With just two weekends left in the season, the race for the MacNaughton Cup is still wide open. St. Cloud State is two points clear of the field, but Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Minnesota State are all within four points of the Huskies. Denver and Wisconsin are long shots at six points back, but they have a battle of their own going on for the final home ice spot. In this week’s power rankings, I take a look at each team’s postseason situation, both in the WCHA and in the Pairwise.
1. Minnesota (21-6-5, 13-6-5 WCHA) — Last week: 1
Minnesota took three of four points from UMD and moved into second place in the league. Erik Haula scored twice in Friday’s 5-3 win, while Adam Wilcox made 35 saves in Saturday’s 2-2 tie. The Gophers are now just two points out of first with a home series vs. Denver and a road series at Bemidji left on the schedule. They’re still second in the Pairwise, and they should lock up a one-seed with just a few more wins.
2. St. Cloud State (19-12-1, 16-7-1 WCHA) — Last week: 2
The Huskies split with CC and now have a two-point lead over second-place Minnesota. They end the season with a home series vs. Tech and a road series at Wisconsin, which pretty much matches everyone else’s schedule of one series vs. a bottom-five team and one vs. a top-seven team. Unlike everyone else, the Huskies control their own destiny. In the Pairwise, they’re currently 10th. A two-seed is well within reach.
3. North Dakota (17-9-6, 12-6-6 WCHA) — Last week: 3
UND also split over the weekend, losing 5-4 to Denver on Friday before bouncing back with a 6-1 win on Saturday. They are now tied for third, three points out of first. They should be able to pick up some points during a home series against Bemidji this weekend. Then they end the season with a tough road series at Minnesota State. UND is currently sixth in the Pairwise. They have a good chance to stay in that area and potentially move up to a one-seed if they get hot.
4. Minnesota State (20-9-3, 14-9-1 WCHA) — Last week: 4
The Mavericks had the weekend off. They’re currently four points out of first and two points ahead of Denver and Wisconsin in the race for home ice. They have a slightly tougher schedule than the three teams I have above them, though. They travel to CC this weekend to face a Tigers team that has played well the last couple weekends, then host UND on the final weekend. The Mavericks are seventh in the Pairwise, in virtually the same position as UND.
5. Denver (16-10-5, 11-8-5 WCHA) — Last week: 5
The Pioneers picked up two points against UND to move into a tie with Wisconsin for the sixth and final home ice spot. They have a tough series at Minnesota this weekend, but if they can manage a split, they’ll be in a good shape heading into a series with lowly Anchorage on the final weekend. The Pioneers sit at 12 in the Pairwise, so they still need to win a few more games to shore up a spot in NCAAs.
6. Nebraska-Omaha (18-12-2, 14-8-2 WCHA) — Last week: 6
The Mavericks had the weekend off and are now three points out of first. They’re also three points ahead of Denver and Wisconsin in the race for home ice. They host the Badgers this weekend and can clinch home ice with three points or more. UNO still has a lot of work to do in the Pairwise, though, as it currently sits at 22. After the Wisconsin series, the Mavericks travel to Duluth to close out the regular season.
7. Wisconsin (14-11-7, 10-7-7 WCHA) — Last week: 7
The Badgers beat Penn State 5-0 on Sunday, but then suffered an upset loss in overtime on Monday. That loss was devastating in the Pairwise, as it dropped the Badgers to 26th. Had they won, they would’ve been 17th. They’ll likely need to get at least three wins against UNO and St. Cloud these next two weekends if they’re going to have a shot at an at-large bid. Having CC fall off the TUC cliff would help as well. As far as the league goes, Wisconsin is tied with Denver in the race for the final home ice spot.
8. Colorado College (12-15-5, 9-11-4 WCHA) — Last week: 8
The Tigers split with St. Cloud, giving them a solid 2-1-1 record against Denver and the Huskies over their last two series. They get another one of the top teams this weekend when they host Minnesota State before they end the season at Michigan Tech. The Tigers are technically still alive in the race for home ice — they’re five points out — but they’ll need a lot of help if they’re actually going to get there. One thing to watch is whether or not they remain a TUC. If they fall out, that would hurt some of the top teams that beat up on them, but it would help Wisconsin.
9. Minnesota-Duluth (10-17-5, 8-13-5 WCHA) — Last week: 9
The Bulldogs managed to take one point from Minnesota, but they still finished February without a win at 0-6-2. They only have one conference series left (against UNO), so unlike CC, they are mathematically eliminated from home ice. Barring something crazy, it appears they’ll finish ninth.
10. Michigan Tech (10-16-4, 6-14-4 WCHA) — Last week: 10
The Huskies had the weekend off, so they remain tied for 10th with Bemidji. Unless they really catch fire, which doesn’t seem likely since they finish with St. Cloud and CC, a 10th-place finish is the best they can hope for.
11. Bemidji State (6-17-7, 5-13-6 WCHA) — Last week: 11
I can pretty much just copy and paste that last entry here, except the Beavers have an even tougher finish than Tech. They get UND this weekend and Minnesota the next.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (4-19-7, 2-18-6 WCHA) — Last week: 12
The Seawolves had already clinched a 12th-place finish, so they’re basically just trying to build up some sort of momentum at this point. They have a non-conference series against in-state rival Alaska this weekend before heading to Denver to close out the season.