It's the second-to-last weekend of the WCHA season, and every team in the league is in action, including five critical conference series.
Michigan Tech at St. Cloud
The rest of the WCHA will have a close eye on this one since the field is chasing after St. Cloud in the standings. The bad news for the rest of the league is that Michigan Tech hasn't won a game in St. Cloud since November 14, 1998. To put that in historical context, that was about two weeks after Minnesota elected Jesse Ventura as their governor, and about five days before the Senate began impeachment hearings on President Clinton. Michigan Tech's Jujhar Khaira was four years, three months old.
So the Huskies have been terrible at the National Hockey Center. But they're 0-0-0 all-time at the National Hockey and Event Center. Also, the last time Michigan Tech won in St. Cloud, there were no two more disparate albums in the Billboard Top 10 than Jay-Z's Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life, and 'N'Sync's self-titled debut album. This week, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake announced they will be touring together this summer. This is not coincidence; this is the convergence the gypsy spoke of, telling us when the long journey will be completed.
The St. Cloud Times points out that match-up will feature some of the WCHA's best freshmen.
Denver at Minnesota
Minnesota needs points to keep pace with St. Cloud to have a shot at winning the WCHA, while Denver is tied with Wisconsin for the final home ice. This is always a fast, hard-fought series, and one that seems to have split written all over on it. In terms of who most desperately needs these wins, it's probably Minnesota. The Gophers are already two points behind St. Cloud and need help from gypsies or something to have St. Cloud drop any points. St. Cloud holds the tiebreaker over Minnesota(both individually and any multi-way combination) so if Minnesota loses two points to the Huskies this weekend, the best they can do if tie St. Cloud for the title.
Denver, meanwhile,desperately needs points as well, especially since they lose the tiebreaker with Wisconsin for the last home ice playoff spot, but the Badgers have a pretty tough opponent in Nebraska-Omaha this weekend, and Denver has the ace-in-the-hole of drawing Alaska-Anchorage on the last weekend of the season.
Minnesota State at Colorado College
Minnesota State has quietly snuck into 5th in the RPI and 7th in the Pairwise. They travel to Colorado Springs this weekend, which is always a difficult trip, though Colorado College seems to be in their traditional late-season swoon. This is another series were a split seems likely, but if Minnesota can take more than two points, they'll be in pretty solid shape for holding on to that home ice bid, and likely keeps them out of that 6/7 match-up and playing against a bottom five team.
Wisconsin at Nebraska-Omaha
Wisconsin is coming off a devastating loss to Penn State on Monday night which all but ended any hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. That makes this series all the more important because they now need to win the Final Five to advance to the tournament, and it would help if they had home ice advantage--what little there is left at the Kohl Center these days--to get through the first round of the playoffs.
Nebraska-Omaha, meanwhile, is kind of in a weird middle zone, where they're three points out of first place, so they probably don't have much hope at a league title, but also three points clear of sixth place, so they're pretty secure for home ice. What's really on the line for the Mavericks is moving up from 22nd in the Pairwise and into position for an at-large tournament bid.
They're really selling out to do that too. Goalie Ryan Massa burned his redshirt last weekend playing the first two periods of the team's exhibition against the NTDP. Massa had planned to take the year off from hockey, but was called back into action when Anthony Stolarz left for the OHL. I don't there's a lot of confidence in Dayn Belfour and John Faulkner long-term in Omaha, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Massa see some time this weekend.
Bemidji State at North Dakota
North Dakota has pretty much dominated this series, and that doesn't look to change much after a dreadful second half for Bemidji State. With that in mind, North Dakota may be the biggest threat to St. Cloud's title hopes.
North Dakota is sitting in pretty good shape in both the league and the PWR, but the big question might be who gets the start in goal for them when the season gets down to crunch time.
Alaska-Anchorage vs. Alaska
This is the WCHA's last non-conference series of the year against a major conference team. It would help the league as a whole--and UNO in particular, since they need to jump the Nanooks in the PWR--if Anchorage could get a couple wins. Normally I'd laugh at the idea of UAA winning two games this deep into the season, but anything could happen in this rivalry.
Alabama-Huntsville at Minnesota-Duluth
Can Minnesota-Duluth win these games to overtake Penn State in the RPI? That's a rhetorical question, although it's not so much that I don't expect an answer, as I don't really care what the answer to that is.