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The NCHC Playoff Picture

The league's first ever Penrose Cup is on the line, and the race for home ice is tight.

Matt Christians

This weekend will be the final weekend of conference play in the inaugural season of the NCHC. We know that Miami will finish in last place--and let's all take a moment to contemplate that fact--and we know that Colorado College will finish in seventh place. Little is decided beyond that though, which means there is some big stuff at stake in this final weekend.

For reference, here's what the NCHC standings look like.

And here are the four series that will be played this weekend: Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota-Duluth, Western Michigan at North Dakota, St. Cloud at Colorado College, Miami at Denver.

Most eyes will be on the title race where North Dakota and St. Cloud are tied heading into the final weekend of the season. St. Cloud draws the easier opponent in Colorado College, but North Dakota has the advantage of playing at home. As a reminder, if the two teams finish the weekend still tied, they are both considered co-champions--the league even has two cups--and North Dakota would earn the top seed and play Miami by virtue of having more conference wins than St. Cloud.

Nebraska-Omaha also has an outside shot at the league title. They trail UND and SCSU by three points(remember, a regulation win counts as three points). Tiebreakers aren't kind to the Mavericks, but even a share of the conference title would be incredible for a UNO team that was picked to finish last in the league prior to the season.

The other race to keep an eye will be the four teams in the middle of the conference.battling it out for the final two home spots. Nebraska-Omaha needs just a single point against Duluth, or North Dakota to take a point from Western Michigan this weekend to guarantee home ice.

Denver has the most ground to gain being two points out of the tie for fourth place, but theoretically have the easiest schedule hosting the last place team in the league. They'll need some help from Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota to keep Duluth and Western Michigan within their grasp.