Here’s how the tiebreakers work in the WCHA. You will regularly see me call these “the A tiebreaker” or similar. All tiebreakers are used to compare two or more teams. If three or more teams are involved, a tiebreaker pulls the winning team out and resets the comparison process. More on that later.
- A tiebreaker: a team wins the tiebreaker if they won a four-game season series.
- B tiebreaker: a team wins the tiebreaker if they had more conference wins.
- C tiebreaker: teams are compared based on their winning percentage in head-to-head matchups.
- D tiebreaker: teams are compared based on their winning percentages head-to-head against teams down the standings table.
- E tiebreaker: winning margin (goals for minus goals against) in conference contests.
- F tiebreaker: coin flip.
Now, last year showed that it’s unlikely that we’ll pass the D tiebreaker. Let’s see if that’s true based on where we are with everyone having played 24 league contests.
At this point, it’s Mankato-Tech 1-2 for the McNaughton Cup. BG getting swept by Northern ended their shot at one of the top two seeds, and they’re quite clear of Bemidji and Northern in 4th — but we’ll get to that, too.
My concern here will be in the following comparisons:
- Who wins the McNaughton, Tech or Mankato.
- The edge case of Bemidji and BG/Northern interacting.
- Who comes away with home ice in the Bemidji-Northern-Ferris trio.
- Which two teams make the playoffs at the bottom of the bracket.
The McNaughton Cup
This is probably the easiest setup: Mankato has the edge by one point, and the two teams play each other two more times.
The A tiebreaker will be in play, as the Mavericks swept the Huskies earlier in the season. If the Huskies sweep, they make the season series even and push things to the B tiebreaker.
- If Mankato sweeps, they are 21-3-2 (44 points), and they are the regular season titlist by being five points clear going into the final weekend.
- If Mankato wins and ties, they are 20-3-3 (43 points) while Tech is 19-5-2 (40). Tech would have to sweep Northern while Bemidji wins at least one against the Mavs, because Mankato still wins the A tiebreaker.
- If the teams split, Mankato is 20-4-2 (42) and Tech is 20-5-1 (41). Mankato still gets the A tiebreaker because they went 3-1-0 on the season. As such, Tech is going to have to get two more points on the final weekend than Mankato does.
- If Tech wins and ties, the Huskies are 20-4-2 (42) and the Mavs are 19-4-3 (41). Mankato still has the A tiebreaker, so they will need just one more point than the Huskies get on the final weekend.
- If Tech sweeps, the Huskies are 21-4-1 (43) and the Mavs are 19-5-2 (40). The A tiebreaker is now out of play.
- Mankato would have to sweep Bemidji to get to 21 conference wins, and the Huskies would be okay as long as they got a win versus Northern. However, if the Wildcats take three points — and they did to start the seasons — both teams would be 21-5-2 on the season.
- At that point, you go to the C tiebreaker, which is also out, and then the D, which starts with performance against teams below them. Both teams split with BG. Both teams would have swept Bemidji. Mankato would win because they picked up a win against Northern.
BG is very likely to finish in third
Northern Michigan ended Bowling Green’s chances to make the McNaughton chase a three-team affair. The Falcons can only end up tied for second in points with Michigan Tech at 39 if they win out and the Huskies lose out. That makes Tech 19-8-1 and BG 18-7-3, and Tech wins the B tiebreaker, conference wins, as Tech and BG played just twice this season.
There is the unlikely event that the Falcons lose out and end up 14-11-3, 31 points. Bemidji State or Northern Michigan could win out for 32 points and a shot at third. (More on any BSU-NMU tiebreakers later.) If either (or both) of those teams ended up with just 31 points, they’d go 3-0-1 in their final four games to finish 13-10-5, while the Falcons would be 17-7-4. The Falcons’ edge in conference wins (and thus the B tiebreaker) won’t matter in this scenario, as the Falcons were 2-1-1 against Bemidji and 1-2-1 against Northern. In an insane, three-way tie, BG wins with Northern in third, having lost both comparisons.
In short: BG can’t get to 2nd; they can get to 5th if they lose out and Bemidji and Northern win out; if they end up tied with 31 points, they beat Northern in the A tiebreaker but lose to Bemidji.
The race for home ice and, in consolation, realizing that they avoid the top two teams
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
A tiebreaker: Bemidji and Ferris this upcoming weekend for the first time. Bemidji won the season series 3-0-1 over Northern. Ferris and Northern only played twice, splitting the series.
B tiebreaker: conference wins is pretty straightforward. Any tie between Bemidji and Northern is very likely to result from their winning the same number of games. Ferris will have to win one more game than either or both of the other two win, so they’re guaranteed to win the tiebreaker in that scenario.
C tiebreaker: head-to-head comes back into play again, and the only unknown is the BSU-FSU ranking. Again, Bemidji wins over Northern and Ferris and Northern push to the D tiebreaker.
D tiebreaker: It’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to get here. Bemidji wins the A tiebreaker over Northern, so equal runs there still pushes the Beavers ahead. A three-way tie means that Ferris wins the B tiebreaker, and cycling back again favors the Beavers.
If Ferris and Bemidji split, the C tiebreaker is irrelevant. But then Ferris has to win one more game than the Beavers, which means that the Mavericks sweep while the Bulldogs split with the Lakers or the Mavs and Beavers split while the Bulldogs sweep. But then Ferris State is 13-15-0 or 14-14-0 while Bemidji is either 11-13-4 or 12-12-4, and either of those scenarios results in the Bulldogs winning the B tiebreaker.
