The final regular season weekend in the NCHC begins tomorrow night, with all eight teams in action:
|Minnesota-Duluth||at||Western Michigan||7:05 ET|
|North Dakota||at||Miami||7:35 ET|
|Colorado College||at||St. Cloud State||7:37 CT|
… and there’s plenty on the line. A quick look at the most notable items:
Regular season title: The Penrose Cup
Denver looks for its first regular season title since its WCHA title in 2009-10 this weekend, and the Pioneers can clinch their first Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champs with a win at Nebraska-Omaha tomorrow (or with a Minnesota-Duluth loss at Western Michigan). The Bulldogs are the only other team in play for the regular season title (and therefore the No. 1 seed in the NCHC tournament) but trail Denver by four points heading into the weekend.
We won’t get into all the tiebreaker scenarios (you can work through them using the rules here), but here’s a look at things from the UMD perspective. Basically, UMD needs either 5 or 6 points this weekend to have any chance at all (reminder: NCHC regular season games go to a 3×3 OT and then if necessary a shootout if the game is still tied after regulation and a 5 minute 5×5 OT; 3 points in the NCHC are given for a regulation or 5×5 OT win, 2 points are given for a win in the 3×3 OT or shootout, and 1 point is given for a loss in the 3×3 OT or a loss in the shootout).
So if UMD earns 5 points in the standings, Denver must lose each game in regulation or within the 5×5 OT.
If UMD earns 6 points in the standings, it only wins the regular season title if Denver earns less than 3 points this weekend. The most interesting scenario would be as follows:
– UMD earns a 6 point sweep, while Denver earns only 2 points (say, a shootout win combined with a regulation loss). In that scenario, each team finishes with 55 points. The first tiebreaker in this scenario — head-to-head record — does not apply here because it only applies when the teams have played a balanced home-and-away schedule (in this case, Denver only placed UMD at home, and they split the weekend series). The second tiebreaker is regular season NCHC regulation + OT wins, and the teams would be tied here (16 apiece).
The next tiebreaker comes back to head-to-head, which again was 1-1, so we go to the fourth tiebreaker: comparison of goals scored. In the weekend series, UMD outscored Denver 6-5, so the Bulldogs would win the Penrose and be the No. 1 seed in the NCHC tourney as a result. The 6th goal for UMD that weekend was an empty-netter at the end of the Saturday night game.
Fun to talk about these things, but the reality is that Denver — the No. 1 team in the Pairwise — is clearly in the driver’s seat heading into the final NCHC regular season.
Denver and UMD will be the top two seeds in the NCHC tournament, and Western Michigan is locked in to No. 3. North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, and St. Cloud State, meanwhile, are all in the hunt for the No. 4 seed — and therefore the final home-ice spot for the NCHC quarterfinals next weekend. The three teams are currently separated by a single point, and it’s certainly possible that the tiebreakers above will come into play.
On paper, St. Cloud State may have the “easiest” schedule with a home series vs Colorado College, but the Huskies have also lost three of their last five.
North Dakota heads to Miami. The Fighting Hawks and Red Hawks split a weekend series in Grand Forks, N.D, earlier this season.
Points and Goals
A look at the players in the hunt heading into the final weekend, courtesy of collegehockeystats.net
|Alex Iafallo||Minnesota Duluth||SR||W||22||1.23||10-17-27|
|5||Mikey Eyssimont||St. Cloud State||SO||F||22||1.00||11-11-22|
Ortega and Iafallo have both been on fire lately, but Iafallo may have the edge this weekend, only because — despite Ortega’s 7 points in his last 3 games — UNO has to face the top goaltender in the conference, the stingy Tanner Jaillet.
And not even on this list is Shane Gersich, who’s got the pole position for the goal-scoring title. The UND sophomore has 14 goals this season, two more than second-place Matheson Iacopelli (WMU).
Finally, among defensemen and rookies, respectively:
|3||Neal Pionk||Minnesota Duluth||SO||D||22||0.82||4-14-18|
|1||Joey Anderson||Minnesota Duluth||F||21||0.76||7- 9-16|
|2||Henrik Borgström||Denver||F||18||0.83||8- 7-15|
|3||Tyson Jost||North Dakota||F||16||0.88||6- 8-14|