One guess as to the WCHA's finish

So we’ve got nine games this weekend to decide eight spots in the WCHA standings. I was going to try to figure out tiebreakers in this space, but that seems like something more suited for after Friday night’s games, after the possibilities are a little better defined.

So here’s my best guess as to how the games are going to shake out this weekend, and we’ll then see what happens to the standings.

Minnesota at Michigan Tech: I’m not convinced that the Gophers’ performance last weekend against Minnesota-Duluth (three points at home) was a sign of things to come, but we do know that the Huskies will finish in last place by a large margin. Still, keep in mind that Tech managed a tie against Minnesota back when things were going well for the Gophers. I think it happens again. Minnesota 3-2, tie 3-3

North Dakota at Wisconsin: You’ve got to figure something interesting is going to happen here. It always does. My guess is that the Sioux take care of the MacNaughton Cup on Friday. Normally, I’d say the Badgers would respond on Saturday, but I’m not convinced that they’re going to pull out of their funk. North Dakota 4-2, tie 2-2

Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota-Duluth: The Seawolves took three points from the Bulldogs in October, but that’s when UAA was fresh and not entombed in its annual second-half slumber. Just a hunch that UMD comes out with a critical sweep. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, 3-1

Minnesota State at/vs. St. Cloud State: Home-and-home set here, and the Huskies took both ends in December to start the Mavericks on a six-game losing streak. I think this one goes down as a split, with both teams winning at home. St. Cloud State 4-1, Minnesota State 3-2

Colorado College at Denver: The Tigers have already wrapped up the Gold Pan — the worst they can do is split the season series, and they’re already in possession of the trophy. But rivalries are rivalries, and with only one game this weekend, you’d figure both teams will put everything on the line. The guess here is that the Pioneers will already be locked into second place by Saturday’s game, but the home crowd should help them get by the Tigers. Denver 3-2

Here’s how the standings would shake out if those results come to pass:

1. North Dakota (17-6-5), 39 points

2. Denver (17-8-3), 37

3. Minnesota-Duluth (12-9-7), 31

t4. Wisconsin (13-11-4), 30

t4. Colorado College (12-10-6), 30

t4. Minnesota (12-10-6), 30

7. St. Cloud State (14-13-1), 29

8. Minnesota State (11-14-3), 25

9. Alaska-Anchorage (7-16-5), 19

10. Michigan Tech (1-19-8), 10

That three-way tie for fourth place really goes down to Wisconsin and Colorado College, because both teams won the season series against Minnesota and tied with each other. Wisconsin wins the second tiebreaker, most conference wins. That puts CC fifth and Minnesota sixth.

The interesting thing about picking things this way is that I don’t think I would ever have picked the standings to finish that way without actually going through and picking the games individually.

For the first round of the playoffs, that would send Michigan Tech to North Dakota (we’ve seen that one before), Alaska-Anchorage to Denver, Minnesota State to Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State to Wisconsin (a rematch of last year’s first round) and Minnesota to Colorado College.

Let’s see how it all shakes out.

  • Gwakelin

    Atlantic Hockey’s format of a one-game play-in for the 4 lowest teams in both the East and West Divisions allowed AIC, Sacred Heart, Canisius and Mercyhurst to advance to a 3-game series after a single win, and Bentley, Robert Morris, Niagara and Army are all out. Last place AIC is ‘in’!! How fair it that?

  • Wahwah

    One word: butthurt.

  • FreshFish

    Agree totally and emphatically that the regular season conference winner should get the auto bid to the NCAA, NOT the tourney champ. Disagree that tourney champ also should automatically get a bid as well. Progressing that far should give enough RPI / PairWise / TUC points to put them in as an at large as long as they also have had enough of a ‘body of work’ during the regular season as well.

  • Anonymous

    I doubt you’ll see a change as long as the league reaps the revenue from the playoffs. The going rate per playoff game at a campus site in the CCHA is $10k. I don’t see a format change that would reduce league revenues coming, regardless of whether or not such a change would help the integrity of the game.

  • HockeyFan

    I disagree, I think the conference tournament is a great way to get the best teams into the tournament. First of all if a team has the best overall record in the conference then they most likely have a high enough ranking to get the at large bid to the NCAA playoffs. But just because one team finishes first doesn’t mean they are the best team, a couple years ago Minnesota clinched the McNaughton Cup in the first half of the season, however they went bottoms up the second half, do teams that have a great start deserve a better chance then a team that gets hot late?

  • YouSee

    Brian, I agree with pretty much everything you said. Although a Union fan, I would not be terribly surprised if Colgate ends up in Atlantic City.

  • Red133883

    I do think that the regular season champ should get an automatic bid to the NCAA, especially when you look at the ECAC, the conference is so tight that they just beat up on each other, and it is not fair that in a conference like that, that a team that wins could be knocked out by one bad game. However, playoffs are exciting and gets the entire fan base involved and that cannot be bad for the game, regardless of the NCAA implications. Have a broader outlook, not just at the NCAA. Finally, no team will actually get to the NCAA that does not deserve it. Your article makes it seem that winning in the playoffs is an easy thing, however there is no room for mistakes and that pressure is not to be taken lightly.

    • Anonymous

      But Red, the regular season champ almost always does get a bid, unless you’re talking the AHA. The question is whether you want to save a spot or two for a really hot team down the stretch. If your hypothetical “better” team can’t beat a 4 win team that figured out how to play hockey in February, then how good is it, really?

      • red133883

        I think we are in total agreement. However, I do remember in 2004 when Colgate won the Cleary Cup and didnt make it into the NCAA, even though it made it to the ECAC final four.

