The Gophers were No. 4 in the USCHO.com national poll last week and No. 2 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
But after a split with Colorado College, the Gophers have settled into No. 3 in both polls behind Minnesota Duluth and Boston University.
UMD is No. 1 for the seventh week in a row. There are three other rated WCHA teams in the USCHO.com poll: No. 12 Colorado College, No. 15 Denver and No. 18 North Dakota. The USA Today poll, which only rates 15 teams, has just two more rated WCHA teams: No. 10 Colorado College and No. 15 Denver.
The Gophers have a home and home series with St. Cloud State this weekend. Friday's game is at Mariucci Arena, Saturday's at the National Hockey Center. SCSU officials say tickets are still available for game in Granite City.
Have questions about Gophers hockey? Be sure to go to startribune.com at noon on Thursday for a live chat.
The only poll that really matters is the PairWise rankings. It's a comparison of the nation's top teams on four criteria, one of them head-to-head competition.
The PairWise ratings mimic quite accurately how the NCAA picks its 11 at-large teams for its 16-team postseason tournament. Five champions of conference tournaments get automatic spots.
There, the WCHA is in trouble. Only three of its 12 teams would be locks to receive at-large spots: UMD, which is No. 2 in the PairWise according to USCHO.com, No. 12. Denver and No. 13 Minnesota. But if the Gophers fall another spot or two, they would be a bubble team.
Just missing the NCAA tournament, if at-large bids were being extended today, would be No. 16 Colorado College.
The Gophers, despite being in first place in the WCHA, are hurt by their mediocre non-conference record of 4-4-1.
Most years, the top 14 or, if there are no upsets in the postseason tournaments, the top 15 teams in the PairWise make the NCAA field.
The CCHA is the team which is looking the best in the PairWise rankings. It would have six, maybe seven teams in the field if the tournament was starting this weekend: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ferris State, Northern Michigan, and perhaps Miami and Michigan State, tied for No. 14.