Coming down to the last few weeks, there is so much uncertainty in the CCHA — and the standings are so very close — that it’s overwhelming to consider all the permutations. Here are a few interesting tidbits, though:
- Ferris State and Western Michigan are the only two teams near the top of the standings guaranteed to take the regular-season title if they win out. Other teams near the top will need others near them to lose in order to finish in first.
- FSU and WMU are the only two teams in the league that can finish no lower than third-to-last.
- Even Bowling Green has not been mathematically eliminated from the possibility of hosting a first-round playoff series.
- Mathematically speaking, BGSU and Alaska are the only two teams that cannot finish in first place.
I’m not talking probability and likelihood here; I’m only look at the numbers. This is the craziest season I’ve covered, ever.
Which leads me to my picks.
Last week: 5-4-1
Season to date: 100-67-24 (.586)
That pretty much sums it up.
Everyone plays this week. All series are Friday-Saturday, but sites vary. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. except for the two in the Michigan-Michigan State series and the Friday game in Oxford, Ohio; those games begin at 7:35 p.m.
No. 6 Ferris State vs. No. 9 Notre Dame
The Bulldogs, undefeated in their last 10 (7-0-3), are five points ahead of Notre Dame entering this weekend’s home-and-home series. Last weekend, FSU took four points on the road against Northern Michigan with a tie and a win; the Fighting Irish split two one-goal games at home against Bowling Green. ND has won seven of the last 10 meetings between these teams, but the Bulldogs and Irish exchanged a pair of 4-1 games in their earlier home-and-home series Dec. 9-10, each winning in its own barn. A split would be a good bet, but I’m not calling against FSU’s streak. FSU 3-2, 2-1
Lake Superior at Alaska
The Lakers, tied with Michigan State for seventh place this week, are eight points ahead of 10th-place Alaska coming into this series. Last week, LSSU beat the U.S. National Development team, 4-3, in a single exhibition game while the Nanooks split a road series in Kalamazoo, winning Saturday’s game 4-1. Alaska is 3-1-1 against Lake State in the last four meetings and 5-0-5 in the last 10 played in Fairbanks, but the Lakers took four points at home from the Nanooks last season with a tie and win. I think the Lakers are a second-night team. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong a lot this season. UAF 3-2, LSSU 4-3
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 17 Michigan State
These rivals meet after each team swept an opponent last weekend, Michigan at home over Miami and Michigan State on the road against Ohio State. Because the Wolverines are 10-1-2 in their last 13 games, they’ve climbed the CCHA ladder and are now in sole possession of third place with 38 points. The Spartans, tied for seventh with Lake Superior, are just three points behind UM, however, so this series will have a big impact on the league’s final standings. When these teams met for a home-and-home series Dec. 9-10, the Wolverines won at home and the teams tied in East Lansing. UM will be without second-leading scorer Chris Brown for Friday’s game because of a DQ near the end of last Saturday’s contest. Friday’s game is in East Lansing. Saturday’s game is in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. UM 3-2, 4-2
No. 19 Northern Michigan at Bowling Green
Last weekend, the Wildcats took two points from Ferris State at home, tying the Bulldogs 5-5 Friday and winning the shootout point before dropping Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, the Falcons continued their .500 second half, splitting on the road against Notre Dame. The last time these teams met, the Falcons came back from a one-game deficit to end Northern Michigan’s season in the first round of the 2011 CCHA playoffs, winning two of three games in Marquette March 4-6. The teams played a total of seven games last season, splitting those games 3-3-1. With 30 points, the Wildcats are in ninth place, 11 points ahead of last-place BG. NMU 4-2, BGSU 3-2
No. 15 Ohio State at No. 18 Western Michigan
The Buckeyes are still looking for their first win of the new year after dropping two at home to Michigan State. Many Columbus news outlets are reporting that senior Danny Dries, OSU’s second-leading scorer, has been suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules, something confirmed by my friend and colleague Jeff Svoboda. The Broncos have won more recently and it doesn’t appear as though any of their players are in trouble, but for the past two weekends, WMU split with one of the bottom two teams in the league. Last weekend, it was visiting Alaska, and the Broncos scored just three goals in the series. The Buckeyes and Broncos last met Jan. 14-15, 2011, in Kalamazoo, when WMU took four points from OSU with a win and a tie. The second-place Broncos are two points behind Ferris State and three points ahead of OSU, who shares fourth place with Notre Dame and Miami. I’m not calling against OSU’s streak, either. WMU 3-2, 3-2
Alabama-Huntsville at No. 19 Miami
Don’t let the Chargers’ record (2-26-1) fool you; UAH is no pushover. The Chargers began the new year with a split against Denver, lost to defending champ Minnesota-Duluth by a goal in each game of a two-game set, and took Maine to overtime last Friday — and lost — before dropping a 5-0 game to the Black Bears the next night. So close, so often. Freshman Kyle Lysaght (7-6–13) leads UAH in both scoring and goals and sophomore Clarke Saunders (3.73 GAA, .906 SV%) is more than respectable in net. The RedHawks dropped two games to Michigan last weekend, losing Will Weber for the first game of this series because of Weber’s DQ near the end of Saturday’s 3-0 loss. These teams last met in the 2010 NCAA tournament, when Miami beat UAH 2-1. Their last regular-season games were played in 2003-04. Miami 4-2, 3-2