You could negate Ferris’s advantage by having the Bulldogs tie four times, finishing them at 11-13-4. But Bemidji could then be no more than 12-10-6 if they swept the Mavericks, and they’d be 11-11-6 if they split. That result gets us to the D tiebreaker, as the teams played just twice, have the same conference wins, and were then tied in HTH. Then we do the D tiebreaker:
- MSU: Bemidji would be 1-3-0, and Ferris went 0-4-0.
- MTU: Bemidji and Ferris were winless against the Huskies.
As you can see, the only way for Ferris to jump into 4th is for them to win one more conference game than both Bemidji and Northern. Ferris only controls its destiny by playing the Beavers this weekend; otherwise, they are fans of Lake Superior and Michigan Tech, a position that’s surely strange in Big Rapids.
The races for last
I want to stop for a second and lament Alaska’s ineligibility. They’d be tied for sixth with Ferris State, and that pairing of four would be more interesting than the three pack, mainly because the Nanooks are 10-12-2 and ties just make for chaos.
But the UAH-LSSU-UAA race is pretty simple. I wrote earlier on UAHHockey.com that the Chargers need three points to get to tiebreakers and four to win outright. They can’t get to 6th, but they can miss entirely if they win just one game (8-19-1, 17) while Anchorage wins out (8-18-2, 18) and Lake State gets at least five points (8-18-2, 18 or 7-17-4, 18). Should all three teams end up 8-18-2, UAH ends up in 7th. If UAH and LSSU end up tied in points, UAH wins based on their 2-1-1 season series.
LSSU then really only has UAA to worry about if they play such that they go to tiebreakers. UAA hasn’t won in the lower 48 this year (one tie against Maine), and they’re on an 0-8-0 run. They get Bowling Green this week in Anchorage before hosting Alaska the next, so if they’re going to make a run, this is it for them.
Tiebreakers: The teams split two meetings this year, so our concerns lie with the B and D tiebreakers. Let’s consider the D tiebreakers first before going through the permutations on the other end.
- MSU: both teams were winless against the Mavs.
- MTU: both teams were winless against the Huskies.
- BGSU: the Lakers and the Falcons split two games, while the Seawolves have yet to face BG.
- BSU: UAA went 0-2-2, while LSSU went 2-0-0.
- NMU: UAA went 1-3-0, while LSSU is 0-2-0 against NMU going into this weekend.
Whew. Now let’s look at every way that these teams can end up tied.
- Anchorage sweeps Bowling Green (winning the D tiebreaker at that point) and then Alaska to get to 8-18-2.
- LSSU would need five points to get to 18, which is either two wins and a tie (8-18-2) or a win and three ties (7-17-4).
- Two LSSU wins ensures that Anchorage wins the D tiebreaker; one win ensures that Anchorage wins the B tiebreaker.
- Anchorage would get three wins and a tie (7-18-3). This means that Anchorage wins the D tiebreaker, since they wouldn’t lose to the Falcons.
- LSSU would need four points, which means they either win two games (8-19-1), a single win and two ties (7-18-3), or the insanity of four ties (6-17-5).
- Two LSSU wins ensures the Lakers win the B tiebreaker.
- One LSSU win and two ties sees that Anchorage wins the D tiebreaker
- Four ties ensure that Anchorage wins the B tiebreaker.
- Anchorage either finishes 3-1-0 (7-19-2) or 2-0-2 (6-18-4). At best, they sweep the Falcons and win the D tiebreaker; at worst, they get both ties against the Falcons and sweep the Nanooks, which leads them to being Wildcat fans.
- LSSU would need three points, which is either 1-2-1 (7-19-2) or 0-1-3 (6-18-4).
- If the Lakers get their points via ties only, they lose the B tiebreaker.
- If the Lakers win-and-tie, they win the tiebreakers if: 1) the Seawolves go 2-0-2 (win on B); 2) the Seawolves split with the Falcons and the Beavers edge the Wildcats in the standings.
- The Seawolves can win if the Lakers win-and-tie and they go 3-1-0 and they save that loss for the Governor’s Cup.
- Anchorage finishes 2-1-1 (6-19-3) or 1-0-3 (5-18-5).
- LSSU gets two points, either 1-3-0 (7-20-1) or 0-2-2 (6-19-3).
- LSSU wins the B tiebreaker if they win a game or if their two-tie effort is met with a 1-0-3 effort for the Seawolves.
- If LSSU goes 0-2-2 and UAA goes 2-1-1, the Seawolves win the D tiebreaker if they go at least 1-0-1 against the Falcons. They could lose the same tiebreaker if their two wins come against the Nanooks or if it’s Bemidji edging Northern.
- LSSU ties just one of its four remaining games (6-20-2). It won’t matter which.
- UAA finishes either 2-2-0 (6-20-2), 1-1-2 (5-19-4), or 0-0-4 (4-18-6).
- LSSU wins the B tiebreaker except when UAA goes 2-2-0.
- If UAA goes 2-2-0, it wins the D tiebreaker when it sweeps the Falcons. If it splits with the Falcons, they’re rooting for Bemidji. If they are swept by the Falcons, LSSU wins the comparison.
- LSSU loses out (6-21-1).
- UAA either goes 1-2-1 (5-20-3) or 0-1-3 (4-19-5).
- LSSU wins the B tiebreaker.
Now, wasn’t that fun?