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2015-16 Week 15 BELOW Rankings

2015-16 Week 15 BELOW Rankings

TeamWeek 15 BELOWWeek 15 RkWeek 14-15 DeltaWk 10 to Wk 15
BELOW is an Elo-inspired ranking for WCHA member teams. This is the ranking set after Week 15 (games ending 2016-01-09).

These are in error; see the revised numbers.

The big movers this week are Bemidji State (road sweep in Anchorage) and Northern Michigan (split in Mankato).  UAH also gained ground, but only negligibly so.

I think that last column is really interesting.  For example, Bemidji State has rocketed up the standings these last few weeks, but the BELOW rankings don’t reflect that so strongly, thinking little of the Beavers’ result in Fairbanks.

The big disagreement is in the middle of the table.  The standings 5-9 are Ferris-Northern-Lake-Anchorage-Fairbanks; BELOW is Northern-Fairbanks-Anchorage-Lake-Ferris, and the drop from Northern to Ferris is 80 full points, or Northern to beat Ferris 61%-39%.

So then, the value in BELOW is going to be this: with the relative ranks these teams have and the games that they have left, who can reasonably be expected to win?  I have a rundown of the games left in the Week 11 post, and it’s still pretty valid.

I’d love thoughts in the comments or on USCHO.

2015-16 BELOW: Week 15 Ratings and Predictions

Welcome to 2016!  The first two games of the second half made exactly no difference in BELOW, even as they provided Bemidji State three points.  As such, the rankings are as they were in mid-December.

2015-16 BELOW Rankings, Week 15

BELOW uses an Elo-style ranking system to iteratively rate WCHA teams in league play. It is both reflective and predictive.
TeamWeek 11Rank

I have, however, made strides in making predictions.  As discussed before, the results of a match of two Elo-ranked teams can be treated as a random variable, which is to say that some times a sucky team will be great, and some times, a great team will suck.  I decided to come up with a way to model this behavior that would be true to the data we have in the league.

What I came up with this:

  1. Use a random-number generator to give us a value between 0 and 1.
  2. Figure out the expected value (EV) of a matchup between the two given teams.  See my introduction to BELOW to see how this works.
  3. Figure out which team’s EV is lower.  (I mean, that’s easy — it’s the team with the lower BELOW.)
  4. Come up with a slotting-regime that takes the randomly-generated number and converts it to a result — Win, OverTime Win, Tie, OverTime Loss, or Loss.
  5. Take the result and do an iteration of the post-match BELOW calculation.
  6. Take those results and predict the next game in the series.
  7. Aggregate those results.

Now, I’ve been arguing that we should better consider a 3- or 4-point system for the league than a 2-point system.  As such, I’ve calculated those five possible outcomes for each game.

My slotting algorithm is this:

The lower EV is the center point for the tie.  I use 1/4 of the difference between the two EVs and use that as the margin for a tie; another 1/4 margin on either side gives you the win-loss line, with anything in between an OTW or OTL.

Then I run this whole thing 1000 times.

So let’s do a little BELOW math:

Bemidji State’s Week 11 BELOW 1502, EV .559

Alaska-Fairbanks’s Week 11 BELOW 1461, EV .441

Slotting (all results for BSU):

.500 and above: Win

.471 – .499: Overtime Win

.412 – .470: Tie

.382 – .411: Overtime Loss

.381 and below: Loss

So as you can see, Bemidji’s expected to win 50% of the time, while the other results take up the other half.  Is this the right model?  I’m still not sure, but the numbers I get in response feel “good”.  The broad range for a tie — .058 of the range — is probably too small for the current WCHA.  But we’ll see as the season progresses.

So the random number generator will give you a number in that range.  If I pick .406, the system calls an overtime win for the Nanooks.  Then the BELOW crank is turned, and the BELOW is 1499 for BSU and 1464 for UAF.

Here’s how BELOW would move for each of the five Game 71 results:

BSU Win.500 - 1.0001511 (+9)1452 (-9)
BSU OT Win.471 - .4991503 (+1)1460 (-1)
Tie.412 - .4701501 (-1)1463 (+1)
UAF OT Win.382 - .4111499 (-3)1465 (+3)
UAF Win0.000 - 0.3811491 (-11)1473 (+11)

Why didn’t the rankings move?  The results were a wild 6-5 Bemidji overtime win (+3) and a tie (wiped out that result).  A home sweep would’ve had BELOW as UAF 1482, BSU 1480.

