I think someone introduced something to water in Big Rapids, Mich.
During the course of its first 14 WCHA games, Ferris State did not lose once. A 12-0-2 record had Ferris ranked as one of the top teams in Pairwise, and the Bulldogs appeared to be a weekend away from salting away the WCHA regular-season title. Then a funny thing happened.
I mentioned that factoid in Power Rankings two weeks ago, and Ferris proceeded to lose its next three games, the first two coming to its closest team in the standings, Minnesota State. The third game against Michigan Tech; Ferris salvaged a split against the Huskies on Saturday.
So what gives? Well, as it turns out, it might be some regression to the mean. In a great piece for College Hockey News, my favorite troll Ryan Lambert points out that Ferris has an abnormally high shooting percentage, with their top-five scorers all falling under the category of “shooting the lights out.”
All teams go through peaks and valleys through the course of a season. More often than not, the high points and the low points will even out and a team will be right where they statistically should be. I don’t know how to explain that. It’s just how the universe works. Sometimes, teams will fall on either side of this bell curve (never thought my college stats class would help me in the real world), which is where outliers come into play.
So will Ferris end up being an outlier, or will they continue to regress to the mean? They have some truly great players (i.e. C.J. Motte) and a fantastic coach in Bob Daniels. However, they finished fifth in the CCHA last year and have a roster that is decidedly less talented than teams like Boston College and Minnesota, teams that regularly find themselves as the positive outliers in the bell curve. Ferris plays a pretty weak schedule to close out the season; as of this moment, their schedule ranks as the 42nd strongest in the nation. That’s out of 59 teams. So that could help them. But as we’ve found out, WCHA teams are fairly capable of beating any team in this league.
1. Minnesota State (LW: 1): Keeping the Mavs here despite their winless weekend. The teams they lost two are both pretty good (St. Cloud and Minnesota Duluth are both top-16 teams in Pairwise), and even so, they didn’t really lose any ground in the standings.
2. Ferris State (LW: 2): Not that C.J. Motte has been, but backup Charles Williams got the nod Saturday, shutting out Tech to halt the Ferris skid at three. It was his first start since Oct. 18, and only his third this season. However, he played both games against Minnesota State, once because Motte got pulled and once because Motte tried to beat the snot out of someone and got tossed.
3. Bowling Green (LW: 3): BG was apparently allergic to holding third-period leads against Lake Superior, screwing up said situation the first three times these teams met this season. It’s kind of weird that I feel like BG was the better team than Lake in about 86 percent of the minutes these two teams played this season, yet BG will finish the regular season with a 1-3-0 record against the Lakers.
4. Northern Michigan (LW: 6): The Wildcats traveled to Alaska and split with Anchorage, who has been a very good home team this season. Credence given here to the fact that Northern very well could find themselves moving up in the standings while playing catch-up. Also, every WCHA series this weekend ended in a spilt. That lends credibility to me saying that WCHA teams are fairly capable of beating any team in this league.
5. Alaska Anchorage (LW: 4): Their road record is still a pretty pathetic 2-6-2. Bad news for them, three of their last four WCHA series’ are on the road. The good news? One of those sets is at Fairbanks. Kind of like a home game.
6. Michigan Tech (LW: 5): Feels kind of wrong dropping the Huskies a spot even though they did beat Ferris. They get to try to keep that success going at BG this weekend, which has been pretty OK at home this season.
7. Bemidji State (LW: 7): Bemidji also traveled to Alaska this weekend and played a set that featured two donuts. Alaska won game one, 3-0, while the Beavers won game two, 4-0. Symmetry! (kind of) They get this weekend off, as the rest of the WCHA begins to play catch-up.
8. Lake Superior (LW: 9): Good result in game one, fighting back to ultimately defeat BG. Game two wasn’t as nice. Kevin Kapalka, who has been by far the better of their two goalies this season, hasn’t played since Jan. 10, when he left eight minutes into their game with Bemidji due to injury. Seriously, Kevin Murdock has been abysmal this year, with a 3.72 goals-against average and a .894 save percent. He’s given up at least three goals in each game since Kapalka went down, including three in the game in which he replaced him.
9. Alaska (LW: 8): Once again, a weekend with points for Alaska, their sixth-straight WCHA series picking up at least one point in the standings. That’s good, but as mentioned last week, they have played two more games than both Tech and Lake, the teams they are tied with for seventh in the standings. If they don’t want to be on the outside looking in come playoff time, they need to start picking up sweeps.
10. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 10): Huntsville was off last weekend. They play at Alaska this weekend.