 19)
21) Michigan Tech (LW: 16)
I don’t think Tech really deserves to fall so far, but every team below them had a better week. A recovery is badly needed in order to stay in the hunt for home-ice advantage for part of the WCHA playoffs.
20) Wisconsin (LW: 18)
19) Colorado College (LW: 20)
A tie at Denver is a very good result for a team whose record does not indicate what I think is their true ability. It has been a disappointing season but beating Denver back in Colorado Springs to win the Gold Pan in a few weeks would be a nice consolation prize.
18) Bemidji State (LW: 22)
17) Michigan State (LW: 21)
16) Northern Michigan (LW: 17)
15) Penn State (LW: 10)
14) Minnesota (LW: 9)
13) Michigan (LW: 15)
12) Miami (LW: 11)
11) Lake Superior State (LW: 14)
10) North Dakota (LW: 13)
North Dakota lands in the top ten as much a product of the failings of the middle tier this weekend as a product of their own success. They have been split-happy this season, and their 6-6 NCHC record and 12-10-1 overall record shows just that. Things don’t get easier for the fighting Hawks: the next eight games are against teams in the top 13 of the Pairwise with series against each of the NCHC’s top four teams.
9) Arizona State (LW: 12)
ASU was off this week and benefited from bad weeks by the teams surrounding them in these rankings. Next up is the Sun Devils’ best chance to move up in the Pairwise: a road series against Boston University.
The Trophy-Hopeful Tier
8) Bowling Green (LW: 7)
Sure, losing to Alaska is never good, but I have a hard time thinking of a team as less powerful simply because they split a weekend at the Carlson Center. The trip to Alaska is a great equalizer. The Falcons are really good and bad stretches by teams on the Pairwise bubble has kept them firmly in the hunt for an at-large bid.
7) Minnesota State (LW: 8)
A fine split for the Mavs against a hot Lake State team this week and kept their 5-point lead over BGSU after their split up north. Next, Minnesota State heads to the UP to play a well-rested Northern Michigan team.
6) Western Michigan (LW: 5)
Why punish a team too much for being swept on the road by a team like St. Cloud? Sure, we now know Western is probably not in the same class as the Huskies, but that is something I already assumed. I still think WMU is capable of making a run in the playoffs, and they are still better than the teams below them.
5) Notre Dame (LW: 6)
The Irish won and tied with Wisconsin in a pseudo-road series (Sunday’s game was played in downtown Chicago). In a conference where 4 points separate 2nd and 7th and the playoffs are at home sites, every point matters.
National Championship Favorites
4) Ohio State (LW: 4)
The Buckeyes had their best weekend of the year and vault their way into the top tier with their sweep at State College. They have made it clear they are the class of the Big Ten.
3) Denver (LW: 2)
A tie against rival Colorado College is fine, but this team had been able to avoid losing points to lesser teams over the last few weeks until Saturday night. I do not read into the result, but it is enough to drop them below UMD for now.
2) Minnesota-Duluth (LW: 3)
1) St. Cloud State (LW: 1)
The two northern Minnesota schools had great weekends. Duluth swept Miami in Ohio with back-to-back shutouts and SCSU swept a very good Western Michigan team with relative ease. Last year featured three Big Ten teams in the Frozen Four: could this year’s edition have three from the NCHC? At this point, it seems like a good bet.