The 2016-17 WCHA Tiebreakers

They took away the tie, but they can’t take away the tiebreakers!

The full text of the 2016-17 WCHA men’s tiebreakers is found at the bottom of the standings page, should you like to peruse it.  This post covers two things:

  1. Those seven tiebreakers.
  2. The various A tiebreaker possibilities for the 2016-17 season.

Here are the seven tiebreakers:

  1. If two or more teams are tied, and all teams tied have played four contests against each other, the team with the highest points percentage wins the comparison.  This is the only tiebreaker that can be quickly and easily be re-applied if there are multiple teams tied.
  2. Conference wins (regulation or first overtime) are the next tiebreaker: the team with more wins the comparison.
  3. Conference losses (regulation or first overtime) are the next tiebreaker: the team with fewer wins the comparison.
  4. Head-to-head percentage in all contests is the next tiebreaker: the team with the highest H2H points percentage wins the comparison.
  5. Each remaining tied team is compared against each team down the table.  The team with the best record against a higher team wins the comparison.
  6. Winning margin is the next tiebreaker: the team with the most positive (goals for – goals against) differential wins the comparison.
  7. A coin flip is the final tiebreaker: the team who is assigned the winning side wins the comparison.

This year’s tiebreakers differ from last year’s in only one way: with the elimination of the western tie, conference losses is now an appropriate comparator.  Let’s consider the possibility:

  • Team 0 is 11-1-1-15 / 36 points.
  • Team 1 is 10-3-0-15 / 36 points.

If the teams were tied in the A tiebreaker, we go to the B, which Team 1 wins, having won 11 games in the first 65 to Team 0’s 10 wins.

Teams could face a point where they’re tied A and B but not C:

  • Team 2 is 12-1-0-15 / 38 points.
  • Team 3 is 12-0-2-14 / 38 points.

Team 3 wins at C because they lost fewer games in regulation or the first overtime.

Possible A tiebreakers this year:

Two-way (25)

  • Alabama-Huntsville: Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior, Michigan Tech
  • Alaska: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Bowling Green, Lake Superior, Minnesota State
  • Alaska-Anchorage: Alaska, Bemidji State, Ferris State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan
  • Bemidji State: Alaska-Anchorage, Bowling Green, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan
  • Bowling Green: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Bemidji State, Ferris State, Northern Michigan
  • Ferris State: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Bowling Green, Lake Superior, Minnesota State
  • Lake Superior: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Ferris State, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan
  • Michigan Tech: Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan
  • Minnesota State: Alaska, Bemidji State, Ferris State, Lake Superior, Michigan Tech
  • Northern Michigan: Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Lake Superior, Michigan Tech

Three-way (11)

  • Alabama-Huntsville — Alaska — Bowling Green
  • Alabama-Huntsville — Bowling Green — Ferris State
  • Alaska — Lake Superior — Minnesota State
  • Alaska-Anchorage — Bemidji State — Michigan Tech
  • Alaska-Anchorage — Bemidji State — Northern Michigan
  • Bemidji State — Bowling Green — Northern Michigan
  • Bemidji State — Michigan Tech — Minnesota State
  • Bemidji State — Michigan Tech — Northern Michigan
  • Ferris State — Lake Superior — Minnesota State
  • Lake Superior — Minnesota State — Northern Michigan
  • Michigan Tech — Minnesota State — Northern Michigan

2016-17 WCHA Week 13, Series 38 Prediction: Bemidji State at Alaska-Anchorage

2016-17 Week 13, Series 38: Bemidji State (1719) at Alaska-Anchorage (1327)

BSU Sweeps51.81%
BSU 5 points (W, OTW)9.19%
BSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)8.84%
UAA 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)2.29%
UAA 5 points (W, OTW)2.00%
UAA sweeps1.91%

I’m not too sure what to say about this one.  The Beavers look like they’ll be the hot knife through the Seawolves’ proverbial butter.  While UAA has been. tough out this season despite losing a ton of games, the only games that BSU has lost this season are:

  • Three games to teams ranked #1 nationally at the time of the game (North Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth),
  • one game to Michigan Tech, the highest-BELOW-rated team at present and the only WCHA team to defeat them,
  • and two games to Princeton, who showed up to the Sanford Center winless but have been on an 8-2 tear since.

