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WCHA Playoff Scenarios and Tiebreakers

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A look at how some tiebreaking scenarios might play out in the final weekend of the WCHA regular season

Coincidental minors, probably
Coincidental minors, probably
Jonathan Daniel

It's the final weekend of the WCHA regular season, and as per usual, there's a lot of craziness to sort out. St. Cloud could have potentially clinched the MacNaughton Cup on Saturday evening, but did not, so the league title is still up for grabs, with the possibility of four teams all tying for the top spot.

The race for home ice in the playoffs, meanwhile, could be the most fascinating and difficult to decipher. St. Cloud will be at home in the playoffs. Minnesota, playing 11th place Bemidji State, looks pretty secure as well. But after that, there are five teams competing for four home ice spots, and somebody is going to end up being the odd man out.

Here's what the standings look like heading into the weekend:

 1 St. Cloud State   35  
 2 Minnesota         33  
   North Dakota      33  
 4 Minnesota State   31  
   Wisconsin         31  
 6 Nebraska Omaha    30  
 7 Denver            29  
 8 Colorado College  24  
 9 Minnesota Duluth  21  
10 Michigan Tech     18  
11 Bemidji State     17    
12 Alaska Anchorage  10


And here are the match-ups for the weekend:

Colorado College at Michigan Tech

St. Cloud State at Wisconsin

Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota-Duluth

North Dakota at Minnesota State

Minnesota at Bemidji State

Alaska-Anchorage at Denver (Fri/Sun)

Here's a reminder of what the WCHA's tiebreaking procedures look like, because I'm sure we'll need in a few instances, and the WCHA doesn't do a great job of explaining it on their website(I know, I'll give you a second to recover from the surprise.)

1. Head-to-head

Pretty straightforward with two teams tied. There needs to be some clarification for three or more teams tied, however, because the league doesn't explain this, and I've seen some people get it wrong. With three or more teams tied, advantage in a head-to-head series is either counted as a plus, a minus, or even.

To give a real world example, if St. Cloud, Minnesota, and North Dakota all finish tied for first place in the league, St. Cloud won their season series against North Dakota(+1), and split with Minnesota(E). Minnesota won their season series with North Dakota(+1), and split with St. Cloud(E). North Dakota lost the season series to both St. Cloud and Minnesota(-2). So for tiebreaking purposes, St. Cloud and Minnesota are both +1 head-to-head, while North Dakota is a -2. North Dakota gets seeded third out of that group, while St. Cloud and Minnesota move on to the next tiebreaker.

2. League Wins

This one is pretty straightforward too. In the hypothetical example above, where St. Cloud and Minnesota move on to the next tiebreaker, St. Cloud wins the higher seed because they'd have the most wins. Incidentally, by having not lost a season series to anyone in the league, and only having one tie, St. Cloud would win any tiebreaker against any team(s) in the league, unless Wisconsin sweeps them at home this weekend.

3. Fewest Goals Allowed in a Four Game Series

Their tie would be broken before this, but take for example Minnesota and Minnesota State, who were in the same cluster this year. They split the season series at two games apiece, but Minnesota scored for 11 goals in the series to Minnesota State's 10 goals, so the Gophers would win that hypothetical tiebreaker. Again, this is only if the team's played a four-game series against the team they're tied with. If they only met twice, we skip to number 4.

Anybody that played four games against another top 7 team seems to have a vastly different number of ties than that team, so I'm guessing this tiebreaker doesn't come into play. I pray this tiebreaker doesn't come into play.

4. Winning Margin

Another simple one. You take each teams' goals scored in conference play and subtract the goals they allowed in conference play to get a number. Highest number gets the highest seed. Worth repeating that that number comes from all WCHA games, and not just games between the tied teams.

I'm not going to break down exactly what has to happen to create all these scenarios, but I figured I'd throw out a few scenarios involving three or more teams that could happen over the weekend, and show how the tiebreaking would work out.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, and North Dakota tie for first place: As mentioned above, St. Cloud gets the top seed, followed by Minnesota, followed by North Dakota.

St. Cloud, Minnesota and Wisconsin tie for first: Minnesota would be seeded first, Wisconsin second, St. Cloud third

Four-way tie for first between St. Cloud, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin: 1. Minnesota 2. St. Cloud 3. North Dakota 4. Wisconsin

And for a few potential ties that could have home ice implications or just general craziness:

Tie between Minnesota State, Wisconsin, and Denver: 1. Wisconsin 2. Denver 3. Minnesota State

Tie between Wisconsin, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver: 1. Wisconsin 2. Denver 3. Nebraska-Omaha

Tie between Minnesota State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska-Omaha: 1.Wisconsin 2. Minnesota State 3. Nebraska-Omaha

Tie between Minnesota State, Denver, and Nebraska-Omaha: 1. Denver 2. Minnesota State 3. Nebraska-Omaha *Unless they are tied at 32 points, in which case MSU/UNO tie would be decided by WCHA goal differential, which MSU currently leads +22 to +8

Four-way tie between Minnesota State, Wisconsin, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver: 1. Wisconsin 2. Denver 3. Minnesota State 4. Nebraska-Omaha

Four-way tie between North Dakota, Minnesota State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska-Omaha: 1. Minnesota State 2. North Dakota 3. Wisconsin 4. Nebraska-Omaha

Five-way tie between Minnesota, North Dakota, Minnesota State, Wisconsin and Nebraska-Omaha: 1. Minnesota 2. Minnesota State 3/4 North Dakota/Wisconsin 5. Nebraska-Omaha *UND/UW tie would be broken by goal differential, which UND is currently +22 and UW is currently +6