Category Archives: 2013-14

How the WCHA Play-In Alternative Might Have Worked

Back in 2014, I proposed a play-in tournament where Seeds 7-10 would travel to the top two seeds to play single-game match-ups to determine who plays the home team in a best-of-three series.  It’s admittedly a slightly-silly idea, given that the league’s struggling financially and Edina would be footing the bill.  But I want to revisit the topic anyway.

2014-15 would’ve been hard to pull off because of Alaska’s postseason ban.  Presumably Minnesota State would merely have hosted Lake Superior and Alaska-Anchorage, who finished in the bottom two slots. while Michigan Tech would’ve still had the joy of outlasting Carmine Guerriero in that 3OT thriller.

This season, it would’ve been especially painful financially, with the 8-9-10 seeds all being from the farthest-flung reaches of the league. Would UAF and UAA have played a fifth game in Anchorage with the winner getting on a plane for Minnesota immediately afterward?  Would the Huskies have taken the team from the 49th rather than a potential matchup against another hot Charger goaltender?  It would’ve been fun to find out.

2014 WCHA Playoff Race: Playoff Branches

Are you ready to rumble?  Now, you would think that this would be pretty easy: five games.  But those five games can go three ways: a win for each team or a tie.  (You have to consider both teams because it factors into the standings each way.]  We will consider the scoring from the perspective of the home team as convention.

As we know, we have five games tonight.  I’m going to refer to them by Game #s, much the same way that the NHL does their games.  The WCHA plays 140 games: each team hosts 14 games over the course of the season.  As such, these are Games: #136-140.  We’ll go by the puck drop time and then by alphabetical listing by the home team to differentiate the games.  So we have:

  • Game #136: Bemidji State University (BSU) at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), puck drop 7:07 p.m. Eastern.
  • Game #137: Lake Superior State University (LSSU) at Ferris State University (FSU), puck drop 7:07 p.m. Eastern.
  • Game #138: Northern Michigan University (NMU) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), puck drop 7:07 p.m. Central.
  • Game #139: Michigan Tech University (MTU) at Minnesota State University, Mankato, puck drop 7:07 p.m. Central.
  • Game #140: University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) at University of Alaska (UAF), puck drop 7:07 p.m. Alaska.

Now, anyone who’s been following this fun WCHA playoff run (USCHO, UAHHockey.com) knows that the final tally of this season will come down to Game #140.  Will Anchorage stay in the playoffs?  Will either school bump teams out for home ice?  All of these things were possible from my perspective starting this post before Friday’s games — I needed the time to set everything up!

There are 243 ways that this whole sordid mess can be sorted out tonight.  Yes, 243: three possible outcomes for each of the five home teams is 3 * 3 * 3 * 3 * 3 = 243.  Yeah, this breakdown seemed a lot more fun when it was 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 = 32.

I’ve attached a PDF an Excel spreadsheet at the end of this post.  It’s the clearest way to present the situation, because there are branches off of the root of “Saturday’s games that have not been played”.  Let’s look at how this might work:

Winners: BGSU, FSU, UAH, MSU, UAF.

That is one of 243 overall branches, and it’s also one of 81 branches where the Falcons start the night off with a win.  If they tie or lose, you can throw those 81 winning branches away and focus on the branches that have their root with the result of the Beavers-Falcons matchup.

I think that you can see where this is going: when 9:30 p.m. Eastern rolls around, we’ll be from 243 branches down to just 27: the NMU-UAH result, the MTU-MSU result, and the UAA-UAF result.  An hour later, it’ll be down to just three.

But I wanted to do the hard work for you so that you could look things over yourself.  Print this out, or look at it in your browser — you’ll be able to follow this.  Just read it left to right.  The labels will work with you to help you narrow things down pretty quickly.  By the time the first games are over, you’ll be down to just one of the pages.

Let’s use that BGSU, FSU, UAH, MSU, UAF result again, which is #243 in the table.  That gets us the following table:

Seed Team Record Points
1 Minnesota State 21-7-0 42
2 Ferris State 20-6-2 42
3 Alaska 15-11-2 32
4 Bowling Green 13-11-4 30
5 Michigan Tech 12-12-4 28
6 Alaska-Anchorage 11-13-4 26
7 Northern Michigan 12-15-1 25
8 Bemidji State 10-14-4 24 1
  Lake Superior 12-16-0 24
  Alabama-Huntsville 3-25-1 7

BSU wins the A) tiebreaker, 3-1-0 in head-to-head play with the Lakers

Now, the PDF doesn’t have that listed tabularly, but it does give you a 1-10 listing of the teams.  You can follow the tiebreakers and standings yourself from my post over on UAHHockey.com earlier this week, but in short: A) if (all of) you played four times, it’s the head-to-head record(s); B) Conference wins; C) Winning percentage against teams from the top to the bottom of the table.

What we know here on Saturday afternoon:

  • UAH will be 10th.
  • UAF will be 3rd.

That’s it.  That’s what’s so awesome about this!

Check out the PDF.  I hope that this makes for an enjoyable companion to your Saturday night scoreboard watching!  I have audited it reasonably extensively, but it is entirely possible that I missed something.  If so, you have my apologies.  I felt that we needed a different way to visualize this information, and that was my aim.

2014 Playoff Branches 0

2014 WCHA Playoff Race: Probabilities Predict Standings

Sometimes, the obvious stuff doesn’t occur to you right away.   The probabilistic model could be extended: take the most likely scenario and use that to predict the final standings!   Gosh.

That means:

  1. BG and BSU split.
  2. FSU sweeps LSSU.
  3. NMU sweeps UAH.
  4. MSU and MTU split.
  5. UAA and UAF split.

That gives you the following:

Seed Team Record Points
1 Ferris State 20-6-2 42
2 Minnesota State 20-8-0 40
3 Alaska 14-12-2 30 1
4 Michigan Tech 13-11-4 30
5 Bowling Green 12-12-4 28 2
6 Alaska-Anchorage 12-12-4 28
7 Northern Michigan 13-14-1 27
8 Bemidji State 11-13-4 26
  Lake Superior 12-16-0 24
  Alabama-Huntsville 2-25-1 3

1 A) The teams went 2-2-0 this year, and B) the Nanooks have one more conference win.

A) The Falcons were 2-1-1 against the Seawolves this season.

Our bracket would be:

  • #8 Bemidji State at #1 Ferris State
  • #7 Northern Michigan at #2 Minnesota State
  • #6 Alaska-Anchorage at #3 Alaska
  • #5 Bowling Green at #4 Michigan Tech

The Alaska Plan ended up not becoming a reality, but here it is in all its splendor.  Oh my.