I don’t remember who exactly said this, I think it was on USCHO but I’m not 100 percent sure and the who isn’t really important enough for me to try and find out, but whoever it was brought up a very good point.
This unbalanced WCHA schedule is stupid. I’m not going to pose a rhetorical “why is it like this?” question because I kind of understand why it is this way, but that doesn’t change how I feel about it.
I mean, look at this standings now. Ferris is in first, right where they should be because of their near-perfect 5-0-1 conference record. But then you have Bemidji at No. 2. Their 4-3-1 record is not bad, but they’ve played two more conference games than anyone else. Then you have BG in third with seven points in six games, Alaska-Anchorage in fourth with five points in six games, and then five teams tied with four points in four games.
I mean, we’re not even two months into the season and you have one team that’s played twice as many league games as half of the league? How did that happen? Not only does it look ridiculous, but you have teams — BG included in this — who have played 12 games total, while some teams have played only 10. That gets made up later in the season, so the teams currently with 12 get a pretty convenient bye week later in the season, which means time to rest players who might be banged up. That’s a pretty big advantage.
BG, for example, has a bye in the middle of January, and then one again in February. Conveniently placed the weekend after it treks to Alaska. Of course, this doesn’t count the weird winter break schedule or the exhibition game against the U.S. U-18 team, which apparently has been pushed back from Tuesday, Feb. 18 to Friday the 21st. Maybe USA Hockey will let me go out and cover that game (doubtful).
Not only does this unbalanced schedule have some built-in advantages for teams, but also it just looks weird. How am I supposed to tell who the best teams in the league are when the standings are skewed because of the number of games played? You’re ruining my prognostications, WCHA. I guess I’ll have to deal. Let’s get into it.
1. Ferris State (LW: 1): If I could make this “super duper No. 1,” I totally would. Ferris has always been quietly good. And by always I mean since 2009 when I started paying attention. I mean, this is a team that made it to the national title game two years ago. But they don’t get much respect, at least nationally, because they aren’t Boston College or Minnesota with X-number of NHL draft picks and they play in what pretty much everyone considers a watered-down WCHA. Maybe that’s true. BG is probably the best team Ferris has played this season. I don’t mean that as a slight to BG, I mean that as a “just sit and think about that.” They’re 8-2-1 and aside from this past weekend against the Falcons, have done that with relative ease. I see no reason why they shouldn’t continue to breeze through their schedule.
2. Bowling Green (LW: 2): I really, really, really wanted to drop BG like seven spots this week just to be irrational. Or at least drop them a spot or two, but Minnesota State was lambasted by Minnesota this week and Lake didn’t exactly set the world on fire, either. Big weekend for BG against said Mavericks for three reasons. One, it’s the first chance BG has to get the bad taste of last weekend out of its mouth. Two, it presents BG with a great chance to further bury the Mavericks in the standings, and three, it’s a chance to firmly establish itself as the clear challenger to Ferris in the WCHA, should the Falcons sweep the series.
3. Lake Superior (LW: 4): Lake split this weekend with Michigan Tech, despite getting heavily outshot. Lake’s 6-3-1 overall record is actually second best in the league, but its 2-2 conference record leaves much to be desired. Especially since neither of the teams they played (Tech and Alaska) are any better than them.
4. Minnesota State (LW: 3): No shame in getting swept by the No. 1 team in the nation. But there is a little shame when you get outscored 7-1 in a weekend series. Especially when you’re supposedly the top team in a conference, any conference. They’re 4-6 overall, averaging less than two goals per game, while giving up nearly three per. As I said two weeks ago, this is the best time to be facing them if you’re BG. This time, you gotta make sure you get the job done in both games.
5. Michigan Tech (LW: 6): Michigan Tech was actually the better team this weekend. They outshot Lake 36-25 in game one’s 5-3 loss, and held a 47-22 shot edge in game two’s 2-1 win, including a 24-5 margin (!!!!!!!!) in the second period. They look like they’re starting to hit their stride, which means they will be a team to watch out for as the season moves along.
6. Alaska (LW: 5): The Nanooks were off last weekend. This weekend, they get the pleasure of trying to hand Ferris its first WCHA loss of the season. Alaska is a good team, but I don’t know if they’re that good.
7. Bemidji State (LW: 8): A solid three-point weekend for the Beavers, who I really still continue to heavily doubt. Why? That three-point weekend came against Alaska-Anchorage. In Bemidji. As we’ve touched on before, Anchorage is not good outside of Alaska. Also, Bemidji is second in the conference merely because of playing more game than everyone else and whom they’ve come against. They’ve already played both Huntsville and Anchorage. Against Ferris and Mankato? Bemidji is 1-3, and they’re only 4-6-2 overall. I expect some correction to come once they start consistently playing teams that are decent.
8. Northern Michigan (LW: 7): Like Alaska, Northern was off last weekend. They’ll have a fun weekend this weekend as they get to take on Huntsville at home.
9. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 9): I suppose getting one point out of the weekend is good, but not when it’s against a team that really isn’t that great. Like with Bemidji, I expect the Seawolves to fall down the WCHA standings once the number of games starts to even out.
10. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 10): They actually almost won this weekend, against St. Cloud, who you may have noticed is No. 2 in the nation. Game one was as bad as I think most expected, a 10-0 St. Cloud win. But Huntsville made it interesting Saturday, with two third-period goals to tie it. But all was right in the world, as St. Cloud went back ahead literally 27 second after the Chargers tied the score. Huntsville is getting close to a win. They’ve given two pretty good teams a good run in the Saturday game now. Maybe they’ll get the first this weekend. Or maybe they’ll save it for against BG the first weekend of December. God I hope not.