As we head down the stretch, I’d like to make a post or two like this every week, just to keep you updated on the WCHA playoff picture heading down the stretch.
With a month or so left before the playoffs begin, the playoff picture is slowly starting to clear up — at least in terms of who will likely be hosting the first round games. Now who those teams are playing? That’s for the final month to decide.
Right now, North Dakota (28 points), Denver (27), Minnesota Duluth (27), Nebraska-Omaha (24) and Wisconsin (24) are in great shape. It would take unlikely poor finishes to knock these teams below sixth place in the standings.
From there, five teams are right in the thick of things for the sixth and final home ice slot. Heading into tonight’s action, Colorado College (20 points) has that spot. But Minnesota is right on their heels just a point back. Alaska-Anchorage is two points back in eighth while Minnesota State and St. Cloud State are four points back, tied for ninth place. One thing to keep in mind (as I mentioned on Twitter last night, @CHNDanMyers), one thing to keep in mind is games played. Minnesota State and Alaska-Anchorage have played in 21 games. CC, Minnesota and St. Cloud State have played in just 19 games.
And while MSU and UAA have played more games, they also have the easier games tonight (Seawolves host Tech, Mavs host Bemidji). Both squads are seeking home sweeps this evening. Minnesota plays at Minnesota Duluth, CC plays Denver and SCSU is in Omaha. What does all of that mean? There is a solid chance things could be even more muddled 8 hours from now.
Tonight’s game is especially important for the Mavericks. While they only have six games left after this evening, four of them are against teams directly in front of them (at CC next weekend, home vs. UAA the final weekend). A win tonight could very well move them within a victory of CC and the last home ice spot when the teams clash six days from now.
The Seawolves need two points tonight because their remaining schedule (at North Dakota, home vs. UNO and at Minnesota State) is extremely tough. St. Cloud’s schedule is as brutal as it gets, with home games against North Dakota and Wisconsin sandwiched by road series at Duluth and Denver. Combined with their game tonight at UNO, the Huskies will see each one of the top 5 teams in the league over the next four weeks.
Minnesota should get four points at home vs. Michigan Tech in three weeks, but will have their hands full with Denver and Wisconsin the next couple. They finish at Bemidji State. DU and Tech are at home, where the Gophers have lost more than they’ve won this season.
Bemidji State has fallen back to 11th position at 12 points while Michigan Tech hasn’t won a game since October and is buried in 12th. If the Beavers can grab a win in Mankato tonight, they may be able to catch the Mavericks down the stretch
I’ll post an update tonight after the first round of games.