Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday night WCHA hockey recap: Oh crap

The final weekend of WCHA play is a bye week for the Badgers, which means their point total in the conference stays at 27. Tonight they were probably sitting at home, feverishly clicking refresh at or watching the GameTracker or trying to tune the AM radio to pick up the St. Cloud State game in order to figure out who they'll be playing in the conference playoffs and where. Or maybe that was just me, and the hockey team was out doing whatever it is that popular, well-conditioned athletes do on Friday nights. Like maybe hang out with girls or something.

Be that as it may, the Badgers had to have their eyes on three teams this weekend: Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota. All three were within striking distance of the Badgers going into Friday's games, and wins by Michigan Tech, North Dakota, and Minnesota-Duluth, respectively, would've gone a long way to soothing the Badgers' troubles (thus allowing them to enjoy Saturday night, which I also have to imagine would've been spent out and with girls.) You see, to get home ice for the WCHA playoffs, the Badgers need to stay in fifth place, with the fourth place standing that they held coming into the weekend being a bonus if it held up.

But tonight, if it could go wrong for the Badgers, it pretty much did. Michigan Tech is the ninth-place team in the league and apparently played like it tonight, as they lost 5-2 to Minnesota State. That game Minnesota State points 27 and 28 on the season; they'll finish the year in no worse than fifth place and they're currently fourth in the conference. The only team that can unseat them is St. Cloud State, which managed a tie with #1 (in the conference and the nation) North Dakota, picking up a huge point in the process. Their total on the year? 27. Now, if they lose tomorrow night, their total will remain at 27, and since the Badgers own a 3-1-0 head-to-head record with the Huskies, Wisconsin wins the tiebreaker. Anything other than a loss tomorrow for St. Cloud means the Badgers go on the road.

Of less concern is the fact that Minnesota won in their game against Duluth. According to their official site, the Gophers would've needed St. Cloud State to be swept by North Dakota in order to get home ice. Even though the Gophers could tie the Badgers in the point total with a win tomorrow, they'd lose the second tiebreaker -- the Badgers have 11 wins in the conference, while the Gophers would max out at 10. (Wisconsin and Minnesota went 1-1-2 head-to-head this season, making the first tiebreaker a tie.) If I'm not misunderstanding something, the Gophers are completely, utterly guaranteed to be a road team this postseason -- albeit a road team that's hitting its stride right now and as such is really dangerous. If Wisconsin, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State all wind up with 27 points, the Badgers win that three-way tiebreaker, too.

At this point, it only makes sense to hope for a North Dakota win tomorrow. Anything else and Kohl Center is done hosting men's hockey until the NCAA tournament rolls around in three weeks and Wisconsin will have to skate at St. Cloud or Minnesota State.

Of course, if you're a Michigan fan, this is the time where you start burning incense as an offering to whatever deity is in charge of fixing college hockey games in order to avoid being a #1 seed that has to play a #4 with home ice advantage:

I have a bad feeling that if Wisconsin is a four seed, we're going to play them in the first round no matter what ... Wisconsin is about one slot away from being out of the tourney altogether, which is the best option for Michigan.