Five of six first-round series go chalk

Three of the WCHA’s six opening-round, best-of-three playoff series required third games. In the end, only one of the pairings’ favored squads didn’t move on to this week’s Final Five showcase in St. Paul, Minn..

The only team that hosted a first-round series last weekend but didn’t advance was WCHA No. 5 seed Denver. The Pioneers, ranked 13th in the latest PairWise Rankings, split with intrastate rival Colorado College on Friday and Saturday before the Tigers upended DU in Sunday’s series-decider by a 4-3 count.

DU won Friday’s game 5-3, jumping out to a 3-1 lead before weathering a comeback attempt from the Tigers. CC then won Game 2 on Saturday, 2-1, before besting the Pioneers again on DU’s home ice Sunday night.

Elsewhere, as expected, the WCHA’s regular season co-champions sailed through to spots in Friday’s WCHA semifinal games. St. Cloud State swept Alaska-Anchorage at home last weekend (6-1 Fri., 5-1 Sat.), while Minnesota faced a sterner test against Bemidji State in Minneapolis but also won the series in two games (2-1 (OT) Fri., 4-3 Sat.).

The WCHA’s third and fourth seeds also won their first-round series on home ice. No. 3 seed North Dakota was in the driver’s seat following a 5-3 win over visiting Michigan Tech on Friday, but when the Huskies pulled out a shock 2-1 upset in Grand Forks the following night, UND was fazed but came back Sunday and downed Tech convincingly in a 6-0 rout.

There was one other sweep in the first round, as Wisconsin took care of Minnesota-Duluth in two games at the Badgers’ Kohl Center home. UW gave up the first goal on Friday, but the hosts ran out 3-1 winners in Game 1 before also coming out on top in the rematch, 4-1.

In Mankato, Minn., Minnesota State outlasted Nebraska-Omaha in three games in the WCHA’s final battles between its two sets of Mavericks before UNO leaves for the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. MSU won Friday’s opening game in overtime by a 4-3 count before overcoming a 2-1 loss to UNO Saturday by winning Sunday’s deciding game by a 3-1 margin.

Final Five week pairings decided Sunday

Once the Magness Arena’s clock hit all zeroes at the end of Sunday’s series-deciding game between DU and CC, the WCHA’s teams that survived the first round and advanced to the Final Five learned their fates as to who they will be playing when this week.

As the two highest seeds, St. Cloud State and Minnesota earned quarterfinal round byes, which means the Huskies and Gophers earned an extra day off to watch the Final Five’s other four participants – yes, it’s really called the Final Five, and, no, don’t ask – beat up on each other in Thursday’s two games.

Minnesota State will play Wisconsin in the day’s early quarterfinal game at Xcel Energy Center, starting at 2:07 p.m. CT, and Colorado College and North Dakota will square off that evening at 7:07.

The same start times apply for Friday’s semifinal games. St. Cloud State will play the winner of Thursday’s MSU-UW tilt in Friday’s afternoon game, while Minnesota will face either CC or UND that night.

At 7:07 local time Saturday, Friday’s semifinal winners will vie for the Broadmoor Trophy in the league’s playoff championship game. The winner will earn the WCHA’s automatic bid for a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament.

NCAA spots still up for grabs, but how many WCHA teams will get in?

In terms of how many of the league’s teams will get into the national tournament, last weekend’s first round of the WCHA playoffs didn’t leave us with a whole lot of solid conclusions.

Minnesota, listed second in the current PairWise Rankings, is a lock for the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in St. Paul this week. Also in  fairly solid positions right now are North Dakota (tied for sixth with Hockey East regular season champion Massachusetts-Lowell) and Minnesota State (tied for ninth with both Notre Dame and Niagara).

After that, things get a little cloudier. SCSU (12th) is still somehow on the bubble, and Denver (13th) didn’t help itself in crashing out of the WCHA playoffs in the first round to Colorado College, which is 25th in the PairWise.

Wisconsin is still in with a chance of getting into the national tournament, but, as the Badgers are currently locked in a five-way tie for 16th in the PairWise, UW could use one or two more wins in order to further strengthen its case.

42 COMMENTS

  1. The Gophs are a lock to be the #2 overall seed in almost all scenarios, Wisconsin better think about winning at least 2 games next week if they want in. A lot of possibilities for bubble bursting. If Niagara doesn’t win AHA 2 teams likely go to tourney from AHA knocking out 16 in PW. Michigan had a crappy year, but CCHA tourney is at the Joe. Upset by Mich or OSU could burst another bubble. BU and Providence have the same chance to end someones season by pulling upset in Hockey East. Plenty of motivation for UW and SCSU to bust theier Arse. UND and MSU look like good bets to make tourney as stated

    • AHA cannot have 2 entries. Niagara only has 7 TUC games (a minimum of 10 is required), so unless they win their Tourney, Niagara can’t go.

      • I know there’s a ‘ten game minimum’ for using TUC in a single two-team comparison, but there’s also a ‘ten game TUC minimum’ for getting an at-large NCAA bid?

        Is that true?

          • Wow.

            Thanks. As a Wisconsin fan, that’s one fewer way for me to be disappointed this coming weekend! :-)

          • Satriani, could you provide a source for where it says that a team playing less than 10 games against TUC’s cannot get an at-large bid? Everything I could find states that the TUC comparison is only made after a team has 10 games against TUC’s. I’ve seen nothing that says it disqualifies a team from receiving a bid. I could be wrong, but as I understand it, as long as a team is itself a TUC, they are eligible to receive an at-large bid.

