You probably already knew that this weekend’s series at Michigan Tech is BG’s last “big test” for the remainder of the season.
I don’t think there’s really a way to understate how big of a weekend it is. At one point behind Tech in the standings with two games in hand, a three or four point weekend from BG essentially puts it in the driver’s seat for at least the No. 2 seed in the WCHA tournament.
Additionally, BG’s remaining schedule after Tech doesn’t leave much in the way of potential for “impressive” wins. The six teams the Falcons close the season with are a combined 41-73-17. You can argue that Ferris, Bemidji and even Huntsville are better than their records indicate, but from an aesthetics standpoint, that’s not too great.
Obviously every weekend for the rest of the year will be important, because as we’ve seen with Tech, a loss to a sub-.500 team is troublesome in regards to Pairwise standings. But this might be BG’s most important weekend for the rest of the season. It’ll be fun to watch.
Last weekend in the WCHA was interesting in the sense that each series featured one of the teams not picking up a win — there were three sweeps and two that had a win and a tie. That kind of stuff is going to help separate the bottom half of the league standings. Let’s dig in:
1. Minnesota State (LW: 1): Another ho-hum weekend in Mavland, as the Mavericks took care of business by sweeping Lake and, in turn, found themselves ranked No. 1 in the nation. They’ve apparently figured out what was going on with Cole Huggins, as he’s given up only two goals his last four appearances — three starts. He stopped 21 of 23 shots Friday.
They’re still scoring at a prodigious rate. The Mavericks’ 3.86 goals per game is tops in the league, half a goal per game better than No. 2 BG. Of the 12 WCHA players with at least 17 points, Minnesota State has seven of them. Not too shabby.
2. Bowling Green (LW: 2): BG, obviously, is continuing to play well with a nine-game unbeaten streak, while Tech begins to slip a bit. The Falcons will have a chance to prove they are the second-best team in the league this weekend.
As we just touched out, BG ranks second in the league in scoring, yet has no players in the top 12 individually in the league. That’s about as “scoring by committee” as you can get. On the defensive side, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Tomas Sholl after Saturday’s…let’s just call it a stinker.
3. Michigan Tech (LW: 3): Tech had a pretty subpar weekend by its lofty standards, tying and losing in overtime to Northern Michigan.
After a strong start to the season, goalie Jamie Phillips has been a bit inconsistent of late. He gave up three on 24 shots Friday, and two on seven shots in only 20 minutes Saturday. So if his last few weeks have told us anything, he’s due for a good weekend this weekend. But that’s not an exact science (duh).
BG will also have to deal with Tanner Kero and Alex Petan, who are 1 and 2 in the WCHA in points.
4. Bemidji State (LW: 5): Bemidji would be in a lot better shape in regards to the league standings if it weren’t for the other teams around them also starting to play well.
Ferris just picked up a sweep, Northern took three of four from Tech. That almost sort of negates the Beavers’ impressive sweep of Huntsville. But Bemidji is now unbeaten in its last seven (4-0-3), which is obviously a good direction to be going.
It appears freshman Michael Blitzer is the go-to guy in net now, supplanting Andrew Walsh in their normal Friday/Saturday rotation the last two weeks. He posted a pair of shutouts this weekend so that looks like it was a good call.
5. Northern Michigan (LW: 6): Very impressive performance from Northern this weekend, which had been trending the wrong way the previous five or six games.
The Wildcats are technically tied with Ferris for the four seed, but they’ve played two more games than the Bulldogs. Mathias Dalhstrom was average in his first weekend back from injury, which has to be a tad concerning for the Wildcats. But if you score eight goals in a weekend it’s not going to matter much. The problem is Northern is still averaging only 2.2 goals per game. So a continued Dahlstrom downturn could be problematic.
6. Ferris State (LW: 8): Well it figures that after a terrible weekend, C.J. Motte gets it together a bit, allowing only three goals in two games. It wasn’t a dominating performance, but solid nonetheless.
Most importantly for Ferris, it ended a four-game losing streak with four big WCHA points. Anchorage isn’t that great, but sweeping in Alaska is a huge. Forward Matt Robertson had a three-point weekend, and is very quietly fifth in the league in points.
So now, despite what has been what feels like a rather maligned season, Ferris sits fourth in the league. But now the fun stuff begins. Eight consecutive games against Minnesota State and BG will rather drastically impact the way the Bulldogs’ season goes from here on out.
7. Alaska (LW: 4): There’s no shame in going on the road to play a ranked team and getting a point, but the way that all transpired has to be particularly demoralizing for the Nanooks.
We all know what happened, so no need to go through it again. Obviously they’re still a dangerous team. With games left against both Tech and Minnesota State, Alaska has a chance to play postseason spoiler, and be a great help to BG in the process.
8. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 7): Had to be a disappointing weekend for Huntsville. Given its proximity to Bemidji in the standings, a good weekend would’ve gone a long way in giving itself some breathing room in regards to a playoff spot.
The Chargers have a demanding schedule coming up, with them hosting Northern, then the U.S. U-18 team for two exhibition games, followed by back-to-back long trips to Michigan Tech and Lake. That Lake series could essentially serve as the “play-in” game for the final seed of the playoffs. Well, depending on if Anchorage gets it together or now. Speaking of which…
9. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 9): The Seawolves are now winless in their last six, not having won since Nov. 22 against Northern. Expanding that even further, in their last 13 games, the Seawolves are 1-10-2.
If the season ended today, Anchorage would actual qualify for the playoffs. But I don’t know that I would bet on that going forward. Its schedule the rest of the year? Two separate weekends with Alaska, at Northern, at Mankato, at Bemidji and hosting Tech and BG. Not exactly the easiest slate of games.
10. Lake Superior (LW: 10): I mean, at least Lake has won recently (Dec. 29 against Notre Dame). I don’t think it really matters who makes the playoffs between these two because I don’t think either has much of a hope or prayer against any of Minnesota State, BG or Tech.
That can change. It really only takes a couple games of playing well to start to build confidence, as we saw with BG in both 2011 and 2012. So we’ll see. This weekend against Bemidji will give us a good opportunity to make further judgement on that.