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WCHA Playoff Picture

Next weekend's series between Minnesota State and Bemidji State has big playoff implications
Next weekend's series between Minnesota State and Bemidji State has big playoff implications
Matt Christians

Next weekend is the final weekend of the WCHA's regular season and it is shaping up to be an exciting one. Here is what the league standings look like heading into next weekend:

                            Conference Only                    Overall
                                 Pts  GP  W  L  T Win%  GF- GA   GP  W  L  T Win%  GF- GA
 1 Minnesota State      43  26 20- 3- 3 .827  93- 42   33 24- 6- 3 .773 117- 64
 2 Michigan Tech         40  26 19- 5- 2 .769  95- 46   34 24- 8- 2 .735 123- 62
 3 Bowling Green        33  26 15- 8- 3 .635  78- 63   34 19-10- 5 .632 101- 82
 4 Bemidji State          27  26 11-10- 5 .519  68- 57   34 15-14- 5 .515  93- 78
 5 Northern Michigan   26  26 11-11- 4 .500  57- 63   34 14-14- 6 .500  81- 85
   Alaska                     26  26 12-12- 2 .500  71- 67   32 17-13- 2 .562  88- 79
 7 Ferris State             23  26 11-14- 1 .442  59- 57   35 14-19- 2 .429  74- 80
 8 Alabama Huntsville  15  26  7-18- 1 .288  41- 86   34  8-22- 4 .294  59-108
   Lake Superior State  15  26  7-18- 1 .288  43- 84   34  8-24- 2 .265  55-111
10 Alaska Anchorage    12  26  5-19- 2 .231  50- 90   32  8-20- 4 .312  68-103

The WCHA also has the league's tiebreaking procedures and head-to-head records for all the league teams available here.

The top eight teams make the playoffs, with the top four hosting a first round series. Alaska-Fairbanks will be one of the two teams not participating in the playoffs this year thanks to a capricious decision by the NCAA.

That playoff format has set up three pretty exciting races throughout the standings, and given every team something meaningful to play for on the final weekend of the regular season. The only team, besides UAF, not involved in one of the three important league races, is Bowling Green, who has locked up third place, but desperately needs some wins next weekend to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

Here are the key races to watch next weekend and what the teams involved need to do to win them.

The MacNaughton Cup

Minnesota State didn't quite clinch the MacNaughton Cup last weekend, taking three of four points against Michigan Tech, but they did manage to cut their magic number to one. Either one point won by Minnesota State against Bemidji State, or one point lost by Michigan Tech against Northern Michigan guarantees Minnesota State a share of the MacNaughton and the first seed in the WCHA playoffs. Any combination of two or more points and the Mavericks win the MacNaughton Cup outright.

Home Ice

Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green are all locked into hosting in the first round of the playoffs. That leaves the final home ice spot up for grabs. Bemidji State and Northern Michigan are in the most likely position to grab that final spot, with Ferris State holding an outside shot.

We'll start with the Bulldogs, who need to win both games at Lake Superior next weekend to even be in the conversation. If they drop a point to the Lakers, they'll be on the road. If they take all four, they'll need some serious help from the top two teams in the conference. If Bemidji State can take even a single point against Minnesota State next weekend, the Beavers will finish ahead of Ferris State, even with a Bulldog sweep. If Northern Michigan can take two or more points off Michigan Tech, they will finish ahead of Ferris State, even with a Bulldog sweep.

More than likely the battle for last home ice playoff spot will come down to Bemidji State and Northern Michigan. The Beavers hold a one-point lead on the Wildcats heading into the weekend, and would also hold the tiebreaker on Northern Michigan. That means Northern Michigan has to be at least two points better than Bemidji State next weekend to earn home ice.

The Last Playoff Spot

Alaska-Fairbanks being ineligible for the playoffs means that only the 10th-place finisher will miss the cut for this year's playoffs. It kind of looked like the whole thing would be decided early after Lake Superior beat Northern Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage needing an upset win over Bowling Green to stay alive. The Seawolves ended up getting that win late Saturday night to keep their hopes alive though.

The odds are definitely stacked against them though. They trail both Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior by three points in the standings and lose the tiebreaker to UAH and LSSU both individually and collectively. That means they need all four points next weekend against rival Alaska-Fairbanks and need one of UAH or LSSU to get swept.

If UAA swept their series, while both UAH and LSSU were swept next weekend, Lake Superior State would lose the tiebreaker.