Once again, the MacNaughton Cup won’t be decided until the final weekend of the regular season.
It’s becoming the norm in the new-look WCHA: In 2013-14, Ferris State claimed the league title by just one point — the Bulldogs swept Lake Superior State then got help from Michigan Tech, who tied second-place Minnesota State in the final game of the regular season.
Last season, Minnesota State needed a 3-0 win over Bemidji State on the regular season’s final day to claim its first-ever conference title.
It looks like there’s the potential for that to happen once again this season.
Because all three of the league’s leaders (Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech) swept away their opponents (Alaska Anchorage, Ferris State and Alaska, respectively) last weekend, their results Friday and Saturday will decide the league title.
-Minnes0ta State won a pair of surprisingly low-scoring games in Anchorage
-Bowling Green handed Ferris State their first sweep of the , scoring 10 goals in the process
-Michigan Tech survived two separate scares from Alaska, including an overtime winner on Saturday to earn the two points and stay two points back of Minnesota State.
MSU has the edge, two points ahead of BG and Tech with 37 points. They host Bemidji State. Bowling Green and Tech are tied, but BG takes on struggling Alabama Huntsville on the road. Tech, meanwhile, has a home-and-home with resurgent UP rival Northern Michigan.
Stuck in the middle
Meanwhile last weekend, NMU took just one point from Lake Superior State but still managed to leapfrog Ferris for fourth place (and the final home ice slot). The Wildcats haven’t hosted a home playoff series since they were in the CCHA (2011).
Two other league teams also punched their playoff tickets over the weekend: The Lakers did so with their win and tie against NMU, as did Bemidji State, who did the same against Alabama Huntsville. The Beavers aren’t quite mathematically eliminated for a home ice slot, but it’s the longest of shots.
First one out
After making their first WCHA playoff appearance last season, Huntsville will be sitting out this time around. Although their entertaining 1-1 tie in Bemidji on Friday night (coupled with both UAA and UAF’s losses) kept their playoff hopes alive for one night longer, they couldn’t keep it going after losing to the Beavers 6-2.
That means the final playoff spot will be won in Fairbanks this weekend. Anchorage is currently in the eighth-place slot with 18 points while Alaska is two points back.
The Seawolves need two points to clinch the slot, and could do so with a win of any kind, but the Nanooks hold the tiebreaker and could actually get the slot instead with a win and a tie.
Even though both teams have had somewhat disappointing seasons, this edition of the Governor’s Cup should be a super-fun way to close out the 2016 regular season, no?