Of the four WCHA series’ played last weekend, each of them ended in a sweep.
None of them were necessarily surprising. You could say it was maybe surprising in the sense that there wasn’t a split mixed in. But the “high ranked” team came out on top in each series. That does quite a few things.
First and foremost, it went a long way in determining home ice for the first round. Because Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and BG were three of the teams that recorded sweeps, each team picked up four points on everyone else.
For Minnesota State and Tech, that all but guarantees a first-round series at home. MSU has 39 points, while Tech has 35. Bemidji State and Ferris State, currently tied for fifth, have 16 points. So yeah, 19 points clear with eight games to go is a safe cushion.
Down in third place, BG has 29 points. That’s nine clear of fourth-place Northern Michigan, and 13 clear of fifth place. That’s a hefty cushion, obviously, but with a pair of games against each Ferris and Northern the next two weekends, it’s not quite safe yet. But it’s a good position to be in.
In other news, BG is one point away from passing last season’s total of 30. With 17 wins, the Falcons can either tie (or surpass) last season’s total of 18 this weekend against Ferris. So a sweep this weekend would hit lots of milestones for BG. But most importantly, it would all but lock up a first round playoff series at the BGSU Ice Arena.
1. Minnesota State (LW: 1): It’s almost not even worth saying anything about the Mavericks anymore because at this point we’re just beating the same drum. They’re now unbeaten in their last 12 WCHA games (that count towards the standings). They cruised past Anchorage this weekend. Bryce Gervais hit 20 goals for the season. Casey Nelson is out-dueling teammate Zach Palmquist for WCHA Defender of the Year. They play Tech in two weeks, in a series that will probably determine who the No. 1 seed in the league is.
2. Michigan Tech (LW: 2): I touched on this on Twitter Saturday, but in case you missed it, of the 11 players currently in the “top 10” in the WCHA in scoring, 10 of them play for either Minnesota State or Michigan Tech. The top two goalies in the league in goals-against average? MSU’s Stephon Williams and Tech’s Jamie Phillips. That’s absurd. Oh, and by the way, Tech scored two hard-fought wins over a flying Bemidji State team last weekend. BG hosts Northern next weekend, but I might be tempted to have MSU-Tech on the computer in the press box.
3. Bowling Green (LW: 3): Can’t understate how needed this sweep was for BG. The Falcons were slipping a bit, and to come out and get two wins against a Ferris team that had given the Falcons trouble the last two years was big. Now they’ll have to do it again this weekend on the road, which won’t be easy. But it will be necessary. At No. 8 in Pairwise, BG’s grip on a potential at-large bid is there, but on shakier ground. With four weeks to go, the margin for error is getting thinner.
4. Bemidji State (LW: 4): The Beavers managed only two goals this weekend against Michigan Tech, but played the Huskies close, and actually held them below their scoring average both nights. Bemidji controls its own destiny going forward in terms of playoff seeding, though it will be a bit of a challenge. The Beavers take on Northern this weekend, and a sweep would tie them with the Wildcats for fourth place. In three weeks, they play Ferris, the team they’re tied with now. Sandwiched between those two is a home series against Anchorage, and the Beavers finish the season hosting Minnesota State.
5. Northern Michigan (LW: 5): The Wildcats ventured outside of the WCHA last weekend, getting swept by a strong Minnesota-Duluth team. The bad news for the Wildcats is they’re struggling offensively. Not as much as some of the other teams in the WCHA, but to the point that holding the No. 4 seed will be tough. The worse news? Mathias Dahlstrom missed both games this weekend. Michael Doan played pretty well Friday, stopping 43 of 46 shots. He did not Saturday, allowing five on 26 shots in only two periods. As of last week, there was no timetable on Dahlstrom’s return. They sure could use him this weekend against Bemidji.
6. Ferris State (LW: 6): Watching Ferris for the first time this season last weekend, it’s pretty clear the Bulldogs’ losses from last year’s team were a lot to overcome. Not a ton of household names on that roster this year. Not that there was an abundance before, but they definitely have some young guys still figuring it out. Which kind of sucks because it almost feels like C.J Motte’s senior year is going to end up being wasted. Like, remember a couple years ago when Taylor Nelson was an All American in goal for Ferris? That team in front of him was deep, and they went to the national title game. Motte is as good as, if not better than Nelson. But this year’s Ferris team? Not as deep as that one was.
7. Alaska (LW: 10): And the Nanooks keep trucking along. They impeded Lake Superior’s attempts at climbing the league standings with a pair of wins this weekend, and in the process helped out Huntsville and Anchorage. Tyler Morley (29 points) is the lone non-Maverick/Huskie in the top 10 in the WCHA in scoring, so his junior year has been great follow up to last year. This weekend, the Nanooks will have a chance to help out Tech (and maybe BG a little bit) by taking on Minnesota State. Alaska finishes the season with games against Huntsville and Anchorage, so even though the Nanooks won’t be in the playoffs, they’ll have a big impact on who does make it.
8. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 8): The Chargers had a week to recharge (haha, puns) and reflect on their 11-1 loss to Michigan Tech, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to that. Huntsville takes on Lake, and it’s perhaps the biggest series of the weekend in the WCHA in terms of playoff seeding. The two teams are tied for seventh with 12 points, though Huntsville has two games in hand. Should one team sweep/take three of four points, that will obviously go a long way in securing a playoff berth.
9. Lake Superior (LW: 7): The Lakers have now lost three straight after winning three straight against Bemidji and BG, and with 22 games played have a bit more of an uphill battle. If they’re able to take either three or four points from Huntsville this weekend, that will help a lot. But when the standings are that close, and the two teams right next to you have two more opportunities for points, that doesn’t help.
10. Alaska Anchorage (LW: 9): Anchorage was beaten twice by Minnesota State this weekend (though goalie Olivier Mantha played a fantastic game Saturday, stopping 49 of 53 shots). It’s going to be really tough for the Seawolves to climb back into playoff seeding. While they have two games in hand on Lake, Anchorage finishes the season with Tech, Bemidji, BG and Alaska. That’s a tough draw.