I feel a little like the Admiral in looking at the Bulldog's predicament. Why do I need to write about possibilities of home ice and no home ice for the University of Minnesota - Duluth Bulldogs? Because they have not won when 1. they should have beaten weaker opponents, 2. they tied so many games and 3. they do not play well on the road. What does that the reasons boil down to? Home ice is the key to the Final Five and the Final Five is the key to the NCAAs. It really is just that simple when looking at this season's edition of the UMD Bulldogs.
Lets Get to the Possibilities. Its all about the log jam in the middle of the WCHA. Home ice for the first round of the playoffs extends to 5th place and that is exactly where UMD is, but tied with Saint Cloud State and UM - Twin Cities. Tie breakers will likely have to be used (see March 3rd post for details on tie breaking) and UMD is on the short end with the two teams they are tied with. That means that UMD has to outright beat UMTC and SCSU on points to pas them and gain home ice. A long shot? Yes, UMTC is at Houghton, MI visiting Michigan Technological University and SCSU is playing a home and home series with Mankato State. SCSU is vulnerable playing a Maverick team that is hit or miss and for that matter, you never know which SCSU team will show up for a game. UMTC is likely going to sweep. I do recognize that MTU is beat up, but I also know that UMTC has had problems with the Huskies in recent years. All it will take is one tie...assuming that the Bulldogs sweep. That is the hinge in all of these situations.
What About Those Badgers? Bucky is currently sitting in 4th place, 2 points ahead of the melee for 5th place. Can they be passed? The badgers can easily find themselves on the road for the playoffs as they play the Fighting Sioux at home. The Sioux need one win to clinch the McNaughton Cup outright. It remains to be seen if NoDak wins Friday night, but if they do, will they just mail in their effort Saturday? I would like to think that they wouldn't as they are still jockeying for NCAA seedings, but anything can happen (flash back to UMD 7-0 win over NoDak the night after they clinched the Cup in 97-98). FYI - Wisconsin has the tie breaker on UMD also!
Hold Them Tigers! Talking about Bucky making a fall in the ranks, we need to look at the Colorado College Tigers. CC has one game left on Saturday at Denver. Right now we know that CC is 3rd cannot catch 2nd place Denver. By the time the CC/Denver game starts we will likely know if Denver has a chance to win the WCHA depending on what the Sioux do to Bucky Friday night. For argument's sake, let's assume that NoDak takes Wisconsin down Friday. CC clearly has more to play for. Ahhh, but lest us forget that this is one of the most heated rivalries in the WCHA. Denver will not CC off easily at all. A loss by CC will allow the chance for UMD, UMTC and SCSU to pass CC if any of them sweep. CC could wind up in 7th with a loss and the right circumstances.
So Will the Right Circumstances Happen? Time will only tell, but I have my ideas. UMD needs to pass two teams by points alone. The only way UMD will take home ice in the playoffs is if Wisconsin falls below 5th. I believe that there is a good chance that Bucky and CC will fall and SCSU will not sweep. But the Bulldogs MUST sweep Anchorage!
This Weekend's WCHA Games. It is the last of the last for the regular season. Kudos to the schedulers who have all of the teams in the hunt of making or breaking home ice playing the teams that are not involved. How did they know all this two years ago when this schedule was made?
- Colorado College at Denver (Saturday only): Of all the picks for this weekend, this is the one I feel most confident about. Denver will be ready for their rival and beat them at home.
- North Dakota at Wisconsin: The Sioux will win the McNaughton Cup Friday night and at least tie Saturday. With the way both teams are playing, I will go so far as to predict a Flickertail sweep!
- University of Minnesota - Twin Cities at Michigan Technological University: As much as I want to see the Huskies come in and help out UMD, they will be swept at home.
- Saint Cloud and Mankato (home and home): two teams that have been up and down all year. It is the old Jekyll/Hyde thing. The only plausible outcome I can see is a split.
- Anchorage at University of Minnesota - Duluth: Here it is. It all comes down to this. The Dogs need to sweep. Maybe I have seen too many bad things in early Spring happen to the Dogs in past years that makes me think that one of these may be a tie. It should be a sweep for many, many reasons, but I am just not feeling it. I will say UMD sweep and hope that my little voice is wrong.
If everything plays out as I predict (even with that little voice problem of a three pointer for UMD), UMD will have home ice. Why? They have the tie breaker on CC. Check back throughout the weeekend for more insight and commentary. Listen to the Dogs at http://www.umdbulldogs.com/bulldogs-on-the-air.php .
Time to get off my HighHorse and wait for the games.