This Week in the NCHA/MCHA

Only a week of conference action remains in both the MCHA and NCHA, and amazingly the playoff picture has shaped into one that is rather clear.

Before taking a quick look at that, however, it’s time to examine the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll for the final time this season.

St. Scholastica dropped down a spot to No. 3 following a win over University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a loss to UW-Stevens Point. Two wins over the same foes vaulted UW-Superior back up to No.2, though the Yellowjackets did not garner any first place votes.

Yet another four point weekend by UW-Stout moved the Blue Devils up to No. 4, while another split weekend dropped St. Norbert down two more spots to No. 10.

Stevens Point was the only other NCHA team to receive votes and once again found itself the first team out of the top 15.

Finally, Adrian checks in at, big surprise, No. 8–up from a one week sojourn in ninth–and remained the lone MCHA team to receive votes.

Now, why will this be the final week of looking at the USCHO poll? Well, of course it’s because the fun is nearly upon us. The initial NCAA Regional Rankings, the only ones that matter, were compiled on Tuesday. Though they are not public this week, they will be next week and as usual should provide plenty of fodder to discuss up until Selection Sunday.

As USCHO has released its D-III PairWise comparisons, so while we’ll never know the truth, why not speculate as to what the West Rankings might look like this week? My guess:

1. Superior
2. St. Scholastica
3. Stout
4. St. Norbert
5. Gustavus Adolphus
6. Stevens Point
7. St. Olaf

First through fourth is pretty easy to figure, but fifth through seventh is a bit of a quagmire. Though we’ll look at this much more in-depth next week, some may be wondering how I came to my conclusions, especially when it comes to the absence of Adrian.

Well, Tim Russert famously scribbled on a dry erase board “Florida, Florida, Florida!” For our purposes, the phrase should be: “Numbers, Numbers, Numbers!”

To be continued…

Another Year, Another Nominee

In each of the past two seasons, this column has been fortunate enough to feature a couple players who excelled at least as much off the ice as they did on it. Two years ago it was MSOE’s Brian Soik; last year, Stout’s Jeff DeFrancesca. Both were featured because they were nominees for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

This time around, it’s senior defenseman Gregory Copeland of Marian. Copeland, a Loydminster, Saskatoon native, is among 21 nominees for the award.

The nature of the award is described as follows by its presenters:

“The Hockey Humanitarian Award is awarded annually to college hockey’s finest citizen and seeks to recognize college hockey players, Division I or Division III, male or female, who give back to their community in the true humanitarian spirit. It has been said of [the award] that we seek not to celebrate Hall of Fame athletes, but rather Hall of Fame human beings.”

As far as the athlete in Copeland, the senior has been a mainstay on the Marian blue line for four seasons, posting seven goals and 31 assists in his career.

And according to his head coach Jasen Wise, his off the ice community efforts have proved just as important.

“He’s the first guy to volunteer for everything,” said Wise. “I don’t know if he can say the word ‘no’. If you ask him for help he’s right there.

“He’s been very involved on our campus since his freshman year. He does a ton of work on campus, off campus, you name it.”

Among some of the activities Copeland has undertook during his time at Marian include those of a residence hall advisor and president of the university’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

SAAC is a student-athlete organization that serves as a go-between between students and faculty, while also working to foster a healthy relationship between student-athletes and the general student population.

“They are a voice for the student-athletes,” explained Wise. “They promote athletics, they promote sportsmanship, and they promote student involvement.”

Copeland also holds down a job at a local bank it town. When paired with his other activities, it’s not a bad repertoire for a student who also has hockey practice daily and games on the weekends.

The award itself will be presented April 10 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Division I Frozen Four.

Whether Copeland wins or not is hardly relevant compared to the impression he has left on Wise, and no doubt the Marian community over the past four seasons.

“If you could have your son emulate someone, you would want it to be Greg Copeland. He’s just a great kid.”

Playoff Posturing

With one weekend remaining, four playoff spots are locked down in the NCHA and three in the MCHA. With nine more still up for grabs, it’s time for our annual rundown of the possibilities that may emerge from this final weekend.

NCHA

What we know:

Superior has won the NCHA regular season title. Though the Yellowjackets only hold a two point lead over Stout, they own the tiebreaker so the title is theirs regardless of what happens this weekend. It marks the first time Superior has won a NCHA regular season title since 2001. Congratulations to the Yellowjackets on a fantastic regular season.

With only one point in league play thus far, Lake Forest will finish in eighth, which means the Foresters will play at Superior in the quarterfinals.

One other quarterfinal series is all set as Stevens Point will be traveling to St. Norbert in the always highly competitive four-five match-up.

With seeds one, four, five, and eight all locked in, let’s take a look at the remaining four teams and where they may end up. Contrary to past years, it’s much simpler this time around.

Stout

Current place in league: Third
League record: 9-3-1, 19 points
This weekend: vs. River Falls
Possible finishes: Second or third
Finish second with: Win over River Falls; or a tie against River Falls and a St. Scholastica loss or tie; or a St. Scholastica loss to Superior
Finish third with: A loss or tie to River Falls and a St. Scholastica win at Superior.

