2016-17 WCHA Week 9 Predictions (ABOVE 1.3)

Week 9 Predictions

Short week

Not only is it a short week for teams traveling — especially Alaska-Anchorage, it’s a short week for me after a long one last week.  I spent that week trying to make the code more generic, and so I didn’t get to chain Weeks 9 and 10 together.  Soon, perhaps.

Nothing has changed with the ABOVE model for predicting games.

2016-17 Week 9: Michigan Tech (1676) at Alaska (1485)

MTU Sweeps50.616%
MTU 5 points (W, OTW)6.983%
MTU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)6.713%
UAF sweeps5.729%
UAF 5 points (W, OTW)2.282%
UAF 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)2.265%

Michigan Tech had a tougher-than-expected time in Anchorage last weekend, with only the fourth-most-likely probability (4 points) coming into reality.  The Huskies mushed six hours up the road to Fairbanks to play Alaska, who is a stronger foe.  As such, a 71% of a Tech sweep drops to a 50% one.  That probably matches the expectations Mitch’s Misfits after that overtime loss.

2016-17 Week 9: Alaska-Anchorage (1326) at Bowling Green (1588)

BGSU Sweeps60.435%
BGSU 5 points (W, OTW)7.777%
BGSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)7.753%
UAA sweeps2.495%
UAA 5 points (W, OTW)1.462%
UAA 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)1.165%

Last week, the Seawolves had about a 2% chance of coming away from the weekend with more points than the visiting team.  This week, they travel to Ohio, where above gives their chances as a bit over 5%.

2016-17 Week 8: Has Bemidji Run Away With This? No, But It’s Close

I rankled some Michigan Tech fans a week or so back when I intimated that they would have a very hard time catching Bemidji State.  I still think that’s true.  Here is my case.

Basic Accounting

  1. Through 12 WCHA games, Bemidji State is 11-1-0-0 for 35 league points.
  2. Through 10 WCHA games, Michigan Tech is 6-1-1-2 for 21 league points.
  3. With 18 games remaining, Tech can finish with a maximum of 75 league points.
  4. Tech and Bemidji still play four times this season; in this scenario, Tech would win the A tiebreaker 4-0-0.
  5. With four losses, Bemidji cannot win enough league games to best Tech; the Beavers would max out at 12-0-0-4 for 73 league points.

Is Tech running the table a ridiculous enterprise?  No, but it is an unlikely one, starting with the fact that they have to beat an unbeaten team four times.

With that said, I want to point out something about point #5 above: Bemidji would be finishing with .750 hockey down the stretch; as of Week 8, BELOW expects BSU to beat any average WCHA team 77% of the time.  So even the elite scenario for the Huskies — winning out, sweeping the Beavers — only just barely gets them past the post.

But you deal in probabilities!

Yes, I do.  Let’s talk about one.

Does BELOW directly deal in things like injuries and suspensions?  No, it doesn’t, but let’s go with this ridiculous example:

  1. Michael Bitzer is abducted by aliens and the entire Bemidji goaltending cadre is left with noodly-armed Muppets.  They’re going to get blown out, right?
  2. Tech is blown out both games in Alaska and finishes with a 1593 BELOW, causing Mitch’s Misfits to show up at my house with flaming pitchforks.
  3. Tech levels the Hoover-goalies with two blowout wins.  Tech BELOW 1666, BSU BELOW 1640.
  4. Lake Superior, which still does have a solid scoring offense, polishes their peashooters and also destroys the Beavers, who are now 11-1-0-4, still with 35 points, and still in 1st place … with a BELOW of 1558.

At 1558, BSU would be behind Tech, Minnesota State, and Bowling Green in BELOW (in some order).  Instead of being expected to win 77% of the time, it would be expected to win just 58% of the time — and that’s after losing any chance at the A tiebreaker with Tech.

Is this scenario likely?  I don’t believe in aliens, but it’s entirely possible that Bitzer could be injured during practice and be out for the season.  It’s possible that his backups could all be terrible, although Reid Mimmack and Jesse Wilkins have a solid track record.  It’s also possible that all three Fitzgeralds could be injured along with any of the seniors leading the Beavers in scoring.

It’s going to take something like that for the Beavers to just fall off the table.  The above scenario requires Tech to get blown out by Fairbanks this weekend, thus lowering their BELOW and maximizing their gains with a sweep of Bemidji.  It’s … far-fetched.

