The NCHC wraps up its regular season this weekend while the other five conferences start their conference tournaments. Here’s a look at the storylines for this weekend in terms of playoff positioning, and the scoring titles up for grabs.
First, here are the current NCHC standings:
|1||St. Cloud State||22||15-4-3||1||49||87-54||32||21-6-5||122-78|
St. Cloud State has wrapped up the Penrose Cup as the NCHC regular season champion and will therefore be the No. 1 seed in the NCHC tournament. The Huskies will likely host Miami in the NCHC quarterfinals (a best-of-three series) next weekend.
As far as I can tell, the only way this doesn’t happen — based on the NCHC tiebreaker scenarios — is if Miami sweeps Denver on the road this weekend (winning in regulation or the first overtime) AND Western Michigan does the same to Colorado College AND Minnesota-Duluth does the same to Nebraska-Omaha. That would leave Miami, CC, and Omaha in a three-way tie for last place with 28 points, and CC would finish as the 8th seed based on having fewer regular season conference wins than Miami. But again… three weekend sweeps with no games going to overtime, including a Miami sweep of Denver… is probably not going to happen. So you can all but pencil in a trip for the RedHawks to St. Cloud next weekend.
Denver will be the No. 2 seed and their second round opponent is to be determined by this weekend’s games. And Minnesota-Duluth will host a first round playoff series, too, likely as the third seed, but can drop to fourth if — for example — the Bulldogs get swept by Omaha AND North Dakota (a team win only two wins in its last 11 games) sweeps St. Cloud State.
Of course, the real intrigue comes down to which team ends up with the final home-ice spot for the NCHC quarterfinals — North Dakota, CC, Western Michigan, or Omaha. The fact that CC could technically finish with a home-ice spot OR finish last in the conference shows how wild the NCHC has been this season. As you can see from the standings above, North Dakota controls its own destiny, but hosting the No. 1 team in the country will be a big challenge. Expect the aforementioned tiebreakers to come into play to ultimately determine playoff seeding. There’s no easy matchup in the league, but teams are certainly going to want to avoid finishing seventh — which would mean a trip to the reigning national champions, Denver.
And lastly. this weekend for North Dakota and Omaha is huge on the national stage as well, with each team squarely inside the NCAA Pairwise bubble at the moment.
Heading into the weekend, Denver’s Henrik Borgstrom leads the conference with 30 points in NCHC play, but CC’s Nick Halloran and Omaha’s David Pope (who leads the conference with 14 goals scored, 11 of which have come on the power play) are certainly within striking distance for the scoring title: