Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

E-mail Roman

This is tightest, most bunched WCHA title chase Lucia has ever seen

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: March 4, 2013 - 8:50 PM

Gophers coach Don Lucia said this is the way the final WCHA season -- with its present lineup of teams anyway -- should end.

"It is amazing," Lucia said on his radio show. He added that it almost feel like something should be calling the finish like announcers do at horse races.

"In my 20 years in the WCHA, I have not seen race this close, with so many teams," he said. "There are five schools that still have a chance to get a piece of the WCHA title."

The Gophers won the MacNaughton Cup, of course, a year ago with 40 points. They were 20-8-0.

This season, the winner won't have that many.  Here are the five teams with a chance at the regular-season title, or at least a piece of it:

So here is how the top half of the WCHA looks:

1. St. Cloud State, 35 points ... Huskies play at Wisconsin, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum this coming weekend, still chasing first WCHA regular-season title. The coliseum have a smaller ice sheet than the Kohl Center, where the boys basketball state tournament is being played Thursday through Saturday.

2. (tie) Gophers, 33 ... U got help from Michigan Tech last week -- Tech split at St. Cloud State -- and needs help from the Badgers next weekend to catch SCSU. ... Gophers play at Bemidji State

2. (tie) North Dakota, 33 ... Lost point in title chance by tying Bemidji State on Saturday at home. ... UND plays at Minnesota State next weekend

4. Wisconsin, 31 ... outside chance to tie for title, but only if they can beat the SCSU Huskies twice and Gophers and UND have a two-point weekend or worse

Minnesota State, 31 ... in same spot as Badgers

If  two or more teams tie for first place, they are declared conference cochampions

Theoretically, as many as four teams could tie for first next weekend. Here is that scenario:

* St. Cloud State is swept at Wisconsin, so Huskies finish with 35 points

* Wisconsin, with sweep, also finishes with 35

* Gophers split at Bemidji State to finish with 35 pts.

* UND splits with Minnesota State to finish with 35

or

* Minnesota State Mankato could be that fourth team in the tie by sweeping UND, in which case North Dakota would not be among the teams sharing the MacNaughton Cup

"The top four teams are all on the road," Lucia said. Well, sort of. Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is more of a neutral site for the Badgers than a road game.

"Wisconsin has come out of nowhere," Lucia aid. "But if they win two games, they are ahead of St. Cloud," Lucia said.

He called the WCHA a great conference and "with the breakup, this is the way [this season] should be."

Lucia said the bottom five is pretty much settled, except for their order.

8. Colorado College, 24 points ... could drop one spot

9. Minnesota Duluth, 21 ... could go up to eighth, or drop to a tie for 10th

10. Michigan Tech, 18 ... could go up to ninth, or drop to 11th

11. Bemidji State, 17 ... could move up as high as a tie for ninth

12. Alaska Anchorage, 10 ... stuck at 12th, can't move up

The big question is which team will finish seventh and go on the road for the first round of the WCHA playoffs? The top six teams will have home ice.

Denver is seventh now, with 29 points. The Pioneers can't drop lower than seventh, and can move up to as high as a tie for third.

The Gophers, what is there situation?

Well, if they win on Friday night, they clinch at least a tie for third. That's easy math.

A more complicated question is, have they clinched home ice?

Technically, no. Realistically, yes.

Five teams can finish ahead of the Gophers in points. Denver, at best can tie the U. Then it comes to tiebreakers and it goes down to the fourth tiebreaker: greatest winning margin in WCHA games.

The Gophers have outscored WCHA opponents 85 to 61, that's 24 goals. Denver has 79 WCHA goals and has given up 79, so their winning margin is zero. So to win that tiebreaker, the Pioneers have to  win at Alaska Anchorage by two hefty margins and have the Gophers lose two blowouts at Bemidji State. Very unlikely all that happens.

"I'm going on the impression we don't" have home ice clinched, Lucia said.

Hey, Don. But you do. Look at my numbers. But I understand, you wants the lads focused, playing with a little desperation in Bemidji, perhaps.

"If we win Friday, we are guaranteed to be in the top three," Lucia said. "Then we go from there."

Sure, you can take that approach.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT