This is my favorite part of the hockey season, yes, even above the randomness of one-and-done playoffs. Teams are fighting it out for position, and whether it is for a league championship,or home ice in the playoffs, or even avoiding one of the top teams in the first round of the playoffs, there's a lot of interesting battles going on throughout the CCHA and WCHA.
So it seems a bit ironic to start off the recap with a team that came into the weekend guaranteed to finish in last place in the league, but there was perhaps no more newsworthy event than Michigan Tech ending their 26-game winless streak with a shocking 3-2 win on Friday night over Denver.
Of course, the next night, it was more of the same for Tech, losing 5-1, and ending up on Sportscenter after giving up this goal. But their victory on Friday night was no small feat, especially considering Tech had nothing to play for and Denver had everything to play for, being in the middle of a tight race for the MacNaughton Cup. No one would have blinked if Tech had completely rolled over for the rest of the season, so it certainly speaks to their character that they were able to play spoiler and steal a win.
The rest of the week's action, and what it means for the final standings is after the jump.
The three-team race for the CCHA championship became a two-team race. Miami was idle on the weekend, while Notre Dame and Michigan both held serve by taking all six points in their respective series. That means heading into the final regular season series, Notre Dame has a one point lead on Michigan, while Miami trails Michigan by six points, meaning at best, the RedHawks can only finish second. I'll have more on CCHA scenarios and tiebreakers later this week.
On the flipside of those Notre Dame and Michigan sweeps, were Ferris State and Western Michigan. Western Michigan stayed just barely inside the NCAA tournament bubble, but it's a bit concerning that they've now played two of their three series against the CCHAs top teams and haven't picked up a win yet. Ferris State dropped to 22 in the PWR, and if they didn't need to win the CCHA tournament before this weekend, they probably do now if they want to make the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile,the race for the MacNaughton Cup took an interesting twist when the top five teams in the WCHA went a combine 0-4-1 on Friday night.
North Dakota stayed at the top of the heap, tying St. Cloud on Friday night, and then winning on Saturday night at the National Hockey Center. On Sunday, the power at the NHC was knocked out by metaphor.
It was probably no surprise that Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State split, seeing as UMD has struggled of late to show up on Friday night, while Minnesota State has struggled to show up on Saturday night. Minnesota State's Austin Lee stopped 40 of 41 shots in a 3-1 win on Friday, but didn't get the start the following night, when MSU's coaches threw in the towel and decided to get Phil Cook some action before the playoffs.
Nebraska-Omaha made the long voyage to Anchorage and ended up getting a split. With two series left, UNO is tied for third in the league and tied for eighth in the PWR.
Minnesota pulled out three points at the Kohl Center against Wisconsin. Wisconsin stayed inside the the tournament bubble, but certainly cost themselves some leeway. Minnesota, meanwhile, moved into pretty good position for home ice in the playoffs, and moved up to 18th in the PWR.
Aiding Minnesota in the home ice race is the fact that Colorado College only took one point in their series with Bemidji. Colorado College did get Jaden Schwartz back, and he took no time getting back into the swing of things with a three point weekend. The bad news for the Tigers was that they got caught in Minnesota's snowstorm on Sunday morning, and had to make a hellish 20+ hour bus ride back home to make the start of a new two-week block of classes.
Northern Michigan made a push towards home ice in the second round of the playoffs with a four point weekend against Bowling Green. They trail Western Michigan by two points heading into the final weekend, while Northern draws Michigan.
Michigan State only managed a split in Alaska, while Ohio State took four points against Lake Superior, meaning anything besides an MSU sweep and Ohio State getting swept will land the Spartans in 10th place this year.