But back to probabilities

ABOVE calculates the probabilities of these sorts of events happening — not abductions in specific, but changes in valuation of the team in general.  BELOW is an Elo-style rating, so all you know from the number is that the system thinks that a team is only so good relative to the average squad (1500).  The probability of a blowout in either direction, however small, is non-zero, and those blowouts do have a big impact.  When the needle moves, the probabilities later in the season can change significantly.

The crazy scenario above has Bemidji losing its next four league games.  BELOW says, on average, that the Beavers would lose four games in their final 16.  But losing the next four games, especially in spectacular fashion, changes BELOW’s opinion of the Beavers significantly.  Once that changes, ABOVE is going to assign different probabilities to the Beavers, and that will be reflected in the results.

Let’s look at the opposite scenario: Tech blows out Fairbanks (Tech BELOW 1704), Bemidji blows out Tech (BSU 1766, Tech 1651), Bemidji blows out Lake (BSU 1783). Instead of being -155 in BELOW, BSU would be +70.  That’s because BELOW already thinks that Bemidji is white hot.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

A Monte Carlo simulation is the way to figure these things out, and that’s what I use.  I estimate the chances something could happen, I roll a die, I re-calculate, and I roll again.  I’ve only use this technique within a series — simulation 1 says the home team routs on Friday, simulation 2 says the away team wins in a shootout — but it’s not difficult to extend the concept forward.

If we look at the next two weeks, all four teams that play in Week 9 also play in Week 10.  I could estimate the probabilities for the Week 10 games now, but I won’t know what we’ll know after Week 9.  But I can come up with a range of probabilities for the Week 9 games and input them into a simulation of Week 10 … and then forward through the rest of the season.

(If you’re curious, Bemidji would have to keep its undefeated run going through its trip to BG to go above 1800.  It’s harder to move farther from the mean the farther from it you start.)

Has Bemidji sewn this up?  From an account perspective, they haven’t, but it’s getting closer.  Forced to give a guess, I’d say that it’s about 80% likely that Bemidji State has already won the MacNaughton Cup.

I hate everything.

2016-17 Week 8 BELOW Rating

Week 8 BELOW for the 2016-17 WCHA Season

2016-17 BELOW, Week 8

TeamWk8 BELOW+/-Wk8 EWP
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 8 of WCHA conference play (48 of 140 games played).

Bemidji State Keeps Rolling

The Beavers continued their blitzkrieg through the WCHA, sweeping Northern Michigan despite Michael Bitzer giving up an astonishing three goals on the weekend.   While Michigan Tech has two games in hand on Bemidji, the Green have a 14-point dam built in the standings.

Northern has now tumbled into 8th in BELOW and below 1400, which is not a good place to be.  The Wildcats have just four league points and three wins overall, including two non-conference wins against Wisconsin.  I think that the fans in Marquette are getting restless.

Huskies’ Dynamite Blows Up in their Faces

Simply put, Tech needed to come away from the 49th with six league points to keep pace with the league leader.  Instead, Alaska-Anchorage kept the series close all weekend, including taking the Huskies to a shootout on Saturday, which the Seawolves won.  I try to drive home the concept of probabilities, and while it seemed unlikely, a 4-point weekend for Tech was an 8% probability.  Time and chance happen to them all.

UAA gets on the board with league points this year, although they are well behind their in-state rival with only two games in hand.  The Seawolves have to build on a two-point weekend and believe that holding a top WCHA team to just four goals is a positive sign.

Bowling Green takes care of business

The Falcons look to be back, although plenty of teams have run up the score against Alabama-Huntsville late in the game — although none quite like a six-goal burst in the final 16:15 of regulation.  If there’s a chink in the Falcon’s armor, it’s that UAH’s three goals on Saturday came on the power play.  BG’s PK is in the bottom five nationally through Saturday’s game.

UAH’s 2016-17 looks a lot like their 2015-16: hot start, then falling off the cliff.  UAH has held the lead in the last seven games and has only won twice (their road sweep in Anchorage).  The natives are getting restless.

Ferris State Makes a Statement

Two teams near each other in BELOW that play each other have a big chance for movement: the expected values of the matchups are nearly 50-50, so the bulk of the adjustment factor will be used.  I can explain that in another post, but note that BG got 1/3 less of a bump than Ferris did in their sweep of Lake Superior despite blowing UAH’s doors off.

The Bulldogs made a statement in two different ways: a strong effort in shutting down the Lakers 3-0 on Friday was followed by a wild 7-5 win where half of the goals were scored on special teams and each period had at least three goals scored.  LSSU started Nick Kossoff with Gordon Defiel struggling to date, but the latter picked up the loss despite giving up just one goal.