        And, for full disclosure I am a ‘gate fan, so my opinion is obviously bias this season as they had a horrible season, but have given the fan base a great amount of excitement this past week. What I am saying is that if you make it through the ECAC, WCHA, CCHA, or Hockey East, tournaments you deserve to get an automatic bid. Now if you wanted to make the auto bid for the AHA their regular season championship (like the Ivy does in basketball) I am in agreement there, but not in the major four. Give the fans hope and something to look forward to, and hope, I know the excitement around the ‘gate team has peaked and even had an article in the Syracuse newspaper because of the tournament.

  • Msteven02

    has anyone asked how Oswego not only gets in but gets a bye…it places very little emphasis on the conference playoffs….who did Oswego beat? they lost to Hamilton and and Hobart they beat elmira in the 1st week of oct yeah they beat Plattsbugh 2x but lost in their tournament to Fredonia…not eaxctly a tough schedule…btw NU beat Castleton 5-2 away later in the season….they beat Bowdoin, Colby, Williams 3-0 and Middlebury a tie and 3-0 win down the stretch…and they won their conf tourney and are seeded 6th in the east after bing ranmked 3rd in the country…I dont think McShane liked that outcome

    • It’s the Ivy version

      Wrong ECAC bud.

  • Anonymous

    I respectfully disagree. First off, what’s the incentive to perform in a tournament at the end of the season if you’re Colgate and there isn’t an NCAA bid in the offing? Is a shiny tournament trophy worth anything? Second, my way of thinking about it is that the NCAA Tournament starts with the conference tournament — but really good regular season teams get a do-over and poorly performing teams don’t. That also goes to the seemingly backwards 2 out of three in the first two rounds but single elimination later. If an underdog team can win two out of three on the road twice against higher ranked opponents then they’re showing that they deserve to be considered as a worthy entrant in the Tourney. If it’s just going to be based on regular season records, why bother to have an NCAA Tournament at all? Why not just have the winners of the four major conferences meet? Why allow an also-ran in their conference to even have a shot? The answer is that you want to have a good tournament. But how often is the “best” team in the country the winner of the NCAA Tournament? Unless you want to define it that way, I’d guess about once every four years or so,

  • Paul

    The league tournament was not designed to give the most worthy team an automatic bid to the NCAAs. First, the ECAC semifinals and finals are played at a neutral site. By putting all three (or 4 if you count the consolation) games in the same weekend, the ECAC tries to maximize interest in the “championship weekend”. Their attempt is for fans to make a weekend out of it, hence the move to Atlantic City from Albany. Personally, I don’t agree with it. I think the college hockey fans are more interested in the game than the weekend, so decentralizing the location of the tournament is a bad idea. (It makes for a longer trip for almost all teams). Either way, there isn’t a huge turnout with fans from all four semi-finalists, so a three game series at a neutral site would most likely be small. They could play the series at the higher seed’s home rink, but I think they want to eliminate a home rink advantage at that stage of the tournament. The championship game would also be at a neutral site, so that would be asking fans to travel 4-6 times between the semis and finals. The “weekend” idea allows fans to only travel once, and they can stay for the championship game if their team doesn’t make it.

    As far as the automatic bid, they want to maximize intrest by giving every team in the league a chance to compete, and people to be able to cheer for the underdog. They probably figure the top team (at least in the major conferences) will make the tourney anyways. The excitement of a team with seemingly no hope to be able to play their way in is good for interest in the tournament. This is probably another reason for the the neutral site. The league would rather not see the #1 team win out because they would likely make the NCAA anyways. By adding an automatic bid for a team that would not qualify otherwise, the league has a chance of sending more teams to the NCAAs.

  • Sshablak

    Not long ago it was an AQ for the reg season AND ECAC playoff winner.

    • aweise

      I think they did away with that when there was still a 12-team NCAA tournament. But now, I think it’s a better idea. Because there are only 5 conferences and a 16-team tournament, there’s a little more wiggle room. I’ve always preferred to see the regular season champ get an auto bid because that’s 5-6 months of work being rewarded.

  • guest

    Used to be that the 4 conferences all had regular-season AQ and tournament winner AQ. Went away when they expanded to 5, then 6 conferences. Now that they’re back to 5 conferences, maybe it makes sense to go back to the old system. Would guarantee a max of 10 slots, with 6 at-large spots, but that’s pretty much the way it usually works anyway. If the regular-season winner doesn’t win its conference tournament, it’s more than likely that they’ll still get into the NCAAs based on RPI. So it’s not much different than today, other than each regular-season champ is guaranteed a slot

  • K_lyx

    Sounds like your team lost last weekend, huh Mr. Sullivan?

    • Who, the Ottawa Senators? They’ve been doing tha a lot lately.

      When it comes to college hockey, though, I don’t have “a” team – I have 13 (ECAC Hockey and my alma mater, BU).

  • Food For Thought

    Think about it…Is this really about being fair? Is it about money? Is it about maximizing attendance? Is it about preparing the players for the next level? Is it about the fans? Is it about the student/athlete experience? Does the NCAA really care and if so, how do “they” demonstrate it? As there is no perfect answer, it is simply the best thinking at this time by those in charge. There are trade-offs to any tweaking. Why don’t they expand the NCAA tournament to 32 teams to allow more schools to participate and lessen the emphasis on what happens in the league tournament?

    • Css228

      Because then over half the teams in the country would make the tourney and it’d become incredibly mediocre. This way you get about the top 1/4 with a few autobids stealing bids. Sorry for RPI or Dartmouth that an AHA team will get a bid they may deserve more (though both can still make it RPI is not looking good with 1/2 of the teams in AC being teams that wouldn’t qualify otherwise)