I thought that I’d take a quick pass at what each team needs this weekend. Before I jump in, let me note who plays where this weekend along with the three most likely results.
- Bemidji at Ferris: Split 50%, Bemidji sweep 37%, Ferris sweep 8%
- Tech at Mankato: Split 39%, Mankato sweep 31%, Tech sweep 25%
- Lake at Northern: Northern sweep 48%, split 45%, Northern win+tie 7%
- BG at Anchorage: BG sweep 94%, BG win+tie 4%, split 2%
- Fairbanks at Huntsville: Alaska sweep 51%, split 42%, Alaska win+tie 7%. (UAH sweep .01%)
Now the obvious here is always this: win your games and don’t worry about tiebreakers. However, every team can’t sweep.
- Mankato needs to sweep Tech. This ensures them possession of the McNaughton Cup, and it means that they can take their foot off of the gas a little next weekend, get some guys some rest, etc. While it may seem a little silly to worry too much about positioning here — Mankato or Tech will get one of Huntsville, Lake, or Anchorage, none of which have taken a point off of the Mavericks or Huskies this season — the players and the fans surely care. Sweeping Tech finishes things, and the model says that happens 31% of the time.
- Tech simply needs to take points off of Mankato to push to another weekend. Simply put, the Mavs have a much easier slate next weekend in their home-and-home with the Wildcats than the Mavs do in going into the Sanford Center. Points this weekend pushes it to another round, and my model says that the Huskies win the McNaughton 61% of the time.
- Bowling Green simply needs two points in any of their final eight games to snag third regardless of what either Bemidji or Northern do the rest of the way. That seems like an easy task, even though they’re in the 49th right now to face the Seawolves, because they come home to face UAH, which has been a pretty easy win for a home squad. In fact, in 10,000 runs of my model, BG gets two points 10,000 times. They just want to remove all doubt. A terrible weekend against Northern cost them a shot at the McNaughton, but the gulf between them and the teams below them makes this a pretty easy task. Pick up a win tonight and you have three games to work on things.
- Bemidji State and Northern Michigan need wins, period. The three-way tiebreaker between Bemidji, Northern, and Ferris is a complicated one, but this result is pretty simple: Northern must win to keep pace with / get ahead of Bemidji, and Bemidji must simply keep pace. As I noted on Wednesday, Bemidji sweeping Ferris pretty much puts Ferris in sixth. Bemidji has to want that, because that takes one team out of the race for home ice and ensures that Northern can’t pull ahead. If the Beavers can’t go for the road sweep, they at least want the split and for the Lakers to hold up their end of the bargain. Bemidji gets as many or more points than Northern 98% of the time in my model, but they have to go and get them. Bemidji gets points 63% of the times in my model, so they’re doing okay.
- Northern needs help for home ice, but they’re in a crappy position. Sure, they have two points on Ferris, but they lose the A tiebreaker to Bemidji. They have to hope that they get more points than Bemidji does this weekend and hope that Ferris doesn’t draw even in the process. Sweeping the Lakers in Marquette really, really helps them here, because they come out of the weekend 12-10-4 (28) and no fewer than two points ahead of Ferris and no worse than even with Bemidji. Simply put, beating Lake is easier this weekend than beating Tech next weekend, the early-season results notwithstanding. A Wildcat sweep and a split in Big Rapids should leave everyone happy. My model says that happens about 24% of the time.
- Ferris State needs points. Sweeping Bemidji pushes them past the Beavers, and they have to hope that Lake takes points off of the Wildcats. A strong weekend in net by senior captain CJ Motte gives the Bulldogs hope that this won’t be the last time they see him at the Ewigleben Ice Arena. Obviously, their best hope is to sweep the Beavers and have the Lakers sweep the Wildcats (0 of 10000 runs in the model), but it’s more likely that they get the sweep and the Lakers the split (3.72%).
- Alaska needs a time machine.
- Huntsville needs three points to send it to tiebreakers — where they’ll win — and four points to win it outright. Their goal this weekend is to hearken back to earlier home weekends where they swept the other team from the 49th and then Northern Michigan. If that teams shows up this weekend, the Chargers — who are banged up over already thin depth — can relax a little next weekend and focus on the parts of their game that make them effective against much more skilled opponents. But since the numbers don’t favor the Chargers, they need a to just keep pace or pull ahead of Lake Superior. The model says that happens 70% of the time.
- Lake Superior needs to slow the momentum of a rolling Wildcat squad. Nothing less than a split will do. While it’s unlikely that Anchorage will pass them (like 0.00% unlikely) this weekend, the Seawolves do have their final four at home, where they’ve had a modicum of success in 2014-15. Given that the model says that the Seawolves pick up a win just 2% of the time, that aforementioned split should lock up the final playoff spot.
- Simply put, Anchorage has to win at least once and UAH and LSSU have to be swept. While the model says that Anchorage can pass both teams above them about 2.5% of the time, that only happens because they have the Governors Cup to play for next weekend, a series where they get a win (and the cup) pretty much every time out. (Note to self: make sure that’s right.) This happens 0.64% of the time. Believe, Seawolves fans.