The WCHA Final Five begins this Friday at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, returning to the venue for the first time since The Great Schism. Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, Bowling Green, and Ferris State will be the four teams competing for this year's Broadmoor Trophy.
The first semifinal take place at 4:07pm local time when Bowling Green meets Michigan Tech. Ferris State takes on Minnesota State in the second semifinal schedule to begin at 7:37pm local time.
The championship game is scheduled to face off at 6:07pm local time on Saturday.
All three games will be aired live on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports College Sports Central. Fox Sports Wisconsin, Fox Sports Detroit Plus, and Fox Sports Ohio will all show the semifinal games live, with the championship game airing on tape delay.
All three games will also be streamed on WCHA.tv and the Fox Sports Go app.
Aside from winning this beauty of a trophy, there are national implications to these games.
Minnesota State is all but locked into the 2nd overall spot in the Pairwise Rankings. They can pass North Dakota for the first overall spot with a good weekend and some help in the form of North Dakota losing. They can't fall below second overall though, and most likely, that's where they finish.
Michigan Tech sits at 5th in the Pairwise. They're guaranteed to be in the NCAA tournament next week. Where they end up is still up for debate. There is the possibility to push into the top 4 and get a #1 seed in the tournament. It seems fairly unlikely that they fall below a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Bowling Green finds themselves firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament and desperately need at least one win this weekend. PWR expert Jim Dahl has Bowling Green making the NCAA Tournament in about 95% of scenarios if they win their first semifinal against Michigan Tech, and only in about 50% of scenarios where Bowling Green loses their first game.
Ferris State needs to win both games and earn the WCHA's automatic bid. If they did, they would knock another team off the at-large bubble.
I listened to the WCHA Final Five phone conference on Tuesday night. It was about 90% generic coachspeak 10% useful info, which is the usual ratio for those things. Here's a few items that stuck out to me:
-Commissioner Bill Robertson said he's expecting a crowd of between 6000 to 8000 this weekend. That number sounds a bit hopeful, but with the X not opening the club level/upper deck at all, that would look like a decent crowd if they reached those numbers.
-Mike Hastings mentioned Ferris State sweeping Bemidji State in Bemidji, something Minnesota State was not able to do on the final weekend of the regular season as a way of keeping focused on the weekend at-hand and not looking forward to the NCAA Tournament.
-Michigan Tech's Mel Pearson still considers his team underdogs, despite coming in as the second seed with a top-five ranking, because they still feel they have a lot to prove to a lot of people.
-Bowling Green's Chris Bergeron said they have discussed the team's Pairwise situation with the players. That's not necessarily something every coaching staff would do as opposed to adopting a 'just win the games' strategy, but Bergeron said he wanted to be transparent with his players.
-Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said how difficult the team's eight-game stretch where they played four straight against Minnesota State, followed by four straight against Bowling Green was on the team. Daniels also noted that brutal stretch was due to scheduling quirks brought on by Ferris themselves, so there was no one to blame but themselves, but playing eight straight against really good teams hurt the team's confidence. They seem to have turned it around though, going on a nice run at the right time of the season.