That gives me a pretty high confidence in this weekend’s pick.  By BELOW, BSU would be expected to win 91% of the time in a single game between the two.  ABOVE is a little more conservative, figuring that the average game goes to 65+ minutes about 13% of the time.  That inflates the Seawolves’ chances a bit.

2016-17 WCHA Week 12 BELOW Ratings

2016-17 BELOW, Week 12

TeamWk12 BELOW+/-Wk12 EWP
4-BGSU1561-32 (-29 v MTU, -3 v UAF)59%
2-UAF1447-4 (-7 v UAA, +3 v BGSU)42%
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 12 of WCHA conference play (74 of 140 games played).

Michigan Tech Leads the BELOW Pack

The Houghton Huskies mushed to the front of the WCHA pack with a strong showing against Bowling Green in Week 11, with 3-1, 2-1 wins over the Falcons.  They are expected to win 79% of the time against an average league opponent, and their 1730 BELOW rating is the highest of the 2016-17 season.

With that said, Bemidji State is still seven points ahead with two games against Alaska-Anchorage that ABOVE expects them to sweep around 52% of the time and widening their point lead 98% of the time.  It’s fairly likely that the Beavers will be +13 ahead in the standings.  I hope to revisit this by the end of the year.

Alabama-Huntsville Stampedes Through Marquette

With a pair of resounding wins, UAH improved to 6-0-1-1 on the road in WCHA play this season, keeping pace with the league leaders for holding down a shot at home ice in the first round of the playoffs, a big mark for a team widely held to be in the cellar this year.

That said, the Chargers’ road home is a tough one.  UAH is 1-0-1-6 at home this year, and they host Minnesota State, Tech, and Bemidji down the stretch while facing Lake Superior, Alaska, and Bowling Green on the road.  Huntsville needs to pick up some games at home if they have any hopes of March hockey in the Rocket City.

Northern Michigan has the biggest slide of the year: picked in the middle of the pack to begin the year, the Wildcats are dead last in the standings and are -163 on the year — that’s as bad as Bemidji has been good (+182).

Minnesota State Falters against Ferris State

It took the Mavericks two power-play goals in the third period on Saturday the 10th to forestall a sweep at the hands of Ferris State, who rocked them 3-0 the previous night.  The Mavs’ performance against Princeton in non-conference play this weekend does leave one wondering how good the Mavs really are at this point.

Bowling Green Sliding

The Falcons had a shot at putting breathing room between themselves and Mankato & Huntsville and just couldn’t execute, taking three losses in four games against Tech and Alaska.  BGSU was the coaches’ and media pick for league favorites this year, but everything that can go wrong seemingly has: players transferring, inconsistent goaltending, scoring going silent, and overall inconsistency.  One can feel the frustration emanating from Ohio — this is a better team than what they’ve showed so far, even though they’re a tenuous third place.

I’ll have BSU-UAA picks for you on Friday.

2016-17 WCHA Week 12 Series 37 Prediction: Bowling Green at Alaska

2016-17 Week 12, Series 37: Bowling Green (1564) at Alaska (1444)

BGSU Sweeps39.15%
UAF sweeps9.80%
BGSU 5 points (W, OTW)7.70%
BGSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)7.28%
UAF 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)3.69%
UAF 5 points (W, OTW)3.63%

Sorry to have gotten this out so late, especially given that it’s just the one series.

I don’t account for travel difficulties with BELOW, figuring that it just works its way into the system.  If Fairbanks is a hard place to play because it takes more than a day to travel there, well, UAF will be higher in BELOW because of it.  Modeling for traveling difficulties could be done, but you do have the problem of small sample sizes, weather, team growth/decline, etc.  For now, I feel pretty good about leaving it be.  It’s not like we’re Atlantic Hockey with one team as a huge outlier.