Here’s a whole range of probabilities for that Bemidji-Anchorage series — it changes every time I save the sheet:

Average4.530 points
8pts (W+W)25.3%
7pts (W+OTW)3.5%
6pts (W+T or OTW+OTW)7.3%
5pts (W+OTL, OTW+T)4.6%
4pts (W+L, OTW+OTL, T+T)35.7%
3pts (OTW+L, T+OTL)2.0%
2pts (T+L, OTL+OTL)4.4%
1pts (OTL+L)1.7%
0pts (L+L)15.5%

So now I’ve run this entire week.  Here’s one whole crazy list of results.


I’m not sure that the MSU/NMU data is right.  I’ll figure that out by next week.

My push for next week is to simulate the entire rest of the season.  We’ll see!

2015-16 Week 11 BELOW Ratings

I introduced BELOW yesterday.  If you haven’t read that post, you’re gonna be confused.

We know that the WCHA is jam packed in the middle this year: in 70 games, there’ve been 14 ties (20%), seven of which were 1-1 results (10%) and one 0-0 result.  Furthermore, six wins have come in OT.

As a result of all of this, the BELOW ratings through the first half of the WCHA season — 70 games over nine weeks of play — are packed pretty tightly.

2015-16 BELOW Rankings, Week 11

BELOW uses an Elo-style ranking system to iteratively rate WCHA teams in league play. It is both reflective and predictive.
TeamStartWeek 11RankChange

That’s ugly: one great team in Minnesota State, two very good teams in Michigan Tech and Bowling Green, six stacked-together teams in Northern Michigan, Bemidji State, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska, Lake Superior, and Ferris State, and … the depressing season that is Alabama-Huntsville.

[We pause for weeping from Michael Napier and me.]

The biggest movers are Anchorage (+59, or 8.4% increase in winning percentage) and Lake State (+37, 5.3%), who are bounding out of the cellar and currently sitting tied for 6th in the WCHA men’s standings.  Also strongly improving their lot this year are BG (+34, 4.9%) and Mankato (+20, 2.9%), who are looking to push hard and fight for the Broadmoor and McNaughton trophies.

Regressing strongly are Fairbanks (-60, -8.5% — miss U Parayko), Huntsville (-43, -6.2% I have no idea what’s wrong, other than everything seems to be wrong), and Ferris (-42, -6.0%; miss U Motte).  Bemidji (-36, -5.2%) and Tech (-33, -4.7%) have fallen off as well, with the Beavers threatening to miss the playoffs and Tech looking to hold on to home ice in the MacInnes.

Northern hasn’t made any real change this season other than scaring Southern Baptist and Pentecostal preachers with their 6-6-6 mark.

I haven’t put together predictions just yet, but I think that it’s worth looking at the schedule that each of the team teams has left.  If a matchup is in bold, that team is the favorite.

UAH: v Fairbanks, @ Ferris, @  Anchorage, v Mankato, @ Northern, @ Bemidji, v BG.

UAA: v Bemidji, @ Lake, @ BG, v Huntsville, @ Northern, v Lake,  Mankato, @ Alaska.

UAF: v Bemidji, @ Huntsville, @ Northern, v Ferris, v BG, @ Tech, v Anchorage.

BSU: @ Fairbanks, @ Anchorage, v Ferris, @ Lake,  v Tech, v Huntsville, @ Mankato

BGSU: @ Lake, v Anchorage, v Tech, @ Fairbanks, @ Mankato, v Ferris, @ Huntsville

FSU: v Huntsville, @ Bemidji, @ Fairbanks, v Northern, @ BG, @ Lake (essentially a wash)

LSSU: v BG, v Anchorage, @ Mankato, @ Tech, v Bemidji, @ Anchorage, v Northern, @ Ferris (essentially a wash)

MSU: v Northern, @ Tech, v Lake, v BG, @ Huntsville, @ Anchorage, v Bemidji

MTU: v Mankato, @ BG, v Lake, @ Bemidji, v Fairbanks, H/H with Northern

NMU: @ Mankato, v Fairbanks, v Anchorage, @ Ferris, v Huntsville, @ Lake, H/H with Tech

I’ll have some thoughts on predictions as we round towards January.  Week 14 is light — just the first half of Bemidji’s trip to the 49th, starting with a trip to Fairbanks — but we’ll keep an eye on things going forward.

