February 26, 2013
Nebraska Omaha hosts Wisconsin at CenturyLink Center this weekend
MADISON, Wis. – The final two weeks of the 2012-13 regular season in the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association will decide the league champion, the six host teams for the first round of the league playoffs and 11 of the 12 places in the final standings.
The intrigue continues this coming weekend of Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 when five two-game conference series headline the action. And all five of those series – Wisconsin at Nebraska Omaha, Denver at Minnesota, Bemidji State at North Dakota, Michigan Tech at St. Cloud State and Minnesota State at Colorado College – are the only two meetings of the regular season between the two respective clubs.
There are still too many scenarios possible to outline what can happen over the final two weeks, but what has been determined is that six of the current top eight teams will get home playoff berths and two will miss out. Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota Duluth will all be on the road for the opening round of the tournament, with the Seawolves being the No. 12 seed. Heading into the weekend, the number of points to guarantee a home-ice clinch is 36 but that can change if Denver and/or Wisconsin drop some points this weekend. The first clinches can come this weekend.
In Omaha, Nebraska Omaha (18-12-2, 14-8-2 WCHA, 30 points) will entertain Wisconsin (14-11-7, 10-7-7 WCHA, 27 points) at CenturyLink Center Omaha (15,959) on Friday evening at 6:37 pm CT and Saturday night at 7:07 pm CT.
In Minneapolis Friday and Saturday, host and defending MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota (21-6-5, 13-6-5 WCHA, 31 points) will go up against Denver (16-10-5, 11-8-5 WCHA, 27 points) at Mariucci Arena (10,000) in a pair of 7:07 pm CT encounters.
At Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634) in Grand Forks this weekend, North Dakota (17-9-6, 12-6-6 WCHA, 30 points) skates against Bemidji State (6-17-7, 5-13-6 WCHA, 16 points) at 7:37 pm CT on Friday night and 7:07 pm CT on Saturday evening.
Up at the National Hockey and Event Center (5,371), league-leading St. Cloud State (19-12-1, 16-7-1 WCHA, 33 points) plays host to Michigan Tech (10-16-4, 6-14-4 WCHA, 16 points) at 7:37 pm CT on Friday and 7:07 pm CT on Saturday.
And out west at Colorado Springs World Arena (7,380), Colorado College (12-15-5, 9-11-4 WCHA, 22 points) looks to stay in home-ice playoff contention when the Tigers face-off against Minnesota State (20-9-3, 14-9-1 WCHA, 29 points) at 7:37 pm MT on March 1 and 7:07 pm MT on March 2.
In conference play last weekend (Feb. 22-23), Minnesota gained three points in the race while the other two-game series ended in splits. The Golden Gophers skated to a 5-3 victory over Minnesota Duluth last Friday before the two clubs played to a 2-2 (ot) tie on Saturday. Host Denver won 5-4 over North Dakota last Friday before UND came back with a 6-1 victory on Saturday. And Colorado College earned a 4-3 triumph over visiting St. Cloud State last Friday before the Huskies rallied back for a 5-2 decision on Saturday.
In non-conference play on Sunday and Monday, Wisconsin split with visiting independent Penn State, winning 5-0 in the series opener before falling 3-2 (ot) in game two. And in exhibition action, Nebraska Omaha fell 3-2 to the USA Under-18 Team on Feb. 23.
With 10 of the 12 WCHA men's-member teams having four league games remaining (UAA and UMD have both played 26), St. Cloud State (33 points) has a two-point advantage in the race for the regular season crown and MacNaughton Cup, three points separate the current top four teams, four points lie between the top five and six points separate the top seven. Defending champion Minnesota (31 points) is two points back of SCSU, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota are tied for third with 30 points each, Minnesota State is fifth with 29, and Denver and Wisconsin share sixth with 27 points apiece. Colorado College stands eighth with 22, Minnesota Duluth is ninth with 21, Bemidji State and Michigan Tech are tied for 10th with 16 each and Alaska Anchorage is 12th with 10 points.
The regular season champion in the WCHA is awarded the MacNaughton Cup and earns the No. 1 seed for the league's post-season tournament while the top six finishers in the final standings earn the home-ice advantage for the first round of WCHA Playoffs, a best-of-three series format set for the weekend of Friday-Sunday, March 15-17.