Despite the travel, BG is a clear-cut favorite here, although not an overwhelming one.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a split here, but ABOVE says that UAF comes out ahead just about 17% of the time, and that seems right to me.

Geof’s subjective prediction: Falcons sweep.

2016-17 WCHA Week 10 BELOW Ratings

2016-17 BELOW, Week 10

TeamWk10 BELOW+/-Wk10 EWP
Above are the 2016-17 BELOW rankings after Week 10 of WCHA conference play (62 of 140 games played).

In statistical terms, we call that clumping.

Bemidji-Tech a Draw

Short-handed goals, fourth line goals … Bemidji State at Michigan Tech had it all.  We also saw the first real blemish on the Beavers’ record this season with the Huskies’ 2-1 win.  Two close games — the third BSU goal was an ENG — mean that there wasn’t much movement in BELOW.  The teams moving a net eight points closer simply means that each will be expected to win ~76% of the time against average opponents should they maintain this level of play.

It’s important to note that Michigan Tech started with quite the head start in BELOW: 1643 to start 2016-17 vs. the Beavers’ 1537.  The Beavers’ meteoric rise is important, but just as important is that Michigan Tech recovered from the roundhouse kicks to the face that were their ugly, early-season losses to Minnesota State.  From that point, Tech is +115, which is a big jump (but not +172 like BSU).

The rematch in February should be a great one.  If Bemidji returns to form, that may be their knockout blow.

Mavericks and Falcons Chilling Together

The constancy of the modern WCHA has been three top teams, usually of some ordering of Ferris State, Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, Bowling Green, and (now this year) Bemidji State.  Ferris State hasn’t been quite the same since C.J. Motte matriculated, but Mankato and BG have had some staying power despite questions in goal.

Both teams still have questions in goal, although Chris Nell seems to have shaken off a bad spell to be firm as the #1; Jason Pawlowski doesn’t seem to have the confidence of his coach to play both games in a weekend.  The two are at the top of the heap in intra-WCHA scoring, with the Mavs tied at 14th nationally with conference mate Lake Superior while Bowling Green is at 21st.

Both programs are solid and looking to make the next step this season, although both teams have bad losses: MSU in Fairbanks and the Sault and BG mainly in non-conference play that had to have left their confidence slightly shaken.  The teams are close in points, and you can be sure that they want to finish 3rd rather than 4th.

Average Ferris

The EWP above is calculated for a team playing an average (BELOW 1500) team.  Somehow, Alabama-Huntsville (EWP 34%) won their season series 3-0-0-1 over Ferris State.  Weird things happen, I guess, but it is a head-scratcher.  The Bulldogs are in the middle of the BELOW world and tied in the WCHA standings with the Chargers.

Lakers and Nanooks Around the Watering Hole

Lake Superior and Alaska are tight in both the standings and BELOW, tucked in behind Ferris.  These two do have a strong case so far for making the playoffs but absolutely cannot slack off.  Neither team really impressed much this weekend, and their stay at the bottom looks increasingly long.

About Those Chargers

I don’t get my alma mater’s performance this season.  The boys are good on the road — 4-5-1 — and abysmal at home — 1-6-1.  Maybe it’s an “us against the world” mentality?  Maybe it’s not wanting to give up the body in front of your girlfriend.  Whatever it is, it needs to change for the Chargers if they want to keep a place within striking distance of home ice in the playoffs.

The home fans in Huntsville are restless for a winner.  In the Chargers’ first seven seasons in Division I, they averaged 10 home wins a season.  In the 10+ seasons since, they have 26 total against D-I opponents.  Home ice — especially with the promise of moving on to the second round — has to be appealing.  Make everyone else travel for a change.