Introducing BELOW

It’s time to Bring Elo to the WCHA.

Arpad Elo’s rating system for chess was adopted in the early 1960s.  The principle is extremely simple:

Team A and Team B have certain known ratings from their past performance.  Knowing those ratings, we can infer that Team A is better than Team B (or vice versa).  We can use that information to create an expected value of the match.

Here’s an example.  Based on last year’s results, I had Michigan Tech’s starting 2015-16 BELOW as 1655, while Ferris State’s was 1481.  If you go from the tradition that Elo ratings are average at 1500, that makes sense: Tech was 21-5-2 in the league and 29-10-2 overall, while Ferris was 13-14-1 and 18-20-2, respectively.

So let’s keep those numbers in mind when we get to Week 3 of the 2015-16 season, when the Huskies went to Big Rapids to play the Bulldogs.  Tech housed Ferris the first night, 5-1, but lost the next night, 2-3.

For Friday night’s result, Tech’s rating got a little bit better — 16 points better, even with a resounding win — but fell 34 points with the one-goal loss on Saturday.  Why does that matter?  It’s all about expected value.

DifferenceWin Expectation of Weak TeamWin Expectation of Strong Team

Based on that, you can see that Tech, being 174 points better than Ferris in BELOW, would be expected to win between 70.3% and 76.0% of the time.  (It was 73.1%, to be exact.)  That the teams split was unexpected, and BELOW reacted to that.

Creating the Initial 2015-16 BELOW Ratings

I ginned up that table because I needed to see how to assign relative point values based on 2014-15 data (notably KRACH along with general winning-percentage).  It took me about an hour, but I got there.

Screenshot 2015-12-12 11.20.40

It’s what you’d expect: the great teams are really good, the average teams hover around 1500, and the bad teams are about as far away from the middle as the good teams are.

The Discount

Now, Elo ratings were designed around chess players, who presumably learn and grow or get older/less able/disinterested and get worse.  The math also works in terms of the player as a random variable: sometimes you’ll be great when you’re just not that good, and sometimes you’ll have a stinker when you’re a top player.  If you need an example of that: Tech 1, UAH 0 (3 OT).

But there’s a continuity to Elo as applied to an individual relative to how it applies to teams, whose complexions regularly change.  The fairest thing to do is to discount all teams over the change of a season.  If a team is truly good (or truly bad), they will exhibit that early on open that gulf again.

As such, I’ve created a discount for teams based on the 2014-15 end-of-season, KRACH-based ratings.  Without any historical data to base it on, I figured that it’s reasonable that teams would regress to the mean by 1/3: that is, they’d move closer to 1500, but not by all that much.  As an example, UAH’s 1350 rating for 2014-15 became a 1400 rating for 2015-16.

The other value of the discount is that an improving (or declining) team will progress/regress to the mean very quickly.  Why is this valuable?  Elo is going to be able to reward consistent success from past failures strongly — first as upsets and then simply as confirming and amplifying the signal.  If the 1/3 discount is unrealistic — a truly bad team is truly bad, or a great team retains its greatness — BELOW self-corrects over time.

Expected Value

Let’s consider Tech and Ferris again.  Going into that first game, Tech’s expected value to win was 73.1% — a very strong score from  team that had been at the top of Division I the previous season.  With Ferris being just under average at the league and national levels, you’d expect that a win for Tech and a loss for Ferris wouldn’t move the BELOW needle very much: all the game did was confirm the expected result.

Indeed, that’s what happened: Tech’s BELOW went from 1655 to 1671, while Ferris dropped from 1481 to 1465.  Note that the point change is of equal magnitude and opposite distance.

But the next night, Ferris wins against an expected winning percentage of 23.4%, with its BELOW jumping to 1504, or slightly above average.  Why the difference?  It’s the variance in the expected value.

