Three things I noticed during this weekend’s slate of WCHA action:
1) Michigan Tech got all the Seawolves it could handle
Michigan Tech came into the weekend with a perfect opportunity to capitalize on those four games in hand it had on first-place (and idle) Bemidji State. The Huskies were 13 points behind the Beavers before Friday. A sweep of Alaska Anchorage would have cut that lead to seven, but the Seawolves didn’t give the Huskies much to work with. Instead, UAA took Tech the distance in two games. The Seawolves scored an extra-attacker goal Friday to tie it at 3-3. They then netted a 3-on-3 goal to earn two points. On Saturday, UAA goalie Rasmus Reijola turned aside 35 of 36 Tech shots to get a 1-1 tie. Although the Huskies won the shootout later, they came away from the weekend with the equivalent of a split — not terrible, but not the ideal amount of points they’d like to eat into Bemidji State’s lead. The Huskies are now 10 points back with two games in hand (and 10 left to play). That’s still a pretty good place for them to be — plus, they have a big head-to-head with the Beavers coming up Feb. 10-11 in Bemidji. As for the Seawolves — they have a point in six of their last eight games. They’re just three points out of a playoff spot.
2) Overtime galore!
Speaking of those OT games in Houghton: Eight WCHA games were played this weekend. Seven of those games went to overtime. Additionally: Five of THOSE games went to either 3-or-3 OT or a shootout. In all this season, 14 games have gone past the normal 5-on-5 overtime. That’s 14 games that, under the old system, would have been a tie with each team getting a point apiece in the standings. Say what you will about the merits of 3-on-3 and shootouts, but in this writers’ opinion, the extra OT periods add a just little more drama to these late-season games.
3) Mavs, Falcons still tied up
Both Minnesota State and Bowling Green were hoping for some separation this weekend — they’re tied for third place right now and both are 17 points back of Bemidji (which is a significant, but not insurmountable depending on how the Beavers do, lead). Instead, the teams split the weekend. BG won Friday’s game in (5-on-5) overtime, 3-2, while MSU took Saturday’s game 5-3. The Mavericks have a slight edge on the Falcons, with two games-in-hand (18 to BG’s 20), so they’ll be in the drivers’ seat to finish ahead in the standings. However, Bowling Green seems to have the scheduling advantage — MSU still has upcoming series with both Bemidji and Tech, both on the road, as well as a trip to Anchorage sandwiched in between. BG has eight league games left, with six at home.