Instead of the weekly WCHA Power Rankings, I thought I’d delve ahead into the WCHA Playoffs, now just two weeks away. Afterall, the league’s actual power rankings — the standings — have separated a bit here in the last couple weeks. And while there is still plenty to be decided, if things hold serve this weekend, the league’s home ice teams and travelling teams will be quite clear.
That said, here is a look at who each team should be HOPING for when the playoffs do kick off Mar. 9. Feel free to agree or disagree below. Today, I will look at the bottom half of the WCHA. I will post the top-half Friday.
12 — Alaska-Anchorage: The Seawolves are locked into the 12th and final spot in the WCHA, meaning they will play the league’s top seed and MacNaughton Cup champion.
Who they want: Minnesota
When the Seawolves played at Minnesota in October, the Gophers were the best team in the country. Since then, the Gophers have been brilliant one weekend and just OK the next. UAA showed they can win at Mariucci Arena last season when they were to Minneapolis and knocked out the Gophers, advancing to the Final Five. This Seawolves team isn’t half as good as last year’s, so Anchorage will be a massive long-shot no matter where it goes. Minneapolis would also be easy from a travel standpoint.
T10 — Minnesota State: If the moons and the stars aligned AND scientists found life on Mars, the Mavericks could finish as high as ninth. A 10th, or even more likely, 11th place finish seems imminent.
Who they want: Minnesota
The Mavericks needed a huge rally in the final minutes last Saturday to get one point against Duluth, in Mankato. Their record against the Bulldogs this season: 0-3-1. MSU has already given up 10 goals in Denver this season — on Oct. 22. MSU was swept in Minneapolis too, but both games were competitive. And unlike senior classes of the past, this one isn’t intimidated by Minnesota because this class has had some success against the Gophers. A rematch of the epic 2008 WCHA playoff matchup between these teams likely wouldn’t be as good this time around, but would definitely have the potential to stretch three games.
T10 — Wisconsin: The Badgers are tied with Minnesota State but have two games in hand on the Mavericks. All four of their remaining games are on the road, where UW has won just once all season. A sweep in Bemidji this weekend would put the Badgers in position to nail down the ninth spot. But winning twice in Bemidji is unlikely and if the Badgers lose out, an 11th place finish becomes possible.
Who they want: Minnesota
The trio at the bottom would all love to see the Gophers, at least in my opinion. The Badgers stink against Denver and UMD’s explosiveness presents problems for Wisconsin, not to mention, both are significantly more difficult trips. The Badgers would get a peek at Minnesota the weekend before at Mariucci, and anything is possible in a rivalry series. But with only one road win all season, any trip for Wisconsin will be a challenge.
9 — Bemidji State: The Beavers have perhaps the league’s easiest remaining schedule with games at home against Wisconsin and at Alaska-Anchorage. If BSU takes care of business both weekends, BSU could climb as high as fifth or sixth.
Who they want: Nebraska-Omaha
Who else? A home date with the Mavericks would be prime, but I doubt it matters to the Beavers. Bemidji is 6-1-3 against UNO since the two joined the WCHA last season, including a two-game playoff sweep in Omaha last season.
8 — St. Cloud State: Fourth or fifth is possible, but the Huskies are likely to stay right around where they are, just on the outside looking in on home ice.
Who they want: North Dakota
The Huskies probably don’t care much who they play. They don’t have long-standing successes or failures against any of the teams they could play. SCSU split at North Dakota this season, including a 4-0 victory, so winning at Ralph Engelstad isn’t an impossible task by any means. St. Cloud split at CC and split against Denver when the Pios came to town, but lost 3 of 4 points at UNO in their only meeting with the Mavericks. Grand Forks is also a relatively easy trip up I-94 to I-29.
7 — Michigan Tech: Currently in seventh place, the Huskies determine their own home ice fate. A final weekend showdown with Colorado College could decide who gets the sixth and final home ice slot.
Who they want: Minnesota Duluth
A road-trip to Duluth is by far the easiest of any alternative should the Huskies find themselves on the road, but either Tech or UMD would need quite the free fall for it to happen. Not to mention the Huskies just went to Amsoil last month and took three of four points. With a trip to Colorado Springs the final week of the regular season, any trip back to Colorado would be especially tough for the Huskies as they would need to cross two time zones to make it happen.