It was a great weekend for Michigan hockey. A sweep at Northern, combined with Notre Dame’s loss to Western on Saturday, gave Michigan the CCHA regular-season title. So now what? Well, Michigan is now the top seed in the CCHA tournament and likely awaits the winner of Ohio State and Lake Superior. Michigan gets the lowest seed remaining in the quarterfinals, but Bowling Green is not much of a threat to win anything, and Michigan State has to travel up to Alaska in their playoff matchup (enjoy the long flight, Sparties), so it is likely that Michigan will face the Lakers (who they swept earlier in the year) or the Buckeyes (against whom they are 3-1, with the loss coming in Columbus in OT). OSU had a win and a tie against Lake Superior last weekend at home, but these games will be in Sault Ste. Marie. Since OSU is 6-10-1 on the road this year, this could go either way. The big upside from Michigan getting the top seed (other than the nice banner in Yost) is getting to avoid Notre Dame or Miami until the finals of the CCHA tournament.
Meanwhile, around college hockey, Merrimack got swept (crushed, really) by Maine, allowing Michigan to flip its comparison with Merrimack and move up to a solo fourth in the Pairwise rankings. (For a note on how the Pairwise works, see last week’s update.) Michigan is in the driver’s seat for the fourth spot in the Pairwise and the #1 seed hat goes along with it.
Can Michigan stay there? First, they have to win the CCHA tournament. A loss can knock Michigan down real fast, especially if that loss is to ND. So let’s assume that Michigan wins out. Michigan can afford to lose one comparison, as long as that comparison is not against Denver, if they want to keep a #1 seed. The teams to watch are those near the TUC cliff (especially Ohio State, Michigan State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, and Alaska-Anchorage), along with Boston College, Denver, and Merrimack. Let’s look at how each could affect matters:
Teams near the TUC cliff: Michigan is 2-2 against MSU and 3-1 against OSU. Neither are a TUC right now, but both are very close. Ideally, OSU would sweep the series with the Lakers then get swept by us. That might be enough to have OSU end the season above the .500 mark in RPI, and allow us to use what would then be a 5-1 record against them for the Pairwise. MSU has to go to Alaska in the CCHA playoffs, where they just were last week. If they don’t win that series, they stay below the cliff. If they do sweep Alaska, then they will play Michigan, and a sweep by Michigan in that case would keep MSU above the cliff. However, their record against Michigan would then be something that Michigan would want to keep (4-2), so they are actually less important than OSU. So you are rooting hard for OSU (ewwww, icky) to sweep this weekend. Bemidji State is an interesting team, as they have a 3-0-1 record against UNO but were 0-2 against Denver. Whether they stay in the TUC field has a big effect on those comparisons. They play @ N. Dakota today, have two against Minnesota next weekend, then will be a 9, 10, or 11 seed in the WCHA tournament. Root hard for Bemidji, because if they fall out of the TUC field, we lose the comparison with UNO. Alaska-Anchorage is 1-1 against UNO, but 0-3-1 against Denver. Getting them out of the TUC field would go a long way toward locking up our comparison with Denver. However, Minnesota State is also 0-3-1 against Denver and 0-2 against UNO. UAA plays at Minnesota State next weekend, then both will be on the road in the WCHA playoffs. Root for a sweep either way to get one of these teams outside the TUC field.
Denver: Denver is currently our main competition for the last #1 seed. If they win the WCHA tournament, they’ll get it with a better RPI. Of course, they’ll have to get past North Dakota and some other very good teams, but if they win out, they’ll get a #1 seed. They play St. Cloud State next weekend at home, then will likely be the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs. Root against them as though they were the lovechild of Sparty and Brutus Buckeye.
Merrimack: The comparison with Merrimack is very close, and will come down to the teams’ TUC records. Merrimack has only played 13 TUCs to Michigan’s 20 (at the moment), and Michigan has a slight lead. It’s close enough that, when MSU was above the TUC cliff for about 3 hours last night, that hurt Michigan’s TUC record enough to flip the comparison. Since the only TUCs left for either team are in their respective tournaments, it will come down to those games. Merrimack will draw either Maine or Northeastern in the quarterfinals, then probably either New Hampshire or BC in the semis. If Michigan wins out, Merrimack would have to win the Hockey East tournament to flip this comparison.
Boston College: Flipping this comparison would give Michigan a little breathing room for the #1 seed. BC has a big home-and-home series with UNH this weekend that will decide who wins the Hockey East regular-season championship. A split in that series would leave the two teams tied in TUC record, so it would come down to the respective tournaments and which teams end up as TUCs. The good news is that I think BC and Merrimack would face off in the Hockey East semis, so someone has to lose that game, and if Michigan wins out, that would mean that only one of these teams could end up ahead of us. But root for UNH this weekend.
Rooting guide: You want as much of the following to happen as possible:
OSU to sweep Lake Superior. If rooting for OSU causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or a rash in a sensitive area, don't worry, this is normal.
Anyone who plays Denver to beat them.
UNH to get at least 3 points from BC.
Merrimack to not win the Hockey East tournament.
Bemidji State to win a game or two
A sweep in the Minnesota State-UAA series, and then for both teams to do well in the WCHA tournament.
Finally, root against Michigan State. It probably won’t matter all that much, but it will make you happy.