No. 1 thrice
North Dakota, which before last weekend’s series against St. Cloud was ranked No. 1 in the USCHO Men’s D-I poll, is now the top dog in a couple of other places as well.
Thanks to UND’s sweep of St. Cloud and the tie between Minnesota State and Michigan Tech, North Dakota is now No. 1 in the PairWise rankings, barely ahead of Minnesota State, with whom UND is tied in the winning percentage rank.
More importantly, North Dakota’s sweep, combined with Miami’s split with Denver, ensures that North Dakota is at least a co-champion of the NCHC’s regular season, and co-holder of the Penrose Cup.
The only way for North Dakota not to become sole champion in the NCHC is for Miami to sweep the series between the two next weekend in Oxford, Ohio. Those wins would need to be in regulation; if North Dakota gets any points, it wins the NCHC regular season outright, as it currently has a six-point lead on the RedHawks.
Another place set
After this weekend, in which Western Michigan tied and lost to Colorado College, the Broncos are in seventh place, and can’t move any higher or lower, as they trail St. Cloud State by seven points and are ahead of Colorado College by 16 points.
St. Cloud State was swept by North Dakota, and while the sixth-place Huskies could conceivably finish fifth, they know they will be on the road regardless, as they trail fourth-place Denver by seven points.
Home ice shuffle
Four teams are battling for three home-ice spots. Miami is currently in second place with 41 points, Omaha in third with 39, Denver in fourth with 38, and Minnesota-Duluth in fifth with 36.
Entering last weekend’s games, Denver was in third place in the NCHC. After the weekend, the Pioneers are in fourth, despite splitting a series with Miami, because Omaha earned two ties/shootout wins over Minnesota-Duluth. Denver travels to St. Cloud this weekend; the Pioneers swept the Huskies in January.
In the final weekend of the year, Minnesota-Duluth travels to Western Michigan, Omaha hosts Colorado College, and Miami hosts North Dakota. Depending on how the weekend shakes out, it is still possible that second-place Miami could drop to fifth and Minnesota-Duluth could move up to second.
However, the series between Duluth and Western Michigan and Omaha and Colorado College are not pushes for the higher-ranked teams. Omaha and CC split back in January in Colorado Springs, and Western Michigan got a tie and a win against the Bulldogs the same weekend that CC beat Omaha. Miami and North Dakota split back in November.