Last weekend was the final weekend of the CCHA regular season, and the match-ups for the playoffs were finally set.
First off, the top four teams will receive a bye, and will take next weekend off. Those teams are as follows:
#1 Notre Dame
The first three are of no surprise, since that's how I had them picked before the season. Alaska is a huge surprise though. I had them picked 10th, and I think I was more generous than a lot of people. Dallas Ferguson has to be the hands-down choice for coach of the year. They just barely edged out Ohio State for the all-important fourth spot with Miami's regulation victory over Ohio State on Saturday night.
That sets up these match-ups for next weekend in the first round of the playoffs:
#12 Bowling Green at #5 Ohio State
#11 Michigan State at #6 Northern Michigan
#10 Lake Superior at #7 Western Michigan
#9 Ferris State at #8 Nebraska-Omaha
This is the nice thing about this playoff system. Eight different teams get to host a playoff series, and you get some interesting first round match-ups that could produce some upsets. Besides maybe Ohio State/Bowling Green, I could see the road team winning every series.
Nebraska-Omaha needed Michigan's regulation win over Ferris State on Saturday to cling to that final home ice playoff spot. I'm going to venture a guess that no team that has only won one game in the second half of the season has ever hosted a home playoff series. Ferris State is a tough opponent, but just never seemed to get on track this year. If whoever wins this series gets a little momentum, they could be a tough second round opponent, especially if there are some upsets and they don't have to travel to one of the top two teams.
Western Michigan and Lake Superior split their only meeting a couple weeks ago up in the Soo. Neither team has shown much this season, so it's a complete toss-up. I've got a lot more to say about Western, so I'll save that for later in the week.
Northern Michigan has been red hot lately and Michigan State has been pretty ugly all season. BUT, Michigan State tied and beat Northern in their only meeting, and I don't see Jeff Lerg going quietly in his final weekend of college hockey. This series should be pretty close.
Ohio State has a ton on the line against Bowling Green. They're firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble and probably need to make it to the Joe to have a shot at an at-large bid. They're guaranteed Alaska as a second round opponent if they win, and while traveling to Fairbanks isn't ideal, there are worse teams to play with an NCAA tournament bid on the line. Bowling Green doesn't have much else on the line besides the opportunity to play spoiler to their big in-state rival.