The standings are more important to the teams than BELOW is (although these posts should totally be on the locker room walls), and Ferris State is now in 5th in league points and just two points from 3rd.  Can the Bulldogs make a return to home ice territory after early-season struggles?

Looking ahead

This week has two league matchups, with Tech finishing the Alaska double with a trip to Fairbanks.  Anchorage comes to Ohio to face BG for a pair for the  weekend’s other slate.  The Huskies (75%) and Falcons (82%) are strongly favored.  Bemidji, Northern, and Lake State all play in non-conference matchups for glory and the hope of raising the WCHA’s woeful PWR hopes.

As far as ABOVE, this time of year is busy for everyone, and I’m no different.  That said, I hope to have a little bit of a surprise for you by Wednesday.

2016-17 WCHA Week 8 Predictions (ABOVE 1.3)

Oh hey, I predict games here.  Doing two jobs in one work week is hard, and this has suffered as a result.  Sorry!  You get what you pay for.

The big change in the model this week is that I’m no longer calculating a center point between each team’s expected winning percentage.  This pushed predictions to the center, which made sense in a tie-happy WCHA.  With just four games going past 65:00 this year, I’m comfortable with not squashing things to the middle.  This will make results a bit more … one-sided.  We’ll see if that was the right call or not soon enough.

The small change in the model this week is that the code’s a little more generalized.  I figure that I can beat on it a little bit more in the next week and have something worth publishing soon.

2016-17 Week 8: Bowling Green (1559) at Alabama-Huntsville (1402)

BGSU sweeps46.088%
UAH Sweeps7.866%
BGSU 5 points (W, OTW)6.768%
BGSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)6.245%
UAH 5 points (W, OTW)2.647%
UAH 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)2.624%

Yes, even with the Chargers’ strong start and the Falcons’ slow one, BELOW thinks that the visitors are far stronger.  I want the data either way, but the degree that hangs on my wall is not a fan of orange and brown.

2016-17 Week 8: Michigan Tech (1680) at Alaska-Anchorage (1322)

MTU sweeps70.752%
MTU 5 points (W, OTW)8.461%
MTU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)8.021%
UAA 5 points (W, OTW)0.771%
UAA 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)0.759%
UAA Sweeps0.697%

After a week when I really, really rankled Michigan Tech fans by continuing to argue that Bemidji State is making it very, very hard to catch them, I don’t know what to think that they’ll say about ABOVE’s predictions here.  Will it be, “Thank you!  We’re better than you say that we are!” or “You’re jinxing us!”  Either way, ABOVE says that Anchorage will have several trails of paws on it.  Sorry to the Bronies.

2016-17 Week 8: Northern Michigan (1419) at Bemidji State (1697)

BSU Sweeps63.072%
BSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)8.004%
BSU 5 points (W, OTW)7.875%
NMU sweeps1.972%
NMU 5 points (W, OTW)1.275%
NMU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)0.898%

I don’t know if the Puckheads with pitchforks are coming for me or Walt Kyle.

2016-17 Week 8: Lake Superior (1502) at Ferris State (1478)

LSSU Sweeps26.782%
LSSU 5 points (W, OTW)4.914%
LSSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)4.607%
FSU sweeps16.592%
FSU 5 points (W, OTW)4.298%
FSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)4.335%

I’m not ready to be regularly publishing this information just yet, but let’s look at something that ABOVE can tell us:

LSSU: Max: 1552 (6.413%) | Min: 1444 (2.947%) | Mean: 1503 | Median: 1501


Max: 1536 (2.947%) | Min: 1428 (6.413%) | Mean: 1476 | Median: 1478

What does that tell you?  Add that to the above table, and you’ll see that it’s a little bit more than twice as likely that the Lakers will blow the Bulldogs out twice than the reverse.  That said, on average, the teams pretty much leave the weekend with the same BELOW that they came in.

As always, these eight games were simulated 100,000 times, but each will only be played once in the next 48+ hours.  Drop the puck!

2016-17 Week 7 BELOW Rating

Week 7 BELOW for the 2016-17 WCHA Season

2016-17 BELOW, Week 7

TeamWk7 BELOW+/-Wk7 EWP
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 7 of WCHA conference play (40 of 140 games played).

