WCHA picks: March 6-7

Well, here we are. The final week of the regular season. And, like last year, there remains much to be decided, including the regular-season championship, the final home-ice spot for the league tournament as well as the final playoff spot. The theme of the weekend from the league coaches seems to be, “Everybody’s playing for something.” And, indeed, everybody is!

Alabama Huntsville at Bowling Green

Shane: The host Falcons are locked into third place, but these games may be more important for them than they are for the Chargers, who have not yet locked up a playoff spot. Huntsville will be eliminated from the tournament with two losses, one point or more from Lake Superior State and three points or less from Alaska Anchorage. Given the circumstances, I think the Chargers get in. Bowling Green, on the other hand, has dropped to No. 14 in the Pairwise Rankings and can’t afford to drop down any further. In fact, it needs to find a way to inch back up. Must wins for the Falcons. Falcons 3-1, 4-2

Jack: I guess as a Bemidji State writer I’m supposed to pretend to hate the Chargers but in all honestly I’d like to see the Chargers make the playoffs just to see what they can do. That said, they’re going to have a tough time against Bowling Green, who desperately wants to make the NCAA tournament after once being thought of as a virtual lock. I think the Falcons will sweep but I don’t think UAH will miss the playoffs. Falcons 3-2, 5-3

Northern Michigan at/vs. Michigan Tech

Shane: These U.P. rivals close out the season with what should be an intense home-and-home series. Tech coach hinted as much on his way out of Mankato last weekend. His fourth-ranked Huskies still have an outside shot at winning the MacNaughton Cup, while the Wildcats remain in the hunt for the final home-ice spot. A sweep by either team doesn’t guarantee it reaches its goal either. Northern Michigan took three of four points from Tech in a pair of overtime games in early January. I suspect these will be just as close with each team winning a one-goal game at home. Huskies 3-2, Wildcats 3-2

Jack: This is going to be an intense series — maybe even more than it normally is. The home-and-home element is throwing me for a loop, too. I think each team wins on the others’ home ice. The Wildcats are closer to their home-ice goal than the Huskies are to theirs of the MacNaughton Cup so I think they’ll be hungry to win Friday to keep their home-ice race with Bemidji interesting until the final day. Then the Huskies win the return trip. Wildcats 4-2, Huskies 4-2

Ferris State at Lake Superior State

Shane: The Bulldogs still have an outside shot at home ice and need to sweep and get some help in order to get there, while the Lakers can stave off elimination with a win (or one or no points along with some assistance). Lake Superior State, whose missing the playoffs a year ago led to an offseason coaching change, has half as many wins as it recorded a year ago, and there’s a lot of history between these two teams that says the defending MacNaughton Cup champs should sweep this series. But I simply don’t trust Ferris State to score enough goals to do that. Bulldogs 2-1, Lakers 1-0

Jack: The Lakers were in a similar position last year — clinging to the final playoff spot in the final weekend but losing both games in their final series against Ferris State. They lost both games, lost a tiebreaker to Bemidji, and Jim Roque lost his job. I don’t think that will happen this season. Lake State should make the playoffs — just barely. Bulldogs 3-1, Lakers 2-0

Minnesota State at Bemidji State            

Shane: These in-state rivals are seem to be in the best position to reach their goals — the first MacNaughton Cup championship for the No. 2-ranked Mavericks and a fourth-place/home-ice finish for the Beavers. One thing’s for certain: This ought to be a very competitive series considering how the two teams have played against each other this season and how they’re playing currently. The Mavericks swept 6-3 and 5-3 in Mankato in early November, and the Beavers won the North Star College Cup with a 3-1 win over MSU six weeks ago. I think each team gets what it want this weekend. Mavericks 4-2, Beavers 3-2

Jack: Bemidji State, as strange as it might seem, has never hosted a playoff series as a WCHA member (and never at their current Sanford Center home). The Mavs have never won the MacNaughton Cup title. So both teams have a significant milestone on the line. And as Shane said, they’ve played some very good games this season so I think they’ll split, but the question is which game which team wins. For the sake of my competition with Shane (which I’ve already lost) I’ll hedge my bets and pick the opposite games. Ultimately both teams should get what the want (if my other picks are correct) but of course, because this is the WCHA, it’s going to come down to the last game of the season. Beavers 4-2, Mavericks 4-3

Alaska at Alaska Anchorage

Shane: There’s a chance that this series will begin with the Seawolves already knowing they’ve been eliminated from the WCHA tournament. (That will be the case if Alabama Huntsville and Lake Superior State each nab a point four time zones away on Friday night). With the Nanooks already out of contention due to NCAA violations, that could make this Governor’s Cup rivalry an all-out war. Better get your popcorn and your WCHA.tv ready. Anchorage could sneak into the playoffs with two wins and a lot of help, but that won’t happen, even if we won’t figure that out until Saturday. Seawolves 5-4, Nanooks 4-3

Jack: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s goon it up in Alaska! Not that I would ever advocate such a thing, but if it’s going to happen it should be some brutal (and entertaining) old-time hockey in Anchorage. When you have two teams with nothing to play for in the last series of the season, this is what happens. I’ll predict two high-scoring slugfests to cap the WCHA regular season. Nanooks 5-3, Seawolves 6-5

Last week: Shane 5-3-2, Jack 6-2-2

Overall: Shane 110-70-18, Jack 96-84-18