Good Morning Student Section! While the calendar says that it's almost spring, the thermometer is far below the donut. The stretch run is here.
The sprint to the playoffs is on.
While some would like us to believe that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I beg to differ. In my opinion, college hockey's version of March Madness is the most wonderful time of the year.
The schedule for the State of Hockey
1. The Big Ten Hockey Conference has three weeks remaining in the regular season. In the final three weeks, Minnesota has a very favorable schedule. They have a series with Michigan State (home), a series with Ohio State (away), and finally a series with Penn State (home). The Gophers currently sit at 11th in the Pairwise Rankings and are getting closer to locking in an at-large bid. The Gophers are also leading second-place Michigan State by two points.
2. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference has two weeks remaining in the regular season. St. Cloud State has a series with North Dakota (away) and a series against Denver (home). Minnesota-Duluth has series with Nebraska-Omaha (home) and a series against Western Michigan (away). If the season ended today, the Bulldogs would be on the road for the first round of the NCHC playoffs.
To illustrate how tough the NCHC is, the Bulldogs would probably have to travel to Denver for the first round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs are probably a lock to make the NCAA tourney and would be a number one seed if the season ended today. Not many number one seeds have to travel in the first round of the conference playoffs.
3. The Western Collegiate Hockey Conference has two weeks remaining in the regular season. League leading Minnesota State has a series with Michigan Tech (home) and a series with Bemidji State (away). Bemidji State has a series with Ferris State (away) and a series with Minnesota State (home).
Finally, six of the eight NCHC teams would qualify for the NCAA tourney if the tournament started today.
Are the Gophers a lock to make the NCAA tourney?
On February 13, 2015, Jim Dahl of College Hockey Ranked said this, " Further down the chart, #14 Minnesota shifted all of its curves with a pair of wins - the Gophers now need about 6 or 7 wins out of 10 (consistent with last week's 8 or 9 out of 12) to climb onto the bubble before conference tournaments."
Who would have thought just a few short weeks ago the Gophers would be in the running for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney? Fans were ready to fire head coach Don Lucia and jump off the Gophers bandwagon. While there's still work to be done, the Gophers are 6-1-1 in the last eight games and seem to have turned things around.
While the Gophers aren't in the NCAA tourney just yet, they are sitting in 11th of the Pairwise Rankings and do have a favorable schedule. The Gophers have a 4-2-0 record against the three teams remaining on their schedule.
Barring a meltdown, I would have to think that the Gophers are going to make the NCAA tourney. Obviously, the Gophers have to take care of business before the conference tourney begins.