Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2011-2012 WCHA Power Rankings & Tiers: Two Weekends Left

With only two weekends remaining in the WCHA season, one would think that the teams would have settled into a groove in the league standings and in the power rankings. Not so. Lots of movement in the WCHA standings, and lots of movement in the power rankings, too. Let's look:

WCHA Standings:

1. Minnesota - 17-7-0 (21-11-1 Overall), 34 Points
2. Minnesota-Duluth - 14-6-4 (20-7-5 Overall), 32 Points
3. Denver - 13-7-4 (18-10-4 Overall), 30 Points
4. Colorado College - 13-10-1 (16-12-2 Overall), 27 Points
4. North Dakota - 13-10-1 (17-11-3 Overall), 27 Points
4. Nebraska-Omaha - 11-8-5 (14-12-6 Overall), 27 Points
7. Michigan Tech - 10-10-4 (13-15-4 Overall), 24 Points
8. St. Cloud State - 10-11-3 (13-15-4 Overall), 23 Points
9. Bemidji State - 9-12-3 (15-14-3 Overall), 21 Points
10. Wisconsin - 8-14-2 (13-15-2 Overall), 18 Points
10. Minnesota State - 8-16-2 (12-20-2 Overall), 18 Points
12. Alaska-Anchorage - 5-20-1 (8-20-2 Overall), 11 Points

Power Rankings:

1. Minnesota (No Change)
Last Ranking: #1
Recent Results: Swept @ (3) Denver, Sweep vs. (8) Bemidji State
21-11-1 Overall, 17-7-0 WCHA
Next Week: @ (6) Nebraska-Omaha

The Gophers have been up and down in their recent games, struggling in Denver but sweeping in convincing fashion versus the Beavers. Minnesota is still the team to beat in the league, holding a two-point lead and the tiebreaker over Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers travel to Omaha and come home to face Wisconsin in their last two weekends.

2. Minnesota-Duluth (No Change)
Last Ranking: #2
Recent Results: Split vs. (4) North Dakota, Win & Tie @ (10) Minnesota State
20-7-5 Overall, 14-6-4 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (5) Colorado College

The Bulldogs gave away a valuable point on Saturday in Mankato, allowing the Mavericks to tie the game with two goals in a ten second stretch with just over two minutes remaining in the game. That point could prove