Thoughts pecked while waiting to leave for Niagara …
It was this time last year when all eyes in the CHA were on Niagara, N.Y., as the third annual CHA tournament was held there. No CHA school had a realistic shot at an at-large NCAA bid, so all there was to fight for was bragging rights for the next 365 days.
This year, much more is clearly on the line. This weekend, fans in Bemidji and Detroit will be turning their eyes to Niagara again, faced with an unfamiliar proposition: rooting for Alabama-Huntsville.
Go, Chargers, Go? (But Only If You Wear Green)
I’ve run every single scenario of the weekend — 126 in all — of how each league series can come out and how each affects the league’s six teams. All we know going into this weekend is this:
Now, with Findlay having a three-point edge over Air Force with two games to play, it’s pretty clear that Findlay has a good shot at the No. 5 seed. In fact, the stats say that Findlay will get the No. 5 94% of the time; the other 6% sees the Falcons sweeping the Beavers and the Oilers picking up either two losses or a loss and a tie. The Falcons would take a tiebreaker over the Oilers due to a better head-to-head record.
So, that said, let’s figure on this:
6. Air Force
The fight for seeds No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 will first pivot in upstate New York. Depending on the results of the weekend, the Purple Eagles can finish 2nd (85.2%), 3rd (13.4%), or 4th (1.4%). To finish fourth, Niagara must be swept by the Chargers and Bemidji and Wayne State have to pass the Purple Eagles, which generally means that those two schools have to sweep as well.
Tiebreakers (Please, No Coin Flips!)
In the situation where Niagara ties one game this weekend and Bemidji and Wayne State both sweep, it puts second place into a three-way tie.
For playoff positioning, CHA ties are broken as follows:
A. CHA wins
B. Head-to-head series
C. Fewest goals allowed in the head-to-head series
There are two more tiebreakers (goal margin in the head-to-head and a coin flip), but the farthest any potential tie this year actually goes is to the third tiebreaker. Those situations are:
1. Bemidji State and Wayne State: Wayne State prevails because it allowed just seven goals in four games, compared to 11 by the Beavers.
2. Bemidji State and Niagara: Bemidji prevails, nine goals allowed to 13 for the Purple Eagles.
Goals allowed breaks 12 ties. CHA wins break 56 potential ties, including the aforementioned three-way tie.
Go, Green, Go! (Well, Our Green, Anyway…)
The other fun of the weekend will happen in Colorado Springs and along I-75, as the Green and Gold and Green and White hope to pick up more points than their counterparts. Most scenarios favor the Warriors over the Beavers, mainly owing to the fact that the Beavers have two more ties than the Warriors.
Sure, it’s been fun to watch Bemidji State break the NCAA record for overtimes in a season (they have played 14 in 32 games), but it’s coming back to bite them in the rear end. The Beavers have only a 6.0% chance of making it to Nebraska and taking next Friday off, and they’ll be pulling harder than anyone for Alabama-Huntsville and Findlay.
Bemidji fans, please stop jeering at the screen. I don’t think Alabama-Huntsville fans like the thought of you cheering for their Chargers any more than you do.
How The Probabilities See It:
1. Alabama-Huntsville (100%)
2. Niagara (85.5%)
3. Wayne State (51.9%)
4. Bemidji State (59.3%)
5. Findlay (94.4%)
6. Air Force (94.4%)
If you want the Excel spreadsheet, I’ll be happy to email it to you. I spent more than a little time on it, and you can enjoy it with me.
How Geof Sees It:
3. Bemidji State
4. Wayne State
6. Air Force
Boy, am I glad that I’m driving to Niagara through Cleveland rather than Detroit. There are enough Wayne State fans who know what car I’ll be driving. But let me defend my argument with my vision of the weekend:
UAH at Niagara:
It’s foolish to think that the Chargers will sweep the Purple Eagles. Goalies Jeff VanNynatten and Rob Bonk are both playing well in CHA play for Niagara, and my CHA Player of the Year pick, Joe Tallari, now has help on offense. I remember the Chargers giving up a point at home to the Purple Eagles earlier this season before Bonk and VanNynatten got on track, and there are few scenarios where I see the Chargers sweeping. (That, and if I pick the Chargers to sweep, enough Charger fans know where I live that I’ll come home to a pile of ashes.)
Niagara picking up a point makes it hard for either the Warriors or Beavers to pick up second place; frankly, I see this series as a SPLIT.
Bemidji State at Air Force:
I know the Falcons gave the Beavers a run two weeks ago, but just about the only way the Beavers can avoid fourth place is to sweep the Falcons. They’re hungry, and they’re going to go out and give the Falcons a run for their money. I saw the Falcons tie up the Chargers earlier this season in Colorado Springs, but that happened when the Falcons outworked the Chargers and played solid defensive hockey. That’s what Bemidji’s been doing virtually all season.
I see this series as a Bemidji SWEEP, which puts the Beavers up to 24 points.
Wayne State v. Findlay (home and home):
The Oilers are playing like wounded animals. They completely outworked the Chargers last Friday night, picking up a win in front of the largest crowd all season at the Von Braun Center. Mark “Swiss” Bastl came out and got his first four goals of the season, picking up pucks from his wingers and putting them past Scott Munroe.
Now, to be fair, the Chargers were a bit distracted, as senior David Halliwill’s father passed on last season and the team had gone to be with their teammate in his time of need, forsaking practice for part of the week. The Chargers looked flat on Friday, but that’s not to say that they lost because they played poorly — the Oilers deserve more of the credit.
Now, look at Wayne State. Sure, they swept Air Force last weekend, but each game was a one-goal win. Before that, the Warriors lost four straight to Niagara and Alabama-Huntsville. Sure, the Warriors are a superior team on paper, but I don’t see the Warriors doing as well as the Beavers will this weekend.
I’m picking a SPLIT, and that puts the Beavers into second.
The craziness of all that is this: if the weekend goes as I expect, Bemidji State and Wayne State will each face this weekend’s opponents in the playoffs. That, folks, is a recipe for a real good tournament next weekend.
See you in Kearney.
USCHO covers Men's D-I all week long on the Men's D-I Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.