We are coming down to it. Theoretically, eight CCHA teams are in the hunt for the regular-season title. Theoretically. That’s everybody above 10th place except for the Buckeyes, who have two fewer regular-season games remaining than everyone else above 10th place.
All the Bulldogs or Broncos have to do is win out to win it all. Even though Ferris State is five points ahead of Western Michigan, the Bulldogs and Broncos finish the season playing each other next weekend. The rest is too nutty to go into in depth: One point between second and third place. Two teams tied for fifth, one point behind fourth. Three teams tied for seventh — and each of those teams five points behind third place.
The maths are dizzying. Here’s how I stand.
Last week: 7-5-0
Season to date: 107-72-24 (.586)
I am grateful for any weekend above .500. I would have been more grateful had Alaska and Lake Superior won on opposite nights.
Everyone but Ohio State plays. Every series is single site, Friday-Saturday. All games begin at 7:05 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
The picks are a bit abbreviated this week. Blame my packed day job schedule. Blame the newest germ warfare circulating through this part of Michigan. Blame Valentine’s Day. I always blame Valentine’s Day.
Alaska at No. 16 Michigan State
The Nanooks travel this week after splitting a pair at home with the Lakers. They’ll have to travel in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, too, so they’re playing spoiler and trying to finish as strongly as they can. The Spartans had an electrifying weekend split with the Wolverines last weekend, winning at home and losing in OT in Joe Louis Arena. The Nanooks took three of four games with the Spartans last season, and they’re nearly as good on the road as they are at home. Saturday’s game begins at 8:05 p.m. MSU 3-2, UAF 3-2
Bowling Green at No. 1 Ferris State
The Falcons dropped two in a row last weekend for the first time this calendar year, home losses to Northern Michigan in which they scored just two total goals. The Bulldogs continued to roll, sweeping Notre Dame on the road and outscoring the Irish 8-1 in the process. FSU has the longest unbeaten streak in the country (9-0-3). The Bulldogs beat the Falcons twice in Bowling Green Nov. 4-5. I’m not calling against the Bulldogs until they give me a reason to. FSU 4-2, 4-2
No. 20 Northern Michigan at No. 5 Michigan
Here’s a series that makes me glad I’m alive. The Wildcats swept Bowling Green on the road last weekend. The Wolverines split that great series with Michigan State in East Lansing and Joe Louis Arena. NMU is unpredictable; both teams are potentially explosive, in more ways than one. Michigan took two of six points from Northern in Marquette in October. The Wolverines are 5-3-2 in their last 10 at home against the Wildcats. Make no mistake about this: NMU is as motivated by the NCAA tournament and its current tie for ninth place in the PWR as it is anything related to the outcome of the regular CCHA season. These games should be super intense. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 5:05 p.m. UM 3-2, 3-2
No. 13 Notre Dame at No. 19 Miami
The Fighting Irish and RedHawks tied for seventh with two weeks to go in the regular season? Hey, that wasn’t in the script. Last weekend, ND dropped two at home to Ferris State while Miami swept Alabama-Huntsville at home. These teams split four games evenly — but not conventionally — during the 2010-11 regular season. They split in Steve Cady Arena Dec. 3-4, then tied two games in South Bend Jan. 28-29, with each team earning an extra shootout point. The rubber match of the year, though, was Miami’s 6-2 CCHA semifinal win March 18, a game in which the RedHawks scored four goals within a 10-minute span in the first period. If there’s a sweep, it’s more likely to be the RedHawks winning two because of their goaltending advantage, but if the Irish are going to win, I think it’ll be Friday’s game. ND 3-2, Miami 4-1
No. 18 Western Michigan at Lake Superior
The Broncos split with Ohio State at home last weekend, winning Friday and losing Saturday while the Lakers split in similar fashion in Fairbanks. The difference, of course, is that Western continued its disappointing pattern of Friday wins and Saturday losses, while the Lakers shook off an old monkey; LSSU’s Friday win in Fairbanks was the Lakers’ first since 2000. These teams split last season in the same manner by which the Irish and RedHawks did. Each won a game in Kalamazoo Dec. 10-11, then they tied twice in Sault Ste. Marie Jan. 21-22, with each team earning an extra shootout point. The teams are tied 2-2-2 in the last six in the Soo. Guess what I’m calling. WMU 3-2, LSSU 3-2