In the Friday game, Tech’s EW% was .725; after the game, it was 1.00.  The difference, .275, is credited to the Huskies and run through the Elo algorithm, which makes it harder and harder to move away from 1500 and easier to move back when the unexpected happens.  That’s how you get the Saturday result of more than twice the change in the rating.

Again, we need to step back and think about this.  The scores were 5-1 Tech, 3-2 Ferris.  Tech was top flight; Ferris was below average.  An Elo algorithm like BELOW says, “Well, we still think that Tech is very good, but it’s possible that Ferris is a little bit better this year than last year.”  An 18 point increase argues that Ferris is 2.6% better than last year.

But that’s just one game, and now WCHA teams have played 70, one-half of the league’s matches.  We’ve moved from having two truly great teams and three truly awful teams to just one great one (Minnesota State) and one awful one (Alabama-Huntsville).  The league has regressed, and BELOW confirms that.  (More on the Week 11 ratings in my next post.)


The real value of something like Elo is that it is inherently predictive. Since it also treats the play of individual parties as a random variable, you can apply statistical methods and Monte Carlo simulations (i.e., rolling the dice lots of times and seeing what’s up).  I’ll be setting that up over the next few weeks so you can start playing with the scenarios, but for now, you can use an online Elo calculator if you’d like to get a sense of it.

There are lots of things to consider:

  • What’s the inherent instability of the system?  Upsets happen, injuries occur, etc.  There’s a constant in Elo systems that covers that.  Sports implementations of Elo have generally held it around 20, and that’s where we are.
  • Additionally, it feels like there should be a goal margin bonus.  Absolutely pounding a team should be more impressive than a one-goal win.  I use a 5x multiplier at present.  A UAH 2-1 loss to Mankato last night cost the Chargers 4 points; a crazy 7-2 upset win would’ve given them 59 and almost pushed them into the 1400s.  A 10x multiplier makes that 86.  What’s “right”?  I don’t know.  I can do some modeling against the games in hand and see what’s closest to the data.  I’d probably feel better if I took it back to 2013-14 to have a larger data set.
  • Should there be a home team bonus in our very tough travel league?  Right now, six of the 10 teams do better on the road overall.  I’d have to look at historical data for the last two years to be sure.  Also, the goals per game of visiting and home teams is virtually the same as of Games 1-70: 2.39 G/GM for visitors, 2/34 G/GM for home squads.
  • Most importantly, what’s the value of an overtime win?  A tie is, as you might expect, 0.50 at the end of a game.  Is an overtime win 1.0?  I don’t think so.  You can have a one-goal lead for much of the third and hold on for the victory, and that always seems like it’s a better effort than having to go to the extra 5:00 frame.  Currently, I’m using 0.60 for OT wins and 0.40 for OT losses.

I didn’t do too badly

From way back around Valentine’s Day:


The real standings (big misses in boldface type):

  1. Minnesota State: 21-4-3 (45)
  2. Michigan Tech: 21-5-2 (44)
  3. Bowling Green: 17-8-3 (37)
  4. Bemidji State: 12-11-5 (29)
  5. Ferris State: 13-14-1 (27)
  6. Northern Michigan: 11-13-4 (26)
  7. Alabama-Huntsville: 7-20-1 (15)
  8. Lake Superior: 7-20-1 (15) [lost tiebreaker to UAH]
  9. Alaska-Anchorage: 5-21-2 (12)

I also missed Alaska — 14-12-2 (30) — big-time.  In short, I didn’t see a fade by BG, a blistering finish by a Nanook squad that was in the doldrums a month ago, and I was off on Ferris by two wins.  With everyone else, I was within a win or so of the final rankings.

I could have done a scenario of how many times I got X record or Y standings breakdown.  Hopefully I can pull that off for next year.

My predictions for the postseason is that the first round goes chalk, Bemidji upsets Mankato and Tech in the tournament, and maybe BG squeaks in as a third at-large bid for the WCHA.

Until next year!

2014-15 WCHA Playoff Branches

I’ve posted the 2014-15 Branches, your Saturday night guide to “who gets what seeding if so-and-so happens”.

