Friday, February 26, 2010

Gopher Hockey: Scenario Time

Two weeks remain in the WCHA regular season and the race for home ice in the first round playoffs is intense. Given the decline of eastern teams, the WCHA currently holds three of the top four places of the current PairWise rankings, which determine the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Five WCHA teams appear in the top 16 - corresponding to the number of teams in the tournament, with Colorado College just on the outside at #17. The Gophers check in at #24, meaning that they'll have to make a run to have a shot at the tournament.

This means the final two weeks will be all about jockeying for position for those top three teams (Denver, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State), holding on for dear life (North Dakota, UMD), breaking back into the top 16 (Colorado College), making a run (Minnesota), and winning the Final Five (Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota State, Michigan Tech). Either way, it should be a fun two weeks.

This is the time of year where we cease looking at national polls and focus on conference standings and the PairWise. For those new to this site, the PairWise is a computerized ranking system used to mirror the NCAA Tournament. The 16-team tourney has six automatic bids (one for each of the league champions of Atlantic Hockey, CCHA, CHA, ECAC, Hockey East, and the WCHA) and ten at-large bids. Given the automatic bids for the conferences, a good rule of thumb is that the PairWise will mirror the actual tournament for the top 12 or 13 teams, allowing for upsets in the conference tournaments and automatic bid winners not in the top 16 of the PairWise. This week's major conference leaders are listed below, complete with their current PairWise rankings:
  • Atlantic Hockey: RIT (N/A)
  • CCHA: Miami (2)
  • CHA: Bemidji State (4-tie)
  • ECAC: Yale (6)
  • Hockey East: New Hampshire (9)
  • WCHA: Denver (1)
Everything you wanted to know about the PairWise is here.

The current WCHA standings are listed here, and the following details the individual teams' remaining schedules:
  • Denver (36 points) - Wins the MacNaughton Cup with a sweep this weekend; Can finish no lower than fourth; Remaining games (4): at Minnesota State, home-and-home vs. Colorado College
  • St. Cloud State (33 points) - Can finish anywhere from first to sixth; At a disadvantage in that it has only one series remaining and does not play this weekend; Remaining games (2): at Minnesota State
  • Wisconsin (31 points) - Hottest team in the WCHA right now; Can win the WCHA if Denver stumbles, but can also finish anywhere from first through sixth; Remaining games (4): at Michigan Tech, at Minnesota
  • UMD (29 points) - Desperate right now to stay in the PairWise top 12; Remote chance to win the WCHA if everyone else stumbles, but could also possibly drop to seventh; Remaining games (4): vs. Minnesota, at Alaska-Anchorage
  • North Dakota (25 points) - Righted the ship last weekend at home against UMD, and has now followed up three consecutive losses with three consecutive wins; Cannot finish first but could still tie for second; Remaining games (4): at Colorado College, vs. Michigan Tech
  • Colorado College (25 points) - This weekend's series with UND is crucial for the sinking Tigers who have gone 3-7 in their last 10 WCHA games; Like North Dakota, CC cannot finish first, can tie for second, and could finish as low as eighth; Remaining games (4): vs. North Dakota, home-and-home vs. Denver
  • Minnesota (22 points) - Can finish as high as fourth and as low as eighth; Any victory over UMD or Wisconsin the last two weekends will improve the PairWise; Remaining games (4): at UMD, vs. Wisconsin
  • Alaska-Anchorage (18 points) - Only one conference series remaining means Seawolves are have an outside shot at finishing seventh, but could still finish ninth; Remaining games (2): vs. UMD (also has a non-conference series with Alaska)
  • Minnesota State (17 points) - Can still finish sixth, but the schedule is brutal the last two weekends; Only bright spot is that both series are at home; Remaining games (4): vs. Denver, vs. St. Cloud State
  • Michigan Tech (8 points) - Locked into a tenth-place finish; Remaining games (4): vs. Wisconsin, at North Dakota
The Gophers still could break through should they sweep their remaining four conference games, win the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and win a few games in the Final Five conference tournament. However, it is unlikely this will be able to be accomplished, given the strength of the schedule. Stranger things have happened, none more stranger than UMD's classic run last season where the Bulldogs won the Final Five from the play-in spot, winning three games in three days and advancing to the NCAA Regional finals. It's too early to give up on the Gophers just yet.


  1. Tuesday, February 16, 2010
    Pucksters: They're Done
    **Copyright DonnyPuck

  2. Hey - I said the Twins were done two weeks before the end of the regular season as well, so hopefully this is good luck!