The women’s WCHA announced the format for their league playoffs this year via press release on Tuesday. Due to the ongoing challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, only the top four teams in the league will make the playoffs, advancing straight to the league’s Final Faceoff, held March 6-7 at Minnesota’s Ridder Arena, rather than the league playing a first round playoff series with all seven teams getting an opportunity to participate.
The league will play a single-game semifinal with #1 facing #4 and #2 facing #3, with the winners advancing to the championship game, and the winner of that receiving the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
While it’s a shame for the three WCHA teams that won’t get an opportunity to compete, it makes sense from the league’s perspective. Bemidji State’s 1-0 overtime win over Minnesota Duluth was the only game in the WCHA game this season in which one of the bottom three teams won a game against a team in the top four. The likelihood of one of those teams pulling off upsets in two out of three games is likely outweighed by the challenges and potential pitfalls of playing the extra games amidst this pandemic.
Meanwhile, it still allows one final opportunity for the league’s NCAA tournament contenders to earn an automatic bid or improve seeding for the national tournament. As we wrote yesterday, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio State are all likely very safe to make the NCAA Tournament field, but this last opportunity could be crucial for a Minnesota Duluth team that finds itself on the bubble.