The final CCHA regular season is now officially in the books. Miami made everything a little less interesting by defeating Ohio State early in the evening and clinching sole possession of the CCHA regular-season title. But there was plenty on the line right down to the final buzzer this weekend; most notably in the game between Michigan and Ferris State.
Ferris State had already clinched a bye in the first round of the playoffs with a top five seed, and a match-up against Ohio State, but needed three points against Michigan on Saturday to play that first round series in Big Rapids, rather than Columbus. When the game headed to overtime, Ferris State pulled out all the stops, including pulling their goalie, and playing with seven skaters on the ice, and it ended up earning them a breakaway in the waning seconds of OT, but Ferris could not convert. By forcing the shootout, Michigan also pushed themselves into position to host a first round playoff series.
Here's how the match-ups ended up shaking out in the league:
First Round Byes: 1. Miami 2. Notre Dame 3. Western Michigan 4. Ohio State 5. Ferris State
#11 Michigan State at #6 Alaska
#10 Northern Michigan at #7 Michigan
#9 Bowling Green at #8 Lake Superior
After the first round is played, the lowest remaining seed will go to Miami in the second round, the next lowest travels to Notre Dame, next lowest to Western Michigan, and Ohio State will host Ferris State.
The most interesting of the first round match-ups appears to be Michigan State heading to Fairbanks for the second time in three weeks(and a second playoff series there in the past three years). Two weekends ago, the Spartans earned a split in the Great White North, with the second game getting pretty charged at the end when the Spartans took exception to the celebration of Adam Henderson--who played one year with the Spartans before returning to juniors and eventually committing to Alaska--after Henderson scored an empty-net goal to ice the game.
Though it's the bottom half of the league playing, there are still NCAA tournament implications for others outside the CCHA. Alaska, almost inexplicably, remains in the final at-large spot in the Pairwise Rankings. Losing this series pretty much locks them out of any hope of getting into the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Northern Michigan, bane of many a WCHA team this year, hangs precariously on the TUC Cliff with an RPI of .5006. If they lose this series, they will finish the year outside the TUC Cliff. Bowling Green and Lake Superior are both within four spots of the TUC Cliff, but neither can push their RPI above .5000 with a sweep over the other.