Men’s Hockey Playoff Outlook

Max Sanders

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, it is time to start looking ahead to possible first round match-ups of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference tournament.

For those unfamiliar with the format, the top five teams will host the bottom five teams, with the No. 1 team hosting No. 10, No. 2 hosting No. 9, etc, in a best of three series. The five winners of these series will head to the Xcel Center for the WCHA Final Five.

For the following two weeks we will look at the current conference standings and predict which teams will face off three weeks from now. All playoff match-ups are how we see the conference shaking out, and might not necessarily reflect the actual match-ups if the playoffs started today:

No. 1-Denver: The Pioneers will win the MacNaugton Cup, no questions about it. Denver is already three points ahead of St. Cloud State, and the Huskies are off this weekend meaning the Pioneers with an extra two conference games will easily capture the No. 1 Spot.

Playoff Match-up: Host Michigan Tech

No. 2-St. Cloud State: While currently in second, the Huskies are not in a fortuitious spot. St. Cloud State has 33 points, but having played two more games than third-place Wisconsin is in danger of losing their season-long grip on the No. 2 spot.

Playoff Match-up: Host Alaska Anchorage

No. 3-Wisconsin: The Badgers should leapfrog the Huskies due to the extra two conference games, but face a Gophers squad that is starting to heat up in the last conference matchup of the regular season. The entire conference will likely be watching the Minnesota/Wisconsin showdown on the final Sunday, where both teams will likely be in position to move up or down based on that game.

Playoff Match-up: Host Minnesota State Mankato

No. 4-Minnesota-Duluth: This is where it gets tricky. The No. 4 through No. 7 spots are separated by just seven points, with the No. 5 and No. 6 teams playing each other in a key series this weekend. The Bulldogs host Minnesota this weekend and then will travel to Alaska-Anchorage. Minnesota played Minnesota-Duluth hard earlier at Mariucci, holding two-goal leads in both games before losing. Alaska-Anchorage has only been swept at home once this season by a WCHA team. For those reasons the Bulldogs are likely looking at a 2-2-0 regular season finish.

Playoff Match-up: Host Minnesota

No. 5-Colorado College, North Dakota (Tied at 25 points): This series will likely shift the playoff landscape for the four teams fighting for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots. Every year the Sioux begin the season treading water before, like clockwork, making their late season move. This season is no exception, as North Dakota is coming off an impressive sweep of Minnesota-Duluth in which they outscored the Bulldogs 10-3. If the Sioux can sweep a reeling Colorado College team in Colorado Springs, they will cruise in the final weekend as they host bottom feeder Michigan Tech. A 4-0-0 finish is not out of the question for Dave Hakstol’s team.

Colorado College Playoff Match-up: at North Dakota

North Dakota Playoff Match-up: Host Colorado College

No. 7 Minnesota: Like the Sioux, the Gophers have played strong lately, sweeping then-No. 7 Colorado College at Mariucci. The following two weekends will serve as a Litmus test to prove whether Minnesota is truly the team that swept the Tigers or the team that lost five of six previous to last weekend.

Playoff Match-up: at Minnesota Duluth

No. 8 Alaska Anchorage: Alaska has a non-conference series and then hosts Minnesota Duluth, likely setting up a first round matchup at St. Cloud.

Playoff Match-up: at St. Cloud

No. 9 Minnesota State Mankato: The Mavericks will likely be able to leapfrog the Seawolves based on the fact Mankato has two more conference games. Their reward for doing so? A trip to Madison to face the nation’s No. 3 ranked team.

Playoff Match-up: at Wisconsin

No. 10 Michigan Tech: The good news: Michigan Tech has won four conference games. The bad news: That total is what they have won all season, and it’s not going to change. Michigan Tech hosts Wisconsin and then travels to North Dakota. I don’t see any more wins…do you?

Playoff Match-up: at Denver

 

Check early next week to find adjusted playoff predictions based on the weekends results. The top three spots are likely locked, but anything can happen from spots No. 4 through No. 9.