Well, last week certainly was an interesting one in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, wasn’t it?
The biggest news came from Mankato, where Minnesota State knocked Ferris State off its perch twice in a series that had more than a little fire to it as well. But to my mind, the two league splits were just as interesting, as Anchorage stubbed its toe with a tie at Huntsville while Alaska pulled off a second-day win at Northern Michigan.
So where does that leave this week's WCHA Power Rankings? Not a whole lot different than last week, to be honest. I did some shuffling at the bottom that I'm not 100 percent comfortable with, and I didn't shuffle a couple of teams at the top -- and, frankly, I'm not 100 percent at ease with that, either. How's that for a vote of confidence?
But I will make a prediction that I have 100 percent confidence in: This weekend will provide some clarity at both ends of these rankings.
For those unfamiliar with these rankings, the premise is simple: When the regular-season ends, how do I think these teams will shake out? These rankings are based on on-ice performance, PairWise rankings … and gut feelings.
So here they are, my Power Rankings for WCHA hockey (The “LW” stands for a team’s ranking in this poll “last week”) …
1. FERRIS STATE (17-5-3, 12-2-2 WCHA, 26 points) (LW #1): The Bulldogs remain atop this poll, but suddenly it’s not quite as automatic as it was a week ago. FSU now faces an interesting series at Michigan Tech against a team that is fighting for its playoff life. We shall see how the Bulldogs respond. And we will shed a tear that there isn’t a Ferris State-Minnesota State rematch unless we get one in the WCHA Final Five. PairWise: T4.
2. MINNESOTA STATE (14-10-0, 12-6-0 WCHA, 24 points) (LW #2): Well, I certainly was tempted to move the Mavericks into the top spot, but I could not pull the trigger. One reason is the troubling pair of losses at Anchorage the week before, and another -- believe it or not -- is that I think this team may lose some momentum going outside the league to play in the North Star College Cup this weekend. Then again, facing off against three top schools in Minnesota’s version of the Beanpot may help this team crank it up another notch. And it's a HUGE weekend if the Mavericks want to claim an at-large NCAA Tournament spot. PairWise: 17.
3. BOWLING GREEN (12-9-5, 9-6-3 WCHA, 21 points) (LW #3): We shall see if a week off was a good thing for a team that has not lost in the WCHA in its last six games. It may be good news in that sense that the time away gave some injured Falcons such as Brent Tate and Ryan Carpenter a chance to get healthier and get into better game shape. Now they and the rest of BG’s squad will look to avenge a pair of early season losses when the Falcons host Lake Superior State this weekend. PairWise: T23.
4. BEMIDJI STATE (7-12-7, 7-7-4 WCHA, 18 points) (LW #4): Here’s a shaky nod to the Beavers for at least one more week. Why is it shaky? First, before the sweep at Lake Superior, Bemidji had lost three straight WCHA home games, and that’s not the way a team claims home ice in the playoffs. And second, after a series at Alaska this weekend the road gets really tough, with games at Minnesota State and then home against Ferris State. If this team remains in this spot three weeks hence, it will have earned it. PairWise: 38.
5. NORTHERN MICHIGAN (9-11-2, 7-6-1 WCHA, 15 points) (LW #5): Among the teams fighting for the fourth home-ice berth in the playoffs, I still like NMU’s position the best. But that’s because the Wildcats have more games in hand, not because of how they are playing. NMU managed only a split at home against Alaska, which underlines the big “if” in having games at hand: They only help you if you get points from them. And getting points this weekend at Anchorage is a must, because series against Minnesota State and Ferris State loom in the next two weeks. PairWise: T33.
6. ALASKA-ANCHORAGE (12-9-3, 8-7-3 WCHA, 19 points) (LW #6): Well, the good news was the Seawolves claimed their first road win in WCHA play last weekend. The bad news was that it came after a tie at Alabama Huntsville, just the third point the Chargers have claimed all season. More good news: Anchorage is at home this weekend against Northern Michigan, and home is a place where the Seawolves have sparkled. But more bad news: Anchorage needs to gain as many points as possible to keep NMU below them in the standings. Must win? You could say that. PairWise: 27.
7. ALASKA (9-11-4, 6-10-2 WCHA, 14 points) (LW #9): I am about to break one of my cardinal rules of forecasting: Make a team earn it BEFORE you reward them. Instead, this is a prediction that Alaska begins a move up the standings starting this weekend at home against Bemidji State. The defense has shown it can be stout (it was very strong in the BG series), and this team has proven it can score goals (the Nanooks netted eight at Northern Michigan). That all needs to come together, starting in this stretch of four straight at home. PairWise: T35.
8. LAKE SUPERIOR STATE (11-12-1, 7-9-0 WCHA, 14 points) (LW #7): Losing twice at Notre Dame certainly is not a crime, although getting outscored by five goals in those two contests isn’t the desired outcome. No, the bigger problem is a five-game losing streak and just two points earned in LSSU’s last five WCHA games. The Lakers need to get the ship righted quickly, and a perfect time to do that would be this weekend at Bowling Green, a team the Lakers beat twice by 4-3 scores at home earlier in the season. PairWise: 32.
9. MICHIGAN TECH (7-13-6, 5-7-4 WCHA, 14 points) (LW #8): We shall see if a week off helps MTU reverse a troubling trend of just one win in its last eight WCHA games. The Huskies will host easily the most interesting league series this weekend as Ferris State invades MacInnes. This series comes just two weeks after Michigan Tech gave the Bulldogs all they could handle before FSU claimed a pair of one-goal wins. With the week off, playing on home ice, and Ferris State coming off the emotional Minnesota State series … can the Huskies do better this weekend? PairWise: 41.
10. ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE (1-24-1, 1-14-1 WCHA, 3 points) (LW #10): Kudos to the Chargers for collecting another point last weekend with the first-day tie against Anchorage. Again, the style to watch is to keep the game close, then take advantage if the other team panics when confronted with a potential non-win. It may seem like a slam to say that about Huntsville, but considering the recent history of the program, I feel it’s a compliment to say teams cannot expect to just throw their sticks on the ice and expect a win against the Chargers. UAH takes this week off before traveling to Alaska next weekend. PairWise: 58.
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