After the Huskies took care of business last week, earning 8 of 9 points against Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan, they find themselves with just two games left before the WCHA playoffs begin. This year, though, like most everything about college sports, the playoffs will be a bit different. So, let’s explore the format and see how things might shake out.
How the Playoffs Will Work
The format will start with four best-of three series. Since there are only eight teams playing this year (the two Alaska schools, as most know, have opted out), that means everyone else is “in.” In addition, these first round games will be played on-campus at the rinks of the top four seeds.
The four winners will then all meet in the rink of the highest remaining seed in a single elimination tournament. What else is known for certain at this time?
Status After This Past Weekend
Minnesota State has won the MacNaughton Cup for the fourth year in a row and holds the #1 seed and will face Ferris State (who’s locked in last place with the #8 seed) in Mankato. Bowling Green has finished league play and has 27 points; NMU is also done and has 20 points.
Lake State has three games remaining, two at Bemidji on Tuesday and Wednesday and one at home against Ferris on Saturday. Bemidji State still has a crazy week ahead of them, with a weekend series at home against Huntsville plus the two LSSU games mid-week.
Michigan Tech has two left at Minnesota State this weekend. UAH has 12 points and cannot rise above 7th place. So, there’s a huge, complex battle for 2nd through 6th place among the other teams. Here are how all of this stacks up:
-BGSU: 27 points, final total.
-Northern Michigan: 20 points, final total.
-Michigan Tech: 20 points (and holds the tie-breaker with NMU): Could end up with 20-26 points depending on the outcome of their series with the Mavericks.
-Bemidji State: 16 points. The Beavers could finish with as many at 28 points if they win all four remaining games. They could get any number of points between these two extremes.
-Lake State: LSSU has 20 points (and holds the tie-breaker with Tech and probably the second level tie breaker with NMU). They could end up with 29 points if they sweep their final three games.
What Are The “What Ifs?”
What does all of this mean for the Huskies? Can they get home ice for the first round? To start, they cannot finish in second place. Second, they cannot finish below NMU. The rest is a complicated mess.
If Bemidji sweeps UAH and the Lakers beat Ferris in their one remaining contest, BSU would have 22 points and LSSU would have 23. If those things happen, and they are fairly likely, the Huskies need to get at least three or four points this weekend to have any shot at home ice. And let’s face it—a Tech sweep in Mankato is less likely than UAH winning a game in Bemidji.
The Old Dog isn’t saying that’s impossible. More improbable things have happened in sports before. I’d probably be accused of being a senile old fool if I predicted that outcome though. (I would, though, love to be proven that I’ve reached that point on this one. Nevertheless, I’m not making that prophecy.)
The reality is that they will probably be on the road for the first round best-of-three series and would play either at the Soo or Bemidji. There are too many possible outcomes to really know for sure, however. Truthfully, it can make your head spin if you try to figure out all of the possible results.
If anyone wants to try and figure out all of the combinations, you’ve got too much time on your hands and you might want to consider therapy.
All in all, it will make for an exciting week of hockey in this, the final season of the WCHA. Let the games begin.