It was a slow week around the western half of the NCAA this week with 8 of the top 11 teams on bye. With the other three in that group avoiding any losses, there is very little movement from last week’s rankings. The series of the week was played at St. Cloud, where Colorado College gave St. Cloud all they could handle in what could have been a 6-point weekend for the Tigers. Instead, they left with only one, a token of a season’s worth of almosts and disappointments. Elsewhere, Michigan and Penn State rolled over Michigan State and Minnesota, keeping both of them alive in the at-large bid hunt. Michigan Tech played one of their best weekends of the year, going toe-to-toe with Minnesota State but to no avail: MSU took home five of six points and the winter carnival title. With quite a few teams having a bye this coming weekend, we are in the slow season right before the stretch run.
The “Fighting to Make the WCHA Playoffs” Tier
26. Alaska-Anchorage (Last Week: 26)
25. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 25)
24. Ferris State (LW: 24)
23. Alaska (LW: 23)
The “Might Have to Try Again Next Year” Tier
22. Nebraska-Omaha (LW: 22)
21. Miami (LW: 21)
20. Wisconsin (LW: 20)
19. Michigan State (LW: 16)
18. Michigan Tech (LW: 19)
17. Northern Michigan (LW: 18)
16. Bemidji State (LW: 17)
The “Flawed but Talented” Tier
15. Minnesota (LW: 13)
14. Colorado College (LW: 14)
13. Lake Superior State (LW: 11)
12. Notre Dame (LW: 10)
11. Michigan (LW: 12)
10. Penn State (LW: 15)
The biggest mover this week, the Nittany Lions thoroughly hammered Minnesota for their seventh win in their last nine meetings against the Gophers. PSU showed what they can do if they get any semblance of goaltending, which to me makes them more dangerous than any other Big Ten team besides Ohio State. To make the tournament they need Peyton Jones to show up for them. If that happens, their ceiling is higher than most.
9. North Dakota (LW: 9)
The Fighting Hawks were off this week. Next, they head to Western Michigan.
The Most Likely Western Tournament Teams
8. Arizona State (LW: 8)
The Sun Devils were off this week. They host American International in their final home games of the season.
7. Bowling Green State (LW: 7)
The Falcons were off this week. They host Alaska this coming weekend.
6. Western Michigan (LW: 6)
The Broncos were off this week. They host North Dakota next.
5. Minnesota State (LW: 5)
The Mavericks hung around with an inspired Tech team just long enough to force overtime late in the third back-to-back nights. MSU continues to cement themselves as a team to beat in both the WCHA and around the country. With only a few weeks remaining and a massive gap between them and the rest of the country, all roads in the WCHA lead to Mankato.
4. Denver (LW: 4)
The Pioneers were off this week. They head to Duluth next for a powerhouse battle.
3. Minnesota-Duluth (LW: 3)
The Bulldogs were off this week. They host Denver next.
2. St. Cloud State (LW: 1)
1. Ohio State (LW: 2)
I struggled making this decision because there has been very little reason to dethrone the Huskies, but finally decided that OSU’s recent dominance coupled with SCSU being outplayed at home for most of the weekend gave me leave to do so. Regardless of where these two stand in any ranking or poll, they are both dominating two of the three best conferences (the ECAC is a bloodbath this year) and are among the most likely to hoist the trophy in Buffalo this April.