A few things from the weekend that was in the WCHA:
1. Ho hum: Mavericks keep on rolling
It’s starting to get almost boring: Minensota State got another conference sweep this weekend, and once again they scored a ton of goals in the process. MSU beat Alaska Anchorage 5-2 and 4-0 for wins No. 22 and 23.
The lone blemish for the top-ranked Mavericks since the month of December was that 3-1 loss to instate rivals Bemidji State in their North Star College Cup final in St. Paul. Otherwise, it’s been smooth sailing for MSU, who is 10-1-1 since the holiday break.
Although MSU is in great shape (first place with six league games to play), it’s not a cakewalk from here. The Mavs still have to make a trip to Alaska next week (never easy) before hosting Michigan Tech and playing their regular season finale in Bemidji, the home of those pesky Beavers. Will the Mavs close out strong and win the MacNaughton Cup? The next month will be fun when we find out…
2. Huskies, Falcons still in the mix
Although the Mavs look as good as the No. 1 team in the Pairwise rankings should look, they haven’t been able to pull away; especially since both Michigan Tech and Bowling Green keep making a push.
Tech swept Bemidji State on Winter Carinival weekend in another pair of close games against the Beavers. The Huskies seem to get lucky against BSU: Of the four games they’ve played this season, all have been one-goal games (discounting empty-netters) and BSU outshot Tech in three of the four. Still, Tech, as they have the entire season, found a way to win behind their deep, talented senior class to get all four points this past weekend against BSU and keep pace with MSU. They remain just four points behind them in the standings (the Mavs are at 39 while Tech is at 35).
Bowling Green, meanwhile, rebounded from their rough series the previous week in Bemidji to sweep Ferris State 2-1 and 3-2. The Falcons are 10 points back of the Mavericks but have two games-in-hand on both MSU and Michigan Tech, so could gain some ground with solid home stretch.
3. WCHA finishes with winning nonconference record
Northern Michigan was swept by Minnesota Duluth 3-1 and 6-3 last week. The sweep completed the nonconference schedule for the league, and although the Wildcats ended it on a down note, the final numbers look good. WCHA teams finished with a 30-29-9 record against the rest of the country, including 12-9-3 against the Big Ten and 3-3-1 against Hockey East, although they were a losing 8-14-1 against the NCHC. For comparison, the conference went 26-46-12 against the rest last season, including 5-13-3 against the Big Ten, 4-15-6 vs. the NCHC and 0-13-0 (!!!) against Hockey East.
Although the league was just one game above .500 in the nonconference this year, in 20 fewer games, it’s still a drastic improvement with some wins against good quality teams — wins that will help any league team that finds itself on the bubble at the end of the season.
At the very least, WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson’s wish to have three league teams in the NCAA tournament looks like it has a great chance of happening this year — thanks in part to so many quality nonconference wins.