The CCHA playoffs got underway this past weekend in fairly pedestrian fashion. The higher seed won all four series in two games. In fact, the only game in the first round within two goals was Ohio State's 3-1 win over Notre Dame on Friday night.
With none of the games being all that close, I guess there's not much to say about the first round except: 1.I can't believe Notre Dame's season is already over, and that a team that talented ended up being so bad. 2. Apparently Matt Hunwick's brother was able to keep things together for at least a couple of games. 3. The Jim Culhane Era ended in fairly appropriate fashion.
Onto the match-ups in the second round...
#1 Miami vs. #8 Ohio State
The Buckeyes are 0-3-1 against Miami on the year, though the last game was a hard-fought 0-0 tie in Columbus. This series is a lot more interesting than if Miami was matched up against last place Bowling Green, which is why I like this playoff format better for a 12-team conference, but Miami is going to be really tough to beat at home. I could see Ohio State taking a game to overtime, but I have a tough time believing they'll win a game, let alone two.
#2 Michigan State vs. #7 Michigan
This is bound to be a trivia question somewhere this week: March 4-6 1988 at Western Michigan was the last time Michigan played a CCHA playoff series on the road. Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers was that team's second leading scorer. Only five players on the current Michigan team were alive when that happened. The last time they lost a CCHA playoff series was the following year when Bowling Green beat them in three games at Yost.
As for the stuff that pertains to this year, Michigan State won 3 out of the 4 meetings, including both games at Munn Arena, and Michigan's options in goal are a gimpy at best Bryan Hogan and a 5'7" walk-on goalie. The Spartans have a lot to play for as well. There's way too much math to say definitively, but it looks like two wins keeps them pretty safe for the NCAA tournament, and losing this series puts them in at least a little bit of trouble with regards to the tournament.
#3 Ferris State vs. #6 Nebraska-Omaha
This has all the makings of a great series. Ferris State was one of the hottest teams in the country in the first half of the year, and Nebraska-Omaha has been one of the hottest teams in the country in the second half of the year. Both teams are on the NCAA tournament bubble. Coming into the weekend, Ferris is barely on the right side of the bubble, and UNO is barely on the wrong side, but if UNO wins this series, I'd have to believe that would probably end up getting flipped.
Nebraska-Omaha might be a sexy upset pick because they've been so hot lately while Ferris has struggled in the second half, but both of these teams have amazing home records and are sub-.500 on the road. Thus, I think you've got to give the advantage to the home team this weekend.
#4 Northern Michigan vs. #5 Alaska
Northern Michigan is the home team here, but Alaska is in a more comfortable position with regards to the NCAA tournament, sitting at 8th in the Pairwise. Even though they're a 2 seed in the tournament now, two losses would make for a very uncomfortable week of waiting for the Nanooks.
Meanwhile, Northern Michigan has climbed back into the NCAA tournament picture thanks to teams like Ferris State, Michigan State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Colorado College struggling a bit, and no one behind them making a strong push to take their spots.
I think this is the most likely series to go three games, as these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Northern Michigan always finds a way to play their best at the end of the year, and this could be the year they turn that into an NCAA tournament berth, but Alaska is extremely tough to play against.