You’ve probably seen this elsewhere, but here is the long and short of it:

  1. Minnesota State gets the #1 seed anytime Michigan Tech doesn’t win or anytime they get at least one point off of Bemidji State.  This happens in 72 of the 81 possible scenarios.
  2. Michigan Tech gets the #2 seed every time except when they win and Bemidji State wins.  This happens in nine of the 81 possible scenarios.
  3. Bowling Green will be the #3 seed.  Their game largely determines the outcome of the #7/8 seed as well as their place in the Pairwise.
  4. Bemidji State will be the #4 seed.  Their game affects #1/2 seeding only.
  5. Northern Michigan gets the #5 seed anytime then win and anytime Ferris State loses.  If Northern loses and Ferris wins, the Wildcats are 6th.  If both teams tie on the night, Northern Michigan is 5th.  If Ferris and Northern go to a tiebreaker — Ferris win + Northern tie, Ferris tie + Northern loss, etc. — Northern Michigan is 6th.  The Wildcats get the 5th seed in 54 of 81 possible scenarios.
  6. Ferris State gets the 5th seed only when it wins and Northern Michigan doesn’t win or when it ties and Northern Michigan loses (27 of 81 possible scenarios).  Otherwise, the Bulldogs end up in 6th.
  7. Alabama-Huntsville is 7th whenever they win, whenever they tie and Lake Superior doesn’t win, or if both they and the Lakers lose tonight.  The Chargers are 7th in 54 of 81 possible scenarios.
  8. Lake Superior is 8th only when they pass the Chargers in points, such as when they win and UAH does not and when they tie but UAH loses.  The Lakers are 7th in 27 of 81 possible scenarios.

I don’t really have time to do a weighted probability analysis, but the numbers generally suggest that the night will be wins for BG, MTU, FSU, and BSU.

That would be Branch #3 in the PDF, which means it would be 1-MTU, 2-MSU, 3-BGSU, 4-BSU, 5-FSU, 6-NMU, 7-UAH, 8-LSSU.

Enjoy the games.  I’ll be tweeting the UAH game over at @weloveuahhockey.

Week 24 Best/Worst

As you probably know, there are three tiers left in the 2014-15 WCHA playoff seedings:

  • Minnesota State or Michigan Tech will get the #1 seed.
  • Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, or Ferris State will get seeds #4-6.
  • Alabama-Huntsville, Lake Superior, and Alaska-Anchorage will vie for the final two slots.

Bowling Green is guaranteed to finish third, and Fairbanks is guaranteed to dream of spring break with Ethan Hawke.

Here are best/worst for each team:

Minnesota State:

  • Highest: 1st Place (wins McNaughton) with any points this weekend OR anything less than a Michigan Tech sweep while being swept by Bemidji.
  • Lowest: 2nd place if swept by Bemidji and Tech sweeps Northern.

Michigan Tech:

  • Highest: 1st Place (wins McNaughton) with sweep of Northern and a Bemidji sweep of Mankato.
  • Lowest: 2nd place with any other result than the one above.

Bowling Green:

  • 3rd place regardless of any results this weekend.

Bemidji State:

  • Highest: 4th Place anytime they have as many or more points than Northern Michigan and get at least one more point than Ferris
  • Lowest: 6th Place if Ferris sweeps Lake Superior, Mankato sweeps Bemidji, and Northern gets at least one point this weekend.

Northern Michigan:

  • Highest: 4th Place any time they finish with more points than Bemidji.  Because this gets them to at least 28 points, Ferris State cannot push to tiebreakers.
  • Lowest: 6th place if they pick up zero or one point against Tech and Ferris sweeps Lake Superior.

Ferris State:

  • Highest: 4th when they sweep Lake Superior, Mankato sweeps Bemidji, and Northern gets zero or one point from Tech.
  • Lowest: 6th place anytime they get less than three points this weekend or when they get three and Northern gets at least one.


  • Highest: 7th place if they finish with as many or more points than Lake Superior.
  • Lowest: Miss the playoffs if Anchorage sweeps Fairbanks, BG sweeps UAH, and Lake Superior picks up at least one point against Ferris.

Lake Superior:

  • Highest: 7th place if they pass UAH in points. Doing so gets them to at least 16 points and ensures that they win the D tiebreaker with Anchorage.
  • Lowest: Miss the playoffs if they are swept by Ferris State and Anchorage sweeps Fairbanks. UAH’s A tiebreaker advantage over the Lakers means that UAH makes the playoffs regardless of their weekend in Ohio.


