After a couple of weeks to take care of some personal stuff, I’m back (try and hold your enthusiasm to a minimum, please). And just in time too. It’s just about playoff time, which for us college hockey fans, is the best time of the year. I’m always confused by the amount of movement in the Pairwise Rankings this time of year, too. It seems that some teams can sit stagnant for weeks at a time, and all of the sudden, they climb like mad over the last two weeks. I’m not going to try and understand how it all works, all I know is, 16 days from now, we know who the 16 teams headed to the NCAA Tournament will be.
In the WCHA, there is still plenty to be decided. A vast majority of the home ice slots have been awarded, but there are still two left. And of course, who is going where, is still extremely fluid — unless you play for Michigan Tech or North Dakota.
That’s what this column will try and predict. We can come back in about 60 hours and dissect it all, and I’ll probably be more wrong than right. But it’s fun to play around anyways.
Here is what we know for sure: Perhaps Michigan Tech can just ride back to Grand Forks Saturday night with North Dakota. The two teams play in Houghton this weekend and will play next weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena. As the MacNaughton Cup champions, UND is the No. 1 seed for the entire playoffs. Tech’s season is likely to end in 9 days.
Denver, Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota Duluth will also play at home. Against who? That’s left to be decided. UNO and UMD meet this weekend in Duluth to decide third place, although either team could jump into second place if Denver stumbles. The red Mavs lead the Bulldogs by one point.
Minnesota and Colorado College (and its opponent this weekend, Wisconsin) all control their own home ice destiny. With one point at Bemidji State, the Gophers wrap up home ice. CC leads the Badgers by one point for the final home ice slot.
Here is where things get tricky: St. Cloud State is still in the mix for home ice. They need the Tigers and UW to split at the Kohl Center (very possible). They also need to sweep at Denver (not likely).St. Cloud could also finish as low as 10th (also unlikely).
Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State follow St. Cloud and play each other this weekend. Neither team can finish sixth, Anchorage could finish seventh and the highest the Mavericks could go is eighth. In theory, either could also finish in 11th. UAA enters play at the Verizon Wireless Center two points up on the home team. MSU took three points from the Seawolves at Sullivan Arena early in the year, so if these two squads finish tied, Minnesota State would have the edge.
Bemidji State hosts Minnesota tied with the purple Mavericks at 20 points for 10th place — although the Beavers have that edge in a head-to-head tie.
THIS WEEKEND’S MATCH-UPS AND SOME PREDICTIONS
North Dakota at Michigan Tech — Sioux sweep
Colorado College at Wisconsin — Split
Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota State — Mavericks sweep
Minnesota at Bemidji State — Split
St. Cloud State at Denver — Pioneers sweep
Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota Duluth — Split
THAT WOULD MEAN…
(1) North Dakota
(4) Minnesota Duluth
(6) Colorado College
(8) Minnesota State
(9) St. Cloud State
(11) Bemidji State
(12) Michigan Tech
MY PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS
(12) Michigan Tech at (1) North Dakota
(11) Bemidji State at (2) Denver
(10) Alaska-Anchorage at (3) Nebraska-Omaha
(9) St. Cloud State at (4) Minnesota Duluth
(8) Minnesota State at (5) Minnesota
(7) Wisconsin at (6) Colorado College
That would be some fantastic playoff match-ups, with plenty of room for some high seeds to go down. I would be especially intrigued by SCSU at UMD and MSU at Minnesota. The Mavericks and Gophers had an epic playoff battle three years ago, and I would love to see it again. It would also feature two series with rematches of games this weekend (Tech-UND, CC-UW).
What do you think?