After the first round of league playoffs, the six winning teams will be re-seeded No. 1 through No. 6 according to their regular season finish and advance to the 2013 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five, which will be contested Thursday, March 21 through Saturday, March 23 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. The winner of the Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five receives the Broadmoor Trophy and earns the WCHA's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Overall last weekend, home teams went 3-2-1 in their six WCHA games. And now, through 146 games of the 168-game conference schedule contested as of Feb. 26, home teams are 61-59-26 in league competition for just a .507 winning percentage.
Outside the WCHA this Friday and Saturday, Alaska Anchorage and Minnesota Duluth will engage in the final non-conference activity for league-member teams during the regular season. The Seawolves (4-19-7) take on CCHA-member Alaska (14-14-4) in a home-and-home set for the annual Governor's Cup. Friday's game will be played at Carlson Center (4,595) in Fairbanks while Saturday's 7:07 pm AT tilt will be at Sullivan Arena (6,251) in Anchorage. The Bulldogs (10-17-5), meanwhile, will host independent Alabama-Huntsville (3-19-1) at AMSOIL Arena (6,726) at 7:07 pm CT both Friday and Saturday.
To date, the WCHA stands 46-32-5 (.584) in non-conference play. WCHA-member clubs are 9-0-1 (.950) vs the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA), 13-15-1 (.466) against the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), 7-8-1 (.469) vs ECAC Hockey, 9-8-1 (.528) vs the Hockey East Association (HEA), and 8-1-1 (.850) vs independents. Minnesota owns the best non-conference record at 8-0-0, followed by Minnesota State at 6-0-2. Other non-conference records by team are: Alaska Anchorage (2-1-1), Bemidji State (1-4-1), Colorado College (3-4-1), Denver (5-2-0), Michigan Tech (4-2-0), Minnesota Duluth (2-4-0), Nebraska Omaha (4-4-0), North Dakota (5-3-0), St. Cloud State (3-5-0), and Wisconsin (4-4-0).
Looking forward to the final weekend of the regular season – coming Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10 – all 12 WCHA-member teams will be playing league games. Michigan Tech hosts Colorado College, Wisconsin entertains St. Cloud State (@ Veterans Memorial Coliseum), Nebraska Omaha travels to Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota heads to Bemidji State, Minnesota State hosts North Dakota and Denver welcomes Alaska Anchorage (Friday/Sunday).
In this week's USCHO.com Division 1 Men's College Hockey Poll issued February 25, seven WCHA-member teams continue to be ranked among the nation's top 20. Minnesota is at No. 2, North Dakota is No. 6, St. Cloud State is No. 7, Minnesota State is No. 9, Denver is No. 10, Nebraska Omaha is No. 13 and Wisconsin is No. 16.
And in this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Division 1 Men's College Hockey Poll issued February 25, Minnesota is No. 2, North Dakota is No. 6, Minnesota State is No. 7, St. Cloud State is No. 9, Denver is No. 11 and Nebraska Omaha is No. 15. Wisconsin also received votes.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, March 1: Wisconsin at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 6:37 pm CT; Alabama-Huntsville at Minnesota Duluth (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Denver at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Michigan Tech at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Minnesota State at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:37 pm MT; * Alaska Anchorage at Alaska (NC), 7:05 pm AT. *Governor's Cup
Games for Saturday, March 2: Alabama-Huntsville at Minnesota Duluth (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Denver at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Michigan Tech at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Wisconsin at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; * Alaska at Alaska Anchorage (NC), 7:07 pm AT. *Governor's Cup
Last Week in the WCHA
Results of Friday, February 22: Minnesota Duluth 3 at Minnesota 5 (WCHA); St. Cloud State 3 at Colorado College 4 (WCHA); North Dakota 4 at Denver 5 (WCHA).
Results of Saturday, February 23: Minnesota Duluth 2 at Minnesota 2 ot (WCHA); * USA Under-18 Team 3 at Nebraska Omaha 2 (EX); North Dakota 6 at Denver 1 (WCHA); St. Cloud State 5 at Colorado College 2 (WCHA). * Rescheduled from 2/21
Results of Sunday, February 24: Penn State 0 at Wisconsin 5 (NC).
Results of Monday, February 25: Penn State 3 at Wisconsin 2 ot (NC).