  • Highest: 7th when they sweep Fairbanks, Bowling Green sweeps UAH, and Ferris State sweeps Lake Superior.
  • Lowest: Miss the playoffs anytime they don’t sweep Fairbanks.  A win and a tie against the Nanooks gets them to 15 points and drops them out via the B tiebreaker.

Week 24 Tiebreakers

If you’re confused about the WCHA tiebreakers, my post from two weeks ago will catch you up.  Here’s what matters in Week 24:

  1. Minnesota State’s three-point weekend against Michigan Tech last weekend puts them in prime position to win the McNaughton Cup for 2014-15.  The Mavericks’ advantage is not just in league points: Mankato’s 3-0-1 season series record against Tech means that they win the A tiebreaker.  While I’ll have a more detailed breakdown post this week, it’s really simple: for the Huskies to win the McNaughton Cup, they have to sweep Northern Michigan while Bemidji State sweeps Mankato.
  2. Bowling Green is locked into third place.  They face struggling Alabama-Huntsville this weekend: the Chargers need points, and the Falcons are at #14 in PWR and need to not lose ground to avoid having to win the Broadmoor to make it into the NCAAs.
  3. Bemidji State has 27 points, Northern Michigan has 26, and Ferris State has 23.  I’ve previously covered this triad, but last week’s results made this pretty simple.  If Bemidji and Northern are tied, the Beavers make it through.  If Mankato sweeps the Beavers and the Bulldogs sweep Lake Superior, Ferris State wins the B tiebreaker.  Ferris State and Northern could tie if Ferris gets three more points than the Wildcats do, but Ferris State wins the B tiebreaker in either instance.  If all three teams tie at 27, Ferris gets fourth place, as they would have 13 conference wins to the other two teams’ 11.  All three teams could get home ice, and all three teams could finish in 6th place.
  4. Anchorage’s upset of Bowling Green really shook things up in the race for the last two spots.  I’ve previously covered the tiebreakers here, but they’re pretty simple: 1) UAH wins the A tiebreaker over LSSU; 2) UAA has to sweep the Nanooks to even have a shot at knotting up the B tiebreaker; 3) UAH wins the C tiebreaker with UAA; 4) UAA and LSSU would proceed to the D tiebreaker, which gets really complicated.  The Seawolves and Lakers have identical winning percentages against MSU, MTU, and BGSU.  LSSU wins the D tiebreaker regardless of where BSU and NMU finish.  All three teams can make it to 7th, and all three teams can miss the playoffs.


What Each WCHA Team Needs in Week 23

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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%).
  7. Alaska needs a time machine.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Bemidji-Northern-Ferris tiebreaker going into Week 23

Hello, USCHO fans!  Jack and Shane asked me to run scenarios for them.  I’ve already tweeted about this a little, but without applying probability to it, I just wanted to do the math and show what happens with the Bemidji-Northern-Ferris tiebreaker, which is the really fun one left at this point (depending on how Tech and Mankato go this weekend).

I’m going to assume that you’ve read my extended look at the WCHA’s tiebreakers for 2014-15 and know what I’m talking about when I say “the C tiebreaker”.  If not, I suggest reading the first paragraph and then the six bullet points (and not the other 1700 words that follow).

To recap one of the later sections, these things are true:

Bemidji State and Northern Michigan both sit tied for fourth at 10-10-4 (24 points).  Ferris is two points behind them at 11-13-0.  Ferris has the potential for winning a B tiebreaker, as they have one more conference win at this point.

Let’s ignore the chances that ties get involved here and just say that there are wins and losses here.  Here are the remaining games for each team:

  • Bemidji State: @ Ferris State, v Minnesota State
  • Ferris State: v Bemidji State, @ Lake Superior
  • Northern Michigan : v Lake Superior, home-and-home with Michigan Tech

Later, I quote the tiebreakers, but the important things here are these:

A tiebreaker: this only comes into play between Bemidji and Northern, and Bemidji wins the comparison.

B tiebreaker: currently Ferris has 11 conference wins to 10 for Bemidji and Northern.  Of course, they also have the handicap of three more losses where they got no points.

