The top two teams in the WCHA, by league winning percentage, will meet in Mankato this weekend when first place Ferris State travels to take on third place Minnesota State.
At one time this series, the only regular season meeting between the two, looked like it could play a big role in deciding the WCHA regular season title. But with Ferris State continuing their blistering pace, and Minnesota State struggling through their two-week Alaska trip with only one victory, the Mavericks now find themselves needing a sweep of this weekend's series just to stay within shouting distance of the Bulldogs heading into the final months of the season.
The Bulldogs currently sit atop the WCHA standings with 26 points, but have only played 14 games, giving them 2-4 games in hand on most of the league. Bowling Green is in second place at 21 points, but have played 18 conference games, and with no games remaining against Ferris State, it seems almost impossible for Bowling Green to catch them. If the Falcons won their last ten games on the schedule, Ferris State would just need 15 points in their final 14 games to finish ahead of the Falcons.
Minnesota State is currently one point behind Bowling Green in the standings, but has only played 16 conference games, and has those two games against Ferris State, making them the only real remaining threat to pass Ferris State. A sweep by the Mavericks this weekend and they're only two points behind the Bulldogs, though still giving up two games in hand. If Ferris State wins a game this weekend, they'll have a six point lead with two games in hand, which would be all but insurmountable for Minnesota State or any other team.
Of course, winning two games against a team that hasn't taken a single loss through the first half of the WCHA schedule is easier said than done. The Mavericks have been very good at home this season(7-1-0), but find themselves searching for scoring after being shut down by Alaska-Anchorage last weekend.
Ferris Sate rebounded from a disappointing loss to Colgate at the Mariucci Classic by winning a pair of one-goal games at home against Michigan Tech. Outside of two non-conference losses, Ferris State has been ridiculously good in games decided by one goal. Eight of their 12 conference wins have either been by one goal, or by two goals with an empty net goal. It really speaks to the toughness of Bob Daniels' team that the Bulldogs have been so good in close games, and it's a big reason why they could all but close out the WCHA title race so early into the season.
The odds of a Minnesota State sweep this weekend are probably pretty slim. Ferris State has proven time and again that they're one of the best teams in the country. But if there's any team in the WCHA that has the firepower to match up against the Bulldogs, it's Minnesota State, which means we could be in for two great hockey games this weekend.
SBN College Hockey will have live coverage of the first game of the series on Friday evening. Follow @SBNCollegePuck or @ChrisDilks on Twitter for updates from Mankato, and check back here after the game for a full recap.