          • Pairwise – Definitions

            Team Under Consideration: A team under consideration is one which has an RPI of .500 or higher. (Modification:
            TUC was modified in 2006 to be a team in the top 25 of RPI, but it was
            modified back in 2011 to an RPI of .500 or higher. Also, in order for
            this component to matter in the comparison of one team to another, each
            team must have played at least 10 games against other TUCs.) Further, if
            a team wins its conference tournament, and is thus an automatic
            qualifier to the tournament, it is added to the list and automatically becomes a TUC for purposes of this criterion. (Modification, 2006: A team is no longer automatically a TUC by virtue of winning its conference tournament.)

          • That’s the definition I found too, but to me that doesn’t say a team with less than 10 games can’t get a bid, it only says that the TUC comparison won’t be used for that team when comparing them to the other TUC’s.
            For example, in Niagara’s case, they would be compared to every other TUC in three of the four categories: RPI, head-to-head, and common opponents, but NOT TUC record. They can still get an at-large bid, but will not gain or lose a PWR point with anyone based on TUC record.

          • I understand what you are saying. It is not real clear. It doesn’t expressly say that they are not qualified. I know that in the March 16th Bracketology blog Jayson Moy said that they would not get a bid since they have not played 10 TUC’s. Its the NCAA, maybe it is an unwritten rule?

    • When Air Force was knocked out as a TUC that really hurt Niagara, they will not meet the minimum of 10 games against TUC’s. They need to win it all to get in.

    • I would worry about BU and Michigan. BU has a new lease on life and they’re playing w/fire for one last shot for retiring coach Parker. And I fully expect Michigan to win out and make the NCAAs. they have been playing out their minds lately.

      • Yes, the NCHC will be a very good league. I’d rather see WI and MN stay in the WCHA myself but the MN Admin types like the money.

        • Nice try. The moment Penn State went D1 in men’s hockey, it provided the Big Ten with 5 teams,and Big Ten policy requires all sports with 5 or more participants must participate as a Big Ten sanctioned league. No amount of whining or presumed ignorance is going to change the facts.

          • Also it is required by the NCAA that a league must have a minimum of 6 teams to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

          • Additionally if school does not participate in a Big Ten league when the Big Ten sanctions the sport, then the school must drop *all* participation in *all* Big Ten league sports. That just wasn’t going to happen for any of the schools that are going to be in the new Big Ten league next year.

          • thank you all for the intelligent comments. Minnesota, had nothing to do with the WCHA disbanding (as we know it at least) at least we will still play round robins with the other MN schools, but the greatest rivalry in all of college hockey is gone…UM vs UND

          • Yo might be ignoring why Penn State went D1 in Hockey… they didn’t appear out of thin air. Your fooling yourself if you don’t think the rest of the Big Ten, including MN didn’t have a part in that. The Big Ten together decided they wanted a hockey conference for whatever benifits they preceived they would get from it. Its not MN’s fault they are leaving the WCHA but you seem to be suggesting that they had nothing to do with it… and that is just plain ignorance.

          • Penn State ice hockey competed at this level all the way back to 1939. More recently they have been competing at the club level and ACHA. Your comment doesn’t take into consideration that they have been playing hockey all along, just not at the D1 level. None of the other teams in the Big 10 had anything to do with Penn States decision to make back to this level.

        • Did anyone but me notice all the media hype about the last traditional Big East basketball tourney, but no notice of the last traditional WCHA tourney? Obviously an east coast bias.

          • Or a complete ignorance of college hockey. More people pay attention to the ice in their drink glass than the ice you skate on.

  2. Too bad it’s the final Final Five. It’s sad to see the best conference in the NCAA disband, with all due respect to MTU, MSU, BSU and the rest of the “New” WCHA.

    • it is sad indeed, the NCAA is losing the best rivalry in college hockey UM vs UND. No other rivalry can boast as storied programs 12 combined titles, so many wins, appearances, frozen fours, hobeys, all americans.. you name it

      • And immaturity, trash talking, penalties, extra-curriculars, suspensions…, I won’t be sad to see those things go.
        At times, it was like watching gorillas play poker.

        • this rivalry definately had Venom, but it had more than its share of great teams and players, many of whom are in thr NHL

  3. For any non-WCHA fans trolling though,

    – yes, it’s really called the Final Five, and, no, don’t ask –

    The answer is pretty simple, it’s the final five games of the WCHA. It used to be the final five teams of the WCHA but changed when the conference went from 10 teams to 12 teams.

    • Yes it’s a gimmick. They had to keep it the final five because they couldn’t come up with an alliterative title that matched six. Super six doesn’t make it.

  4. I’m a little surprised MN jumped to the top spot in the poll this week, esp. considering they beat BSU by only 1 goal each night.
    Yes, they dominated the shot count and most of the neutral-ice play, but to be called number 1 this late in the season, I expect a team to be clicking like a turbo diesel.
    But MN still reminds of a set of wind chimes: sometimes stunningly beautiful, sometimes you can’t really figure out what’s going on, and sometimes completely dead.
    I know they can win it all, and I sure hope they do, but why do they always have to cast so much doubt their fans’ minds?

  5. The only thing that i think with Lowell is that 4 games in 6 days is tough, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a letdown in one of those road games. They may still win, but they might be ugly

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