It was a good weekend for road teams as we enter the closing stretch of the regular season. Ohio State secured a big road split at Penn State while Michigan State vaulted into 4th with a road sweep of the Badgers. Michigan beat Ferris State comfortably in their only game while UNO was swept at home by St. Cloud and is now uncomfortably close to the NCAA Tourney bubble.
Penn State kicked off their last home series of the season in exciting fashion. The Nittany Lions opened the scoring early in the first then exploded for 4 goals in the second. Penn State took a 5-0 lead into the third period but lost the shutout after an early PPG for OSU. Penn State would add an empty net short handed goal in the closing minute to win 6-1. Christian Frey was pulled by OSU after giving up 3 goals in the first 33 minutes. Eamon McAdam was stellar in net for Penn State, stopping 33 of 34.
Saturday was Senior Day for Penn State's first four-year graduating class. Matthew Skoff and Matt Tomkins got the starts for Penn State and Ohio State respectively. Ohio State got the start they wanted scoring three times in the first nine minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions eventually found their stride and scored late in the first. Not wanting to be embarrassed on Senior Day, the Lions slowly took over play in the middle period. Goals at the 10 minute and 15 minute mark tied the game and brought the crowd to life. An early third period goal gave PSU its first lead of the day. Ohio State responded with two goals in a 42 second span to retake the lead. The Buckeyes added two more goals, including an empty netter, scoring the final 4 goals of the game. The 7-4 win evend the season series at 6 points each.
Ohio State earned a big road split and while they trail MSU by 1 point, they have two games in hand and face a hapless Wisconsin squad next weekend. Penn State needs two points over their final 4 games to match their total from last year. They should get at least that many in two weekends when they head to Madison. Penn State missed out on a great chance to move into a tie with Michigan (who also has two games in hand), hurting their chances at winning the conference and earning a first round bye in the conference tournament. Penn State also dropped to 15th in the Pairwise and would be out in the tournament started today (WCHA and AH hav eno teams in the top 16). Penn State is off next weekend while Ohio State hosts Wisconsin.
This battle for the cellar produced two close games, with late winners. Wisconsin opened the scoring on Friday with a goal in the first minute. MSU would tie it up midway through the first. It was Michigan State's turn to start fast in the second, scoring twice in the first three minutes. Wisconsin would cut the lead to 1 a couple minutes later but the rest of the period was scoreless. Another early period goal tied the game in the third. Matt DeBlouw scored the game winner for Michigan State with just under five left in regulation. The Spartans would hold on, winning 4-3. Matt DeBlouw was then suspended for Saturday's contest. The conference reviewed an incident that wasn't penalized at the end of the second period and ruled him ineligible for the series finale. Badger fans can't be happy that he was allowed to finish the game Friday and then scored the game winner. The Badgers out-shot the Spartans 37-31 but Jake Hildebrand stood tall.
Saturday's game wasn't televised but that was probably a good thing as their were only 49 shots on goal between the two teams. Wisconsin again out-shot MSU (27-21) but couldn't solve Hildebrand. Michigan State scored on a powerplay late in the first to open up a 1-0 lead. No goals were until Seamus Malone tied the game 7 minutes into the third period. Mackenzie MacEachern scored the game winner with 1:36 left in the game, then added an empty netter to give the Spartans a 3-1 win, weekend sweep, and 4th place. Wisconsin was very close to sweeping MSU, but Jake Hildebrand made the saves needed to take all 6 points.
Michigan State has taken 13 of 24 possible points over the last 4 weekends. The only team they haven't played in that stretch is Minnesota. MSU is 1 point ahead of OSU and 9 ahead of Wisconsin but both teams have 2 games in hand. The Spartans will play their last four games at Munn Ice Arena. Their seeding will likely come down to the final weekend when they host OSU. Wisconsin travels to Ohio State and will need to learn how to close out close games if they want to avoid a second straight 6th place finish.
Ferris State Bulldogs @ (6) Michigan Wolveriens
Michigan hosted old CCHA foe Ferris State Friday night came away with a 5-2 victory. The game was closer than the final score as four of Michigan's goals came directly off Ferris State turnovers. Michigan's lethal offense will make teams pay for neutral zone and blue line turnovers and this game was no different. Steve Racine was solid in net stopping 24 of 26. Michigan is 6th in the Pairwise but will need to win out and have teams ahead of them lose if they want to get a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Michigan will really need to melt down to miss the tournament. Penn State's loss to Ohio State gives the Wolverines some breathing room as they prepare for a series with 1st plat Minnesota.
(3) St. Cloud State Huskies @ (12) Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Omaha lost a tough one Friday night. The Mavericks out-shot the Huskies 33-22 Charlie Lindgren won the game for St. Cloud stopping 32 shots. The Huskies scored twice moments after killing penalties in the first period and then added a third early in the third period. UNO couldn't find the net the rest of the way and an empty net goal gave SCSU a 4-1 win.
UNO again out-shot SCSU on Saturday (32-27) but was again foiled on home ice. St. Cloud scored the first three goals of the game, but the Mavericks were able to cut the lead to one going into the third. St. Cloud extended the lead to 2 midway through the second, only for Omaha to answer two minutes late. A late goal and an empty net short handed goal gave the Huskies a 6-3 win and their first road sweep since December.
St. Cloud is now first in KRACH and Pairwise while Omaha falls to 12 in KRACH and 11 in Pairwise. The Mavericks host (4) North Dakota next weekend and travel to (10) Denver the following weekend to close out their season. If the Mavericks are swept in both, they will be on the bubble going into the NCHC Tournament.
An overtime loss counts as a loss and no points are earned. If both teams are tied after the five minute OT period, the game goes down as a tie and both teams earn a point. A shootout follows a tie with the winner earning a second point. A shootout "win" counts as a tie, not a win in the standings and for NCAA Tournament seeding purposes. Total wins are used as the primary tie-breaker. If teams have the same number of wins, head to head record is used.
KRACH Ratings, KRACH Rank, Pairwise Rank
Update on 2/21/2016 @ 12 PM EST
There are 60 teams in college hockey. The pairwise is an approximation of the selection process for the NCAA tournament (click link for explanation). The top 16 teams are selected for the tourney. Conference tournament champions get auto-bids so teams rated near 16 can be displaced if a lower ranked team wins it's conference tournament.
Points, Elimination numbers, KRACH Projections, and Last Years Points
Change in expected conference points:
Points earned by team on the left are shown in the boxes. Now that we are almost halfway through the conference season, I will use the standings to determine the layout of the table instead of alphabetical order.
Green boxes mean that the team in the row is ahead of the team in the column. Red means the team in the column is ahead. Blue means the teams have split points. Once a season series is completed, the color will be darker, the points will be bold, and the box will have a thicker border. Column on the right shows the points gained by a team. Row on the bottom shows the points lost by a team.
KRACH Projection Review
Let's see how the projections went this week:
And how teams are doing compared to the KRACH expectations: