At the beginning of the season, I gave you my predicted order of finish in the WCHA:
1. North Dakota
2. St. Cloud State
7. Colorado College
8. Bemidji State
12. Michigan Tech
And here’s how the race stacks up heading into this weekend’s action:
WCHA 2010-11 Current Standings
|St. Cloud State||3-8-1||7|
It is worth noting that the top ten teams all have 14 games to play, while the bottom two (St. Cloud State and Michigan Tech) have 16 games remaining. Of the top four teams contending for the MacNaughton Cup, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth have the most manageable schedules, while Denver’s remaining road games, in particular, are difficult and Nebraska-Omaha’s second half slate is downright brutal.
So far, the biggest surprises to me have been Nebraska-Omaha (positive) and St. Cloud State (negative). Alaska-Anchorage has overachieved so far, but they’ll have an uphill climb if they hope to stay out of the bottom three spots in the league.
In my season preview, I said this about picking Dean Blais’ UNO squad to end up in 9th:
Nebraska-Omaha: It’s tough to pick a Dean Blais team to finish this low, but I think they’re a year away from really contending.
After a blazing hot start (8-1-1), the Mavs went 4-6-0 to end 2010. As I mentioned earlier, they have the toughest second half schedule in the league and they will have to battle to secure home ice for the WCHA playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum is a struggling team that I expect will continue to struggle. Coming into the season, St. Cloud State was a loaded team without many question marks. Heading into 2011, the Huskies are a bunch of question marks with no opportunity to reload.
SCSU’s only first-half highlight, wins over Cornell and Miami to claim the Florida College Classic championship, was marred by on off-ice incident that resulted in Chris Hepp, Tony Mosey, and Bryce Johnson leaving the team at semester break.
We will have a very interesting race for the league title. Take a look at the remaining opponents for the top seven teams:
North Dakota Home: UMN (2), UNO (2), UAA (2), BSU (2);
Road: CC (2), SCSU (2), MTU (2)
Denver Home: UAA (2), MTU (2), SCSU (2), CC (1);
Road: MSUM (2), UMN (2), UNO (2), CC (1)
Minnesota-Duluth Home: UW (2), UMN (2), SCSU (2), UNO (2);
Road: MTU (2), MSUM (2), CC (2)
Nebraska-Omaha Home: BSU (2), SCSU (2), UW (2), DU (2);
Road: UND (2), UAA (2), UMD (2)
Colorado College Home: UND (2), MSUM (2), UMD (2), DU (1);
Road: UAA (2), BSU (2), UW (2), DU (1)
Minnesota Home: UAA (2), DU (2), MTU (2);
Road: UND (2), UMD (2), UW (2) BSU (2)
Wisconsin Home: MSUM (2), UMN (2), CC (2);
Road: UMD (2), MTU (2), UNO (2), SCSU (2)
If I had to predict how the race for home ice would play out, I would put them in this order:
1. North Dakota
4. Colorado College
Due to the new WCHA Final Five format (# 3 vs. # 6 and # 4 vs. # 5 on Thursday), only the top two teams remaining after the first round series have been played will receive byes into Friday’s semifinal games.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.