C tiebreaker: Bemidji and Ferris have yet to play this weekend, and Ferris and Northern push to the D tiebreaker.

D tiebreaker: Here are the records against the top three seeds:

  • MSU: BSU 0.000 (with two games left); FSU 0.000; NMU 0.250 — Northern wins all comparisons
  • MTU: BSU 0.000; FSU 0.000; NMU 0.750 — Northern wins all comparisons
  • BGSU: BSU 0.375; FSU 0.250; NMU 0.625 — Northern wins all comparisons

So in other words:

  • Ferris: To get level with Bemidji and/or Northern and win home ice, Ferris has to get the B tiebreaker in their favor, which generally means that they need to keep winning.  Ties are better than losses, but here, a win-loss split is better than a two-tie split.
  • Northern: They just have to hope that they’re not tied with Bemidji alone.  If they are tied with Bemidji and Ferris, they have to hope that Ferris has tied some games along the way and keeps from passing them in conference wins and have split with the Beavers.  If it’s Northern and Ferris alone, they again have to hope that Ferris doesn’t have more conference wins.  I’m not sure that I can concoct a scenario where things get to the D tiebreaker, although I’m going to try below.
  • Bemidji: They’re in the catbird’s seat here: they have the tiebreaker over Northern, a points advantage on Ferris, and two games against Ferris.  Bemidji is much better at home than on the road (9-4-2 v. 3-10-2), so they have to be gunning for things.

So it all comes down to ten games, here

I’m not going to go through every iteration (e.g., “Bemidji sweeps Ferris, Northern sweeps Lake, Ferris sweeps Lake”) here because I don’t have time to do this.  (I mean, it’s snowing in Alabama, and I want to go outside and play!)  But let’s consider these things, based on the above:

Bemidji sweeping Ferris fairly fixes the Bulldogs in sixth place.  The Bulldogs would be 11-15-0 (22 points), and they’d be behind the Wildcats regardless of their result against Lake Superior.  At worst, Northern sweeps Lake Superior and is 12-10-4 (28 points), which gives the Wildcats more points than the Bulldogs can get.  At best,  Lake Superior sweeps Northern and the Wildcats are 10-12-4 (24 points), and Ferris can pass them anytime then get even and have one more conference win — say, Northern splitting with Tech and the Bulldogs sweeping the Lakers.

Ferris sweeping the Beavers greatly helps the Wildcats’ chances.  Simply put, both teams play Lake Superior going down the stretch, and Bemidji is not as tough of an opponent as Tech is, especially given that the Beavers will be on the road (where, again, they’re 3-10-2, although two of those wins are in Marquette a couple of weeks ago).

Bemidji always just has to worry about keeping pace with Northern.  The only way that the Wildcats can pass the Beavers is to get more points with them, and that’s not something that happens very often in my model.  In fact, Ferris getting more points than both Bemidji and Northern happens more often (5.5% v 1.77%).  Yes, the two squads face the top two seeds on the final weekend, but Bemidji is at home for both games.

Let’s talk about ties.  The only way we get to the D tiebreakers — Northern’s favorites — are if the teams are tied in the first three, which means that they all have to finish with the same number of points and Ferris has to have taken two ties along the way to bring them level in conference wins and very likely those ties have to have come against Lake Superior, because ties with Bemidji make it harder for all teams to have equivalent numbers of points.

But here is the problem: trying to get four ties for the Bulldogs (11-13-4/26) gives the Beavers two more points (10-10-6/26) pending the results with Mankato.  If the Beavers get swept, they lose the B tiebreaker; if they get any more points, there is no tiebreaker with Ferris State.

Now you can look at Ferris and Northern and ask, “Can the Wildcats benefit from four Ferris ties?”  Yes, they can.  Again, Ferris finishing 11-13-4 means that they can go 1-3-0 themselves down the stretch.  The A tiebreaker is irrelevant; the B tiebreaker is now a wash; the C tiebreaker is still a wash; and the D is where they win.

But ask yourself this: how often does Ferris tie its final four games after not registering a tie all season>

So in short, rock-paper-scissors style if teams are tied:

  • Bemidji beats Northern
  • Ferris probably beats Northern (unless they do a lot of sister-kissing)
  • Northern just has to keep winning, because they have outpacing their peers.

Hope this helps.