This Week in the WCHA: March 1, 2007

Off The Top Of My Head

Okay, so we know three things for sure: Alaska-Anchorage will finish last, Minnesota-Duluth will finish ninth, and those two will play Minnesota and St. Cloud in the first round of the WCHA playoffs next weekend (though we don’t know who will face who).

Get ready for a wild weekend. I can just picture the fans at games trying to figure out scores by any means possible and those at home watching one game on TV while keeping up on message boards and by any other means.

Just in case you haven’t discovered its wonder and you are going to be frantically wanting scores this weekend, give 1-800-555-TELL (1-800-555-8355) a try. It’s free and should give you frequently-updated scores.

Okay, Let’s Try To Play This Out

We know who will finish ninth and 10th in the standings, but let’s try and shake out the possibilities of what we could see this weekend. I’m not about to run down all 625 possibilities, but let’s at least look at some best-case and worst-case scenarios.

Minnesota, sitting atop the standings right now, could obviously retain that spot. To do so and capture the regular-season title, the Gophers need to win one of two home games against Michigan Tech.

They could also remain first if St. Cloud loses either game to North Dakota. The Gophers would finish second only if they are swept by Michigan Tech and St. Cloud sweeps North Dakota, though in the event of a tie for the MacNaughton Cup, the Huskies would get the first seed in the playoffs due to a 2-0-2 head-to-head record against Minnesota.

St. Cloud can also finish no lower than second. The Huskies will remain there unless they pick up at least three points on Minnesota.

Denver is third with 29 points. The Pioneers have clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs. The simplest way to stay third is by taking at least three points from Colorado College, but they could remain third either way with some help from St. Cloud. The Pioneers could finish as low as a tie for fifth.

North Dakota is fourth with 28 points. The Sioux can move up to third by making up a point (to tie) or two points on Denver. They could finish as low as seventh. For that to happen, they would need to be swept by SCSU, CC would need three points against Denver, Tech would take at least three points from Minnesota and Wisconsin would sweep Duluth.

Colorado College is fifth with 26 points. The Tigers could finish as high as third by sweeping Denver and getting some help from St. Cloud. They could finish as low as seventh if Tech and Wisconsin make up one and two points, respectively.

Michigan Tech is tied for sixth with 25 points. The Huskies could finish as high as high as fourth with a sweep, a sweep either way in the Denver/CC series and North Dakota earning no more than a point against SCSU. They could finish as low as a tie for seventh if they are swept and Wisconsin earns a point or more against Duluth.

Minnesota State is tied for sixth with 25 points and idle this weekend, meaning the Mavericks would stay tied for sixth if Tech and Wisconsin are swept, or they could finish as low as eighth if Tech picks up at least a point and Wisconsin picks up at least two.

Wisconsin is eighth with 24 points. The Badgers could finish fourth if they sweep, Denver gets at least two points, St. Cloud sweeps North Dakota and Minnesota takes at least a point from Tech. They would remain eighth if swept by Duluth.

Feel free to tinker around with the possible combinations and send your wackiest to me if you wish.

Still No Champ

Continuing with my recent string — whatever I say, the opposite occurs — St. Cloud State earned the sweep over Minnesota last weekend, keeping its hopes alive for the MacNaughton Cup.

I was pleasantly surprised with what little angry mail I received last week, though I don’t want to think about what my inbox would look like if the Huskies do find themselves in first after this weekend.

Perhaps I could have saved WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod a trip by just sending him my column and explaining that obviously no champ would be crowned last weekend. Instead, he was there for the series, with the trophy, only to find that out first-hand.

For everyone’s sake this week, I won’t say anything about how things are going to shake out, because predictions have not been my thing this year and because I don’t need a rapidly over-flowing inbox.

Time is Now

I remember talking to Denver coach George Gwozdecky just after the calendar turned over, and at that time he didn’t want to look as far ahead as this weekend or last. Like most coaches, he was working one weekend at a time.

But even then it seemed clear that the Pioneers’ playoff spot would come down to final weekends against North Dakota and then with a home-and-home with in-state rival Colorado College.

It certainly has.

They earned a split last weekend, good enough to cling to third place and wrap up home ice for the first round, and there was no better story out of any camp than Denver’s last Friday.

Senior J.D. Corbin returned after missing almost all of the season to score the game-winning goal in overtime against the Sioux.

Now Corbin and the Pioneers will be out for revenge this weekend, looking to hold that No. 3 spot while also avenging being swept in a home-and-home with the rival Tigers earlier this year.

In Other Words

• WCHA Players of the Week were Duluth’s Mason Raymond on offense, St. Cloud’s Bobby Goepfert and Michigan Tech’s Michael-Lee Teslak on defense and Minnesota State’s Zach Harrison and St. Cloud’s Ryan Lasch for the rookies.

• Denver’s Glenn Fisher and St. Cloud’s Nate Raduns are finalists for the Men’s Hockey Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.