This upcoming weekend is the last weekend of the regular season in the WCHA, and even though nobody has really paid attention, there's been quite a bit going on, and quite a bit still to be decided. All 10 teams in the league are (finally) in action in the final weekend--adding Alabama-Huntsville to the league late in the process made scheduling wonky this year--and it's likely things won't be decided until the wee hours of Saturday night/early Sunday morning as the league waits for the final result to come from Alaska before things are decided.
Here are the standings heading into the final weekend of the season:
Conference Only Overall Pts GP W L T 1 Ferris State 38 26 18- 6- 2 Minnesota State 38 26 19- 7- 0 3 Alaska 28 26 13-11- 2 Michigan Tech 28 26 12-10- 4 5 Alaska Anchorage 26 26 11-11- 4 Bowling Green 26 26 11-11- 4 7 Bemidji State 24 26 10-12- 4 Lake Superior State 24 26 12-14- 0 9 Northern Michigan 23 26 11-14- 1 10 Alabama Huntsville 5 26 2-23- 1
And your schedule for this weekend:
Bemidji State at Bowling Green, Michigan Tech at Minnesota State, Lake Superior State at Ferris State, Northern Michigan at Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage at Alaska-Fairbanks
And here are some of the storylines to keep an eye over the weekend.
The Top. Minnesota State strung together their first road sweep outside of the state of Alabama last weekend, while Ferris State lost twice in Fairbanks setting up a tie for first place heading into the last weekend. Ferris State hosts a struggling Lake Superior State team, while Minnesota State hosts a tricky Michigan Tech team for the first time this year.
Should the two teams finish the weekend with the same number of points, both teams would be named co-champions and earn a share of the MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota State would earn the number one seed in the playoffs by virtue of having more league wins than Ferris State.
There are implications beyond just the WCHA for each of these teams as well. Ferris State's pair of losses knocked them out of the top four in the Pairwise. A pair of wins this weekend would help them get that number one seed in the NCAA tournament back. Minnesota State, meanwhile, made a hard charge in the month of February, and now finds themselves in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. If they win both games this weekend against Michigan Tech, they'd likely be in pretty good position for that at-large bid.
The Bottom. Alabama-Huntsville won't be participating in the playoffs. I know, shocker. The other team that will miss out on the playoffs is still up for grabs though, and has actually been one of the more fascinating races to watch in college hockey this year. I really like the idea of not every team automatically making the playoffs, because it has provided some big incentive for teams down the stretch.
Northern Michigan is currently on the outside looking in, but they're in a much more comfortable position traveling to Huntsville in the last week of the season than say, Lake Superior, who has a one-point lead on Northern Michigan, but has to travel to Ferris State.
Theoretically, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior, Bemidji State, Alaska-Anchorage, and Bowling Green could all miss the playoffs. Realistically, Lake Superior probably has the inside track on not making it just due to having to travel to Big Rapids, where Ferris State has only lost once this year.
The Middle. This is an absolute mess. After last Friday night, there was still a possibility of a six-way tie for third place, with everybody having a .500 record. It is still possible to end with a five-way tie 5th place, with the loser of that tiebreaker missing out on the playoffs. No matter what, expect a lot of math come late Saturday night figuring out tiebreakers to determine where everybody goes.