Wildcats and Seawolves Split

What did we learn about Northern Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage this weekend?  Not much.  They’re both really bad this year, and for one of them to pull out of the nosedive, they needed to sweep this weekend.  It’s bound to be tough for a struggling team to sweep on the road in Alaska — I think the Wildcats had to bus for six hours before getting on a plane — but if you want to save your season, you have to do it.

Looking Forward

Week 11 is also a full slate of games.

  • Alaska-Anchorage travels to Alaska (68% EWP) for the first of four games that count this season.  When last these foes faced, their programs’ futures were uncertain.  What’s certain now is that they’re out for blood.
  • Lake Superior travels to Bemidji State (80% EWP) to see if they can exploit any chinks in the Beavers’ dam left by Michigan Tech.  The Lakers can score this year, and while Michael Bitzer is tough, being able to light the lamp is a good start.
  • Michigan Tech (65% EWP) travels down to Bowling Green fresh off of their defeat of the Beavers.  The Huskies have to keep winning to keep pace.
  • Minnesota State (62% EWP) visits Ferris State.  The Bulldogs will likely be licking their wounds from Huntsville, and the Mavericks may want to stampede right over them.  A strong weekend from Ferris can flip them into fourth in the league standings table.
  • Alabama-Huntsville visits Northern Michigan (51% EWP) for the mother of all coin flips.  They are tight in BELOW but well apart in the standings.

Lastly, here’s a game of Max BELOW, Min BELOW based on how the weekend goes.  To maximize your points, you have to win by 3+ goals each night.

  • Alabama-Huntsville: 1414, 1329
  • Alaska: 1486, 1376
  • Alaska-Anchorage: 1395, 1285
  • Bemidji State: 1732, 1619
  • Bowling Green: 1665, 1554
  • Ferris State: 1581, 1471
  • Lake Superior: 1556, 1443
  • Michigan Tech: 1740, 1629
  • Minnesota State: 1637, 1527
  • Northern Michigan: 1443, 1333

See you later this week with predictions and maybe some review of the Bemidji-Tech series.

2016-17 WCHA Series 31 Predictions

2016-17 Week 10, Series 31: Ferris State (1523) at Alabama-Huntsville (1373)

FSU Sweeps43.47%
FSU 5 points (W, OTW)8.12%
FSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)7.71%
UAH sweeps7.55%
UAH 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)3.25%
UAH 5 points (W, OTW)3.16%

These two teams met during the first week of the season, and two months later, each team’s prospects have changed radically.  Alabama-Huntsville’s 2016-17 season looks a lot like last season’s so far: a hot October followed by a long slide into the cellar.  Ferris State’s rebound comes with this year’s stellar freshman goalie knocking last year’s out of the crease.

ABOVE likes Ferris to do well in Huntsville this weekend, taking away four or more points 59% of the time and coming away with two or less just 14% of the time.  The Chargers will look to make the New York Times out as prophetic.

Geof’s subjective prediction: Ferris sweeps, denying UAH an A tiebreaker over the Bulldogs.

2016-17 WCHA Series 30 Prediction: Alaska at Minnesota State

2016-17 Week 10, Series 30: Alaska (1464) at Minnesota State (1582)

MSU Sweeps38.98%
UAF sweeps9.86%
MSU 5 points (W, OTW)7.61%
MSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)7.11%
UAF 5 points (W, OTW)3.71%
UAF 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)3.70%

This is a battle of teams that need to make a statement.  Are the Mavericks still in the top tier in the league?  Is Alaska on the way out of the basement?  BELOW and ABOVE say the former.

Mankato can rout the Nanooks (10.85% probability) to move to 1619 and drop UAF to 1427.  The reverse is a 1.25% probability but would have Alaska jump to 1536 and past the Mavs at 1510.

Geof’s subjective prediction: Mavericks win in regulation, win in overtime.

2016-17 WCHA Series 29 Prediction: Bemidji State at Michigan Tech

2016-17 Week 10, Series 29: Bemidji State (1713) and Michigan Tech (1697)

MTU sweeps36.21%
BSU Sweeps24.46%
MTU 5 points (W, OTW)8.14%
BSU 5 points (W, OTW)5.96%
MTU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)5.44%
BSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)2.81%

The above is not a typo.  These are late because I was checking this so much.