Top Three?  Top Two

My two top teams in BELOW are well ahead of everyone else.  Bemidji State took narrow wins this weekend at Minnesota State, winning in 3-on-3 overtime and standard overtime to stay undefeated in league play.  This pushes their BELOW up to 1697 and their expected winning percentage against an average WCHA team to 76% of the time.

Michigan Tech throttled Lake Superior on the weekend, notching two big wins while keeping pace with the Beavers.  The Lakers are now league average in BELOW, validating my skepticism from last week a bit.

Even though Tech is close to Bemidji in BELOW, that’s an artifact of the Huskies being a top-level team last year while the Beavers were simply pretty good: Tech is up +37 on the year while Bemidji is up +160.  That explains the Beavers’ decided advantage in the actual league standings.

BELOW argues that the Beavers will win something like 76% of their games from here on out, which would be 13-14 more wins.  14 more wins, presuming they’re regulation ones, gives the Beavs 71 league points.  Tech would have to make up 54 league points — that’s 18 wins in 20 remaining games.  The Beavers haven’t won the league title just yet, but they’re making it hard for the competition to catch up as long as the eye test and BELOW are right.

Top Three?  Next Two

Mankato slipped this weekend in terms of BELOW while Bowling Green’s solid weekend against Northern Michigan brings them into fourth.  Then standings are a bit different: 5-4-1 for the Mavericks, 3-3-0 for the Falcons.  Both teams’ rating, in part, rests on coming in with a good rating from 2015-16, but they also reflect the fact that no one outside of the top two teams is really impressive.

Muddled in the Middle

Lake Superior’s poor performance with Tech brought them back to the pack.  Alaska’s solid performance on the road pushes them just above Ferris State, who played Michigan.  The three schools are banded 1502/50%, 1485/48%, 1478/47%.

You can throw a blanket over these teams and it may not matter.  It’s probably going to be a matter of strength of schedule down the stretch as to who gets what seeding in the playoff

Bottom Two?  Bottom Three

Wow, Near the Middle University has dropped off precipitously this year down in the UA$ zone of which teams are bad this year.  The Wildcats have one more win than Alaska-Anchorage, which gives them a bit of an advantage.  The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers have an advantage, too, sitting at 4th in the league standings but with wins only against teams in the bottom half of the standings table.

Looking Ahead

  • BG travels to UAH (71% BG), which will be a test of the Chargers’ mettle.
  • Tech heads off to UAA (89% Tech) looking to keep pace with Bemidji.
  • NMU rolls into the Sanford Center seeking to be the first squad to knock off the Beavers (84% BSU).
  • LSSU heads downstate to FSU (53% LSSU) to see if these teams can differentiate themselves in the standings.

What if BELOW had no memory?

I played this little thought experiment last night when I couldn’t sleep: what if BELOW had no memory?  By “no memory”, I mean that every team is reset to a league-average BELOW ranking of 1500 — a clean slate for all 10 teams.  Now, I think that we all know that this isn’t a realistic state of affairs, but when you look at the struggles of Ferris State or Bowling Green and compare that against the resounding start of Bemidji State, I believe that it’s something worth doing.

I went to my trusty spreadsheet and ran the numbers.  Here’s what I came up with:

2016-17 BELOW, Week 6, What If?

TeamStandard BELOWBELOW1500
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 6 of WCHA conference play (32 of 140 games played) for the standard approach (partial regression to the mean) and starting out all teams at an average 1500 BELOW.

That’s quite the change.  The spread of the data in this new method is smaller: the interval from lowest to highest for what I’ll call BELOW1500 is 206 BELOW points, where the canonical BELOW is 352.  That’s to be expected, because the expected winning percentages of these games are pretty close to 50% even after a few weeks, and BELOW rewards upsets.  (Hello, Lake Superior.)

It’s an interesting quirk that Michigan Tech, 5th in the standings, is 2nd in BELOW1500.  Throttling Alabama-Huntsville (a team BELOW1500 likes) and Northern Michigan (a team that neither BELOW method likes) pushes them up the rankings.

Minnesota State is also worth mentioning.  They’re second in the standings but fourth in BELOW1500.  This is mainly because they’ve had two upsets (Alaska, Lake State) that chopped their point total down.  It’s strange that they’re behind Tech, whom they already swept twice, but that’s how these transitive rankings work.

I may simulate the weekends going forward with BELOW Standard and BELOW1500 just for giggles.  We’ll see — I didn’t even make predictions last week, so I won’t go making any promises.

