Some weekends are more interesting than most.
Disclaimer: I haven’t worked out every possible permutation with ties and shootouts, so these are reasonable (but rough) estimates.
1. Four teams are still in the hunt for the regular-season title.
Interestingly, each of them was paired this past weekend against another still mathematically capable of capturing the final CCHA regular-season championship. First-place Miami played third-place Notre Dame and the teams split, with the Irish earning their first win over the RedHawks since Dec. 3, 2010, a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) snapped with a 2-1 win in the first game of Sunday’s Hockey City Classic in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Miami won 3-1 Friday in Oxford. If the RedHawks win out, they capture the regular-season championship.
Ohio State — tied for fourth place with Ferris State, who doesn’t have enough games remaining to finish as high as first place — took four of six points from third-place Western Michigan with Friday’s 1-1 tie and Saturday’s 6-3 win.
The RedHawks have 50 points, the Broncos 48, the Fighting Irish 47 and the Buckeyes 42. Western Michigan hosts Notre Dame this weekend and Miami hosts Ohio State March 1-2 to end the regular season. Could be a photo finish.
2. Six teams can finish in sixth place.
Not all at once, of course, but there are six teams that can possibly finish in sixth place: Ohio State, Ferris State, Alaska, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Northern Michigan. In fact, all but NMU can finish higher than sixth, but no one above the Buckeyes or below the Wildcats can finish in sixth place. Fifth place means a first-round CCHA playoff bye; sixth through eighth means hosting the first round of the playoffs, and everybody below Notre Dame can — technically — still do that.
With a two-game home sweep of Alaska this past weekend, Lake Superior is in seventh place with 32 points, one point ahead of eighth-place BGSU and five behind sixth-place Alaska. Both the Lakers and the Falcons have two games in hand over the Nanooks.
The Lakers’ goaltenders worked miracles to help LSSU earn those wins over Alaska. In Friday’s 5-1 game, Kevin Murdoch made 46 saves; in Saturday’s 4-2 win, Kevin Kapalka stopped 33.
The Lakers have Miami this weekend but end their season with two road games against the Wildcats. The Falcons have Northern Michigan at home this weekend and end their season on the road against Notre Dame.
3. Michigan and Michigan State are in the bottom two spots in the standings.
That on its own is fascinating in this last season of CCHA hockey. The Wolverines had the weekend off and the Spartans split at home with Northern Michigan. Technically speaking, each could finish high enough to host a first-round playoff series, but that seems unlikely given their remaining schedules. The Spartans head for Alaska next weekend and the Wolverines go to Columbus to play Ohio State. Each is at home the final weekend of the season, giving MSU the chance to play the spoiler when hosting WMU and UM to do the same for FSU.
The Spartans scored three goals in the third period of both Friday’s 5-3 loss and Saturday’s 4-2 win. In Saturday’s contest, MSU outshot NMU 19-3 in the first period yet came out of that stanza trailing 1-0. In Saturday’s game, the Spartans outshot the Wildcats 39-18.