Why is Michigan Tech expected to win?  It’s an artifact of how BELOW works.

Two teams play: their matchup creates an interaction.  Win the interaction and you get some level of points.  If the lower-ranked team wins, they have the chance to flip the script and be the better team.  Because these two teams are so close in BELOW, even if not the standings, Tech can flip into the favored team very easily.  Currently, BSU is only picked for a favorable result at a 52% clip on Friday; if MTU can flip that, especially by a big value, there’s a lot of possibility for change.

Things to note:

  1. Bemidji’s embarrassing sweep by Princeton has nothing to do with BELOW.
  2. Michael Bitzer hasn’t been abducted by aliens (aliens don’t interact with Earth as of yet).

Geof’s subjective prediction: Beavers sweep.  (I hate everything.)

2016-17 WCHA Series 28 Prediction: Bowling Green at Lake Superior

ABOVE Prediction for Series 28: Bowling Green at Lake Superior

2016-17 Week 10, Series 28: Bowling Green (1602) at Lake Superior (1457)

BGSU Sweeps42.73%
BGSU 5 points (W, OTW)8.11%
LSSU sweeps8.11%
BGSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)7.61%
LSSU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)3.32%
LSSU 5 points (W, OTW)3.19%

As I consider this series, it’s about one thing to me: are these teams who we thought they might be earlier in the season — Lake Superior streaking, Bowling Green barely slipping the surly bonds of earth — or who they are now (BG 3rd in the standings, LSSU in 7th)?  BELOW is convinced that the Falcons have left the nest and thinks that the Lakers are staying close to harbor as the ice edges closer to land.

A great weekend helps the Falcons keep pace in the WCHA standings, probably wrapped up in the hopes that Michigan Tech can do what Minnesota State could not: defeat Bemidji State.  If the Huskies cannot level things at one end of the UP, Bowling Green could take a long stride toward taking the MTU’s place as the top challenger.

BELOW swings: if BG routs the home team in both games (12.30% probability), they jump to 1635 in BELOW as Lake Superior dips to 1424.  If the Lakers rout the Falcons both nights (0.75% probability), they jump to 1533 and pass the Falcons, who would fall to 1526.

Geof’s subjective prediction: Split.  I’m just not 100% sold on this Falcon team’s ability to play at a high level every night, and Gordon Defiel can steal a game.

2016-17 WCHA Series 27 Prediction (ABOVE 1.3)

ABOVE Prediction for Series 27: Northern Michigan at Alaska-Anchorage

2016-17 Week 10, Series 27: Northern Michigan (1397) at Alaska-Anchorage (1312)

NMU Sweeps34.22%
UAA sweeps12.77%
NMU 5 points (W, OTW)7.10%
NMU 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)6.64%
UAA 5 points (W, OTW)4.32%
UAA 4 points (W, OTL or OTW, OTW)4.26%

After weeks where picking up any points at all were unlikely occurrences (29% against Michigan Tech, 40% against Bowling Green), Alaska-Anchorage has a weekend hosting a struggling Northern Michigan team where a split or better is a 50-50 proposition.  Matt Thomas’s squad has truly struggled this year, but so has Walt Kyle’s.

These two teams are well at the bottom of the WCHA standings, and while it’s early days yet, neither team needs to dig this deep of a hole.  With 29 goals scored in just 18 combined games, this one could be a snooze-fest, especially to Wildcat fans propping their eyes open for the late games.

For BELOW swings: two NMU routs would raise their BELOW to 1438 and drop UAA’s to 1271 split(9.02% probability).  The reverse would bump UAA to 1379 and drop NMU to 1330 (2.04% probability).  As always, there’s a lot of room for movement in both directions when two teams are fairly close in BELOW.

Geof’s purely subjective prediction: UAA wins in regulation and loses in a shootout.