St. Scholastica

Current place in league: Second
League record: 9-2-2, 20 points
This weekend: at Superior
Possible finishes: Second or third
Finish second with: Win over Superior and a Stout loss or tie against River Falls
Finish third with: All other results.

River Falls

Current place in league: Sixth
League record: 4-8-1, 9 points
This weekend: at Stout
Possible finishes: Sixth or seventh
Finish sixth with: Win or tie at Stout; or an Eau Claire loss or tie at Stevens Point
Finish seventh with: All other results.

Eau Claire

Current place in league: Seventh
League record: 3-9-1, 7 points
This weekend: at Stevens Point
Possible finishes: Sixth or seventh
Finish sixth with: Win at Stevens Point and a River Falls loss at Stout
Finish seventh with: All other results.

Now that doesn’t seem too complicated at all. What do I suspect will happen? I think Superior and Stout hold court at home and nothing changes, which would result in an intriguing opening round match-ups:

#8 Lake Forest @ #1 Superior
#7 Eau Claire @ #2 Stout
#6 River Falls @ #3 St. Scholastica
#5 Stevens Point @ #4 St. Norbert

MCHA

What we know:

Adrian is currently 18-0 in league play, has wrapped up its second consecutive regular season title, and will be top seed in the MCHA playoffs. Win, lose or draw in the quarterfinals, it should also be noted the Bulldogs will host the MCHA Frozen Four at Arrington Ice Arena. Congratulations to the Bulldogs for a perfect (thus far) regular season in the conference.

Lawrence stands at 13-4-1 in conference action and is seven points ahead of Finlandia in the MCHA North Division. As the North Division champion automatically gets the No. 2 playoff seed, it’s all Lawrence. A win or tie in either game against Finlandia this weekend and the Vikings will claim second place outright.

Some of the MCHA series are a bit more convoluted than those of its NCHA counterparts, but thankfully things aren’t too much of a mess. Note: for the sake of simplicity I’m considering Lawrence to have finished second, though Marian would officially be the second place team with two wins over MSOE and a Lawrence sweep at the hands of Finlandia.

Marian

Current place in league: Third
League record: 11-6-1, 23 points
This weekend: Home-and-home vs. MSOE
Possible finishes: Third, fourth or fifth
Finish third with: At least two points against MSOE
Finish fourth with: Two losses against MSOE and any Finlandia loss or tie at Lawrence; or one or fewer points against MSOE and any Finlandia loss or tie at Lawrence
Finish fifth with: Two losses to MSOE and two Finlandia wins at Lawrence.

MSOE

Current place in league: Fourth
League record: 10-7-1, 21 points
This weekend: Home-and-home vs. Marian
Possible finishes: Third, fourth or fifth
Finish third with: Three or more points against Marian
Finish fourth with: Two points against Marian and a Finlandia loss or tie; or one point against Marian and any Finlandia loss or two ties at Lawrence; or zero points at Marian and one or fewer points by Finlandia at Lawrence
Finish fifth with: Two points against Marian and a Finlandia sweep at Lawrence; or one point against Marian and Finlandia getting at least three points at Lawrence; or zero points against Marian and two or more points by Finlandia at Lawrence.

Finlandia

Current place in league: Fifth
League record: 9-7-2, 20 points
This weekend: at Lawrence, at Lawrence
Possible finishes: Fourth or fifth
Finish fourth with: Four points against Lawrence and any MSOE loss or two ties at Marian; or three points at Lawrence and one or fewer points by MSOE against Marian; or two points at Lawrence and two MSOE losses to Marian
Finish fifth with: All other results.

Concordia-WI

Current place in league: Sixth
League record: 4-14-0, 8 points
This weekend: vs. Adrian, vs. Adrian
Possible finishes: Sixth or seventh
Finish sixth with: Two or more points against Adrian; or one point against Adrian and three or fewer points by Crookston at Northland; or one or fewer points by Crookston at Northland
Finish seventh with: One point against Adrian and a Crookston sweep at Northland; or zero points against Adrian and three or more points by Crookston at Northland.

Crookston

Current place in league: Seventh
League record: 3-15-0, 6 points
This weekend: at Northland, at Northland
Possible finishes: Sixth, seventh or eighth
Finish sixth with: Four points at Northland and one or fewer points by Concordia against Adrian; or three points at Northland and zero points by Concordia against Adrian
Finish seventh with: Two or fewer points at Northland; or two or more points by Concordia against Adrian
Finish eighth with: Two losses to Northland.

Northland

Current place in league: Eighth
League record: 1-16-1, 3 points
This weekend: vs. Crookston, vs. Crookston
Possible finishes: Seventh or eighth
Finish seventh: A sweep against Crookston
Finish eighth: One point against Adrian and a Crookston sweep at Northland; or zero points against Adrian and three or points by Crookston at Northland.

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