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Hockey Sweeps Alaska, In Position for Bye to CCHA Quarterfinals

Senior Weekend for hockey went well, as the Spartans took care of business against 10th-place Alaska with a 3-2 overtime win Friday night ( recap here) and a 3-0 win Saturday (recap). That moves MSU up to fourth in the CCHA and 10th in the Pairwise with one weekend left in the CCHA regular season. The playoff format is:

  • First weekend of March: top five get the week off, the rest play in the best-of-three first round (11 at 6, 10 at 7, 9 at 8).
  • Second weekend: Best-of-three quarterfinals. 5 at 4, 1-3 host the three winners of the first round (reseeded).
  • Third weekend: Final two rounds (single elimination) at the Joe. Semifinals are reseeded. There is a third-place game which, unlike the rest of the tournament games, is allowed to end in a tie (to ensure that the title game is not delayed); I'm not sure if a shootout would take place at the end of OT (it hasn't come up since the shootout was instituted in CCHA regular-season play).

Standings and what we need to do to ensure that we get a bye after the jump.

Tiebreakers (courtesy of MGoBlue, mostly because I can't find them on the CCHA site):

  1. Conference wins (regulation or OT only; shootouts are ties)
  2. Head-to-head win % (shootouts count as ties)
  3. Head-to-head goal difference
  4. Win % against the highest-ranked teams not in the tie (I believe this continues down the line, as the Big Ten tiebreakers do, but I'm not certain)
  5. Coin toss

Standings (W-L-T (Shootout wins) -- points):

  1. Ferris State 16-6-4 (1) -- 53
  2. Michigan 14-8-4 (1) -- 47
  3. Western Michigan 13-10-3 (3) -- 45
  4. MSU 13-10-3 (2) -- 44
  5. Miami 13-11-2 (1) -- 42
  6. Lake State 11-11-4 (4) -- 41
  7. Ohio State 11-10-5 (1) -- 39
  8. Notre Dame 11-12-3 (0) -- 36
  9. Northern Michigan 9-11-6 (3) -- 36
  10. Alaska 8-16-4 (2) -- 30 (conference play completed)
  11. Bowling Green 4-18-4 (3) -- 19

This weekend's series: MSU @ Notre Dame, Ferris and Western home-and-home, Michigan @ Bowling Green, Miami and Ohio State home-and-home, Lake State @ Northern. (Alaska is playing Alaska-Anchorage in a non-conference series.)

Ferris has a share of the title locked up and wins it all unless they get swept and Michigan sweeps (Michigan won the head-to-head series and would thus claim the tiebreaker). Michigan has locked up a bye (Lake State can catch them in points but would lose the tiebreaker on total wins) but could fall as far as 5th (getting a bye but having to go on the road in the quarters). Alaska and Bowling Green are locked into 10th and 11th. ND and NMU can move up but can't get a bye (both lose the tiebreaker with Miami, and if Miami gets swept Ohio State would move up to 45 points anyway).

So there are five teams fighting for the remaining three byes: Western, us, Miami, Lake State, and Ohio State. Our situation:

  • 5 or 6 points: Top four spot (bye and home ice for the quarterfinals) guaranteed. We get to second place with:
    • 6 points and Michigan gets 2 or fewer points (or 3 via two shootouts) and Western does not get all 6, or
    • 5 points and Michigan gets 0 or 1 point and Western gets 4 or fewer
  • 4 points: Bye guaranteed, but we could end up on the road if Miami sweeps OSU, Michigan picks up at least 1 point, and Western gets 4 or more. (If we get the 4 points by winning two shootouts, a single Western non-shootout win would also put them ahead of us.)
  • 3 points via standard split (W+L): Bye guaranteed (we'd own the tiebreaker over Lake State on wins), but we could end up on the road if Miami picks up at least 5 and Western at least 3.
  • 3 points via two shootouts: A Lake State sweep, in addition to the circumstances above, would knock us into the 6th spot and a first round date with Bowling Green.
  • 2 points: Lake State still has to sweep in order to be ahead of us (5 points would leave us with the tiebreaker on wins), along with Miami getting 4 points and Western 2 to knock us down to 6th.
  • 1 point: We fail to get a bye if Lake State gets 5 points, Miami gets 3, and Western gets 1. (Ohio State can't catch us because we'd have head-to-head.)
  • 0 points: We can still finish fourth if Ohio State wins both games but needs a shootout to win one and Lake State picks up only 3 points. Any other result in the Ohio State-Miami series, or Lake State getting 4 or more points, would knock us down; both happening would drop us to 6th. (We can't drop below 6th because Ohio State and Miami can't both catch us.)

In short: win at least one game in regulation or OT this weekend or win two shootouts, and we'll have next weekend off. Fail to do so, and we will be rooting hard for Northern and Ohio State in order to avoid a nothing-good-can-come-of-this series with Bowling Green. (If we don't win both, rooting for Ohio State is still recommended to avoid getting a road series in the quarters - although in the Pairwise there's a danger that both OSU and Miami could leapfrog us if things go poorly.)

Friday's game is at 8:35 ET on CBS College Sports; Saturday's is at 7:05 on Comcast Local.