With only three series in the WCHA this past weekend, here’s what I think I learned from around the league.
Minnesota State is possessed by Jekyll and Hyde
It was as if Northern Michigan hosted two different teams this weekend at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The Wildcats, who were just as two-faced, smoked Minnesota State on Friday 5-2 by holding the Mavericks to just 26 shots on goal. To Northern’s credit, it blocked 21 shots by the Mavs.
MSU went 1 for 6 on the power play Friday and despite scoring, it actually had better scoring chances on the penalty kill than on the man advantage. The only time MSU’s league-leading power play looked dangerous was when it had a two-man advantage.
On Saturday in a 5-1 butt kicking of Northern, Minnesota State was an entirely different team.
The Mavs outshot NMU 30-17, they were three seconds from going 3 for 7 on the power play and they scored two shorthanded goals in the third period.
This Mavericks weekend in Marquette seemed to mirror the team’s second half thus far in the WCHA, which has included a 4-2 loss and 6-4 win in Fairbanks against Alaska, two losses at Alaska-Anchorage and a sweep of league-leading Ferris State in Mankato.
The Mavericks posses the goaltending and offensive firepower to make a run to the Broadmoor Trophy, but they also are inconsistent enough to be bounced in the first round or semifinals of the WCHA playoffs.
One thing is for certain, if MSU can’t find some consistency, it won’t be catching Ferris State either.
Michigan Tech may have saved its season in Ohio
Whether fans of Michigan Tech wanted to believe it or not, the Huskies were once in legitimate danger of missing the WCHA playoffs, tied for seventh with Lake Superior State and Alaska.
While Tech is not a lock to make the postseason just quite yet, those who were in touch with reality can breathe a bit easier after the Huskies swept Bowling Green in Ohio over the weekend.
This was a weekend of redemption for the Huskies, who lost and tied to the Falcons in Houghton just before the holiday break. In the Dec. 14 tie, BGSU scored twice in the final two and a half minutes to tie the game and force overtime.
After winning once between Dec. 6-Jan. 11 — not counting the GLI shootout win — the Huskies have now won three of four over two of the top three teams in the WCHA.
The margin of error is very thin in the WCHA
Of course, everything the Huskies have done over their last four games could come crashing down this weekend if they lose at home to Alabama-Huntsville during its annual Winter Carnival because the margin for error in the race for a spot in the WCHA playoffs is that thin at the moment.
Take NMU for example. Despite splitting with second-place Minnesota State, the Wildcats fell from sixth to eighth in the league because the Huskies and Alaska both swept.
Five teams between fourth and eighth place are separated by just two points in the league standings, with ninth-place Lake Superior State three points back of eighth-place NMU.
Both the Lakers and Wildcats have 2-4 games in hand as well on the rest of the league.
Of the six teams between fourth and ninth in the league, four — Tech, LSSU, Bemidji State and NMU — all play UAH and may very well need all four points to secure a spot in the WCHA playoffs.
Coming off a pair of 6-1 losses at Alaska — which is tied for fifth — last weekend, the Chargers have only one win and one tie in league play.
If the Chargers get another victory, chances are it could spoil some team’s season.
For a mathematical prediction of how the league could play out, check out Geof Morris’ post on UAHhockey.com. When Geof first released his formula on Jan. 14, Tech was the on the outside looking in. Now, the math says Alaska is in danger of missing the postseason.