The Gophers had trouble against CCHA teams this season. Gophers coach Don Lucia called Notre Dame the best team he had seen when the Irish came to Mariucci and beat the 'U' 4-3 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in early January.
The Gophers went to Michigan State for a road series at Thanksgiving and came home with a 4-3 loss and a 4-4 tie.
But the Irish are the eighth seed in the CCHA playoffs while Michigan State is no better than fifth. What happened? The top seed is Ferris State, which won the regular-season title for the first time since 2003 despite a shootout loss and a shutout loss to Western Michigan last weekend.
Very strange things going on in the CCHA. Notre Dame, a Frozen Four team last season, was the league's preseason favorite, Ferris State was picked for ninth. Ugh.
And Ohio State, which was rolling along and high in the polls, ended up as the ninth seed.
Here are the best-of-three, first-round series this weekend:
Bowling Green (11) at Northern Michigan (6)
Alaska (10) at :Lake Superior State (7)
Ohio State (9) at Notre Dame (8)
The season is over for the three losers, except maybe Northern Michigan might have a remote chance for an NCAA at-large bid evem if it loses.
The quarterfinals, also a best of three series, the following weekend:
Highest surviving seed from first round vs. Western Michigan (3)
Second highest vs. Michigan (2)
Lowest seed vs. Ferris State (1)
Michigan State (5) vs. Miami (4)
Semifinals and championship March 16-17 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit
The winner of the CCHA tournament gets an automatic NCAA bid.
Based on the PairWise ratings, which mimic how the NCAA fills out its 16-team tournament field, five CCHA teams would be in today:
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 (tie) Ferris State
No. 8 (tie) Miami
No. 11 (tie) Michigan State and Nothern Michigan
Four CCHA teams are just below the NCAA bubble:
No. 17 Western Michigan
No. 18 (tie) Ohio State and Notre Dame
No. 20 Lake Superior State
Several of those below the bubble teams could play their way into the NCAA field with strong CCHA tournament runs. Four wins by Ohio State or Notre Dame to get to CCHA championship, for instance, might be enough.
Certainly, this is an interesting conference to watch. And it could have four, five NCAA teams. Myabe one or two will be in te West Regional at the X.