The Gophers, with their 3-2 loss to Wisconsin and Colorado College's 2-1 victory over Denver, are locked into seventh place. They can't move up or down.

Four other teams also know where they will finish: Denver has won the MacNaughton Cup which goes to the regular-season champion. Wisconsin clinched second place with its win on Friday and St. Cloud State's 4-2 loss at Minnesota State Mankato. CC will finish sixth and Michigan Tech will finish 10th.

That still leaves a lot to be determined.

Take the Gophers, for example. They will play the fourth place team (or the fourth seed (if two or three teams tie for third or fourth place).

St. Cloud State, in third place now with 33 points, clinches that spot with a victory or tie against Minnesota State Mankato at the National Hockey Center on Saturday.

If the Huskies lose, UMD (31 points) and/or North Dakota (also 31) can tie St. Cloud State for third place with victories.


Let's say SCSU loses, and UMD and North Dakota win. All would have 33 points.

The first tie-breaker is head-to-head competition.

SCSU is 1-0-1 vs. UMD (T 3-3, W 4-2), so the Huskies win that tie-breaker.

SCSU is 2-2-0 vs. North Dakota (L 2-4, W 3-2, W 4-3, L 1-8), so we need to go to the second tie-breaker with these two teams. Most wins in the conference. Both would be 15-10-3. So we go to the third tie-breaker, least no. of goals given up in four-game series against other team. North Dakota gave up 10 goals to the Huskies, St. Cloud State gave up 17 to Sioux. ... North Dakota wins on third tie-breaker.

So North Dakota, which was 3-1-0 vs. UMD and wins that tie-breaker, would be third seed in a three-way tie.

St. Cloud State would be fourth seed in a three-way tie.

And UMD would be the fifth seed.

In that case ... Gophers play at St. Cloud State and Colorado College plays at UMD.


* If North Dakota and UMD tie, the Sioux are the fourth seed, the Bulldogs are the fifth ...

And the Gophers play at North Dakota

* If St. Cloud State and North Dakota tie, the Sioux are the third seed, the Huskies are the fourth ...

And the Gophers play at St. Cloud State

* If St. Cloud State and UMD tie, the Huskies are the the third seed, the Bulldogs are the fourth ...

And the Gophers play at UMD  

Got that?

My prediction is St. Cloud State --- which lost 4-2 at MSU Mankato with two key players out -- will win on Saturday on its home ice to clinch third place.

North Dakota, which beat Michigan Tech 5-1 on Friday, will win again.

And UMD, which lost 3-2 at Alaska Anchorage, also will win.

That would send the Gophers to North Dakota. I was figuring the Gophers would leap over CC into sixth place and be going to UMD. But CC upset DU which changes things a lot.

Wish all this was simpler to explain. No wonder the WCHA did not present a detailed analysis of the playoff picture on Friday.


Don't want to stay up late for UMD at Alaska Anchorage score. You may not have to. The Gophers' fate could be sealed once the MSU at St. Cloud State (7:07 p.m.) and Michigan Tech at North Dakota (707 p.m.) scores are in:

* If St. Cloud State wins and North Dakota wins, Huskies clinch third place and North Dakota clinches fourth seed (they have tie-breaker over UMD). ... Gophers play at UND

* If St. Cloud State loses and North Dakota wins, North Dakota clinches third seed, St. Cloud State clinches fourth seed (based on tie-breakers) ... Gophers play at SCSU

* If North Dakota loses ... get another cup of coffee. You'll have to stay up to find out the Gophers' fate.

At least there is one good thing about this last weekend. The Sunday game at Mariucci between the Gophers and Badgers doesn't mean anything in terms of where those two teams finish in the WCHA standings. Both are locked into their spots. By late Saturday night -- maybe after the 7 p.m. games are done and for sure when the UMD at Alaska Anchorage game ends -- the WCHA first-round pairings will be set.


U of M fans should be hoping MSU Mankato can sweep the Huskies. That way North Dakota, which should sweep Michigan Tech, gets the third seed and the Gophers can avoid going to the Ralph. The Sioux are hot now.  They swept CC at Colorado Springs last weekend.

St. Cloud State would be a better matchup for the U.