2016-17 Week 6 BELOW Rating

Week 6 BELOW for the 2016-17 WCHA Season

2016-17 BELOW, Week 6

TeamWk6 BELOW+/-Wk6 EWP
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 6 of WCHA conference play (32 of 140 games played).

Beavers Remain Undefeated, Pull Further Ahead in BELOW

Bemidji State is now a sparking 8-0-0 in conference play for 24 league points, nine ahead of second-place Minnesota State.  Even if they slow down to the 73% pace of playing a league-average team the rest of the way, they’d finish something like 23-5-0, picking up 69 league points.  Minnesota State would have to finish 18-2-0 to catch up.

Minnesota State stumbles in the Soo

Lake Superior fans may quibble with that headline, because their squad’s run to-date says that they might be a real contender this season.  But Mankato is a favorite for a reason, despite allowing the fourth-most goals in league play through six weeks.  A split put some distance between the Mavericks and Michigan Tech.

Huskies run with a downstate pack; Wildcats sink claws into Badgers

Again, non-conference play means nothing in BELOW, so an abysmal 1-4-1 NC record for Tech might cast doubts on that second-place BELOW.  They face the Lakers this upcoming weekend in a matchup that was truly testy at last year’s Winter Carnival.  All four matchups this weekend are litmus tests for WCHA teams (and thus BELOW rankings), but the one in the UP interests me most.

Northern Michigan throttled Wisconsin on Friday but were shut out the next night.  I understand that the donor room drinkers at the Berry are happy that Dominik Shine is back in the lineup.  The Wildcats are slipping into the cellar in the WCHA standings and BELOW.

What about the Lakers, anyway?

Okay, Lakers, I hear you.  You’re up above average at 1538 and are up 63 points overall on the year.  Reference table at the bottom of the BELOW explainer page and see that you’ve gone from about 46% chances of winning to 55%.  The only jump that’s bigger is the one done by Bemidji State (137 points to date, going from 53% to 73%).

But I’m a little skeptical about LSSU (and my alma mater, which I’ll write about later).  The Lakers dropped anchor in Huntsville and Fairbanks, and therefore three of their four wins come against bottom-half teams.  The split with Mankato says that they’re for real, but that could have been just as easily a bad game for the Mavs (especially Cole Huggins).

Prove me wrong.

Bowling Green, Ferris State regress to mean

The Falcons got into the W column but ended up splitting with the Bulldogs.  Their weekend moved them ever closer to the center.  BELOW started off with high hopes for the Ohio crew, but the Madhouse on Mercer may find those hopes fleeting.  I’m frankly not sure what to think of either team — they made the Final 4ive last season are a combined 4-15-2 overall to start 2016-17, with two of their three combined league wins coming against each other.  Phew.

Whither the Herd

I went on a pretty epic rant before the Anchorage series, one that probably didn’t make the Alabama-Huntsville hockey office all that happy with me.  I know that I’m casting doubts on a team that’s currently third in the league standings, but as the author of BELOW, I am skeptical.

UAH had a puncher’s chance against LSSU and got KO’d.  UAH’s four league wins are against Ferris and Alaska-Anchorage; the former looked rusty to start the season, and the latter are dreadful so far.  It’s going to take a solid result at home against Alaska this weekend — a sweep or better — for me to believe in the Chargers.

Hey There, Hockey Bear

The Nanooks were the latest victims of the Beavers’ march to the sea.  Fairbanks has split with Lake (in the Soo) and Mankato (at home).  Now they face the longest road trip in college hockey against a UAH team that sits high in the standings.  They must avoid a trap series, as they host Tech and travel to Mankato the next two weekends and may think the Chargers an inferior foe.

Alas, Poor Anchorage

The Seawolves have been scored 14-5 in four WCHA games and 27-8 in eight games overall.  As I watched the Chargers largely have their way on Friday night, the home side reminded me of UAH two years ago — and BELOW agrees.  Hang in there, gang.

Looking Ahead

We don’t get a full 10-game weekend until December, but this is a solid 8-game set.

  • Alaska at Alabama-Huntsville (Fairbanks 54% favorite)
  • Lake Superior at Michigan Tech (Tech 65% favorite)
  • Bemidji State at Minnesota State (Bemidji 60% favorite)
  • Bowling Green at Northern Michigan (BG 60% favorite)

I hope to get ABOVE-based predictions made for Friday, but if you asked me my subjective ones: splits in Huntsville and Houghton; Wildcats sweep in Marquette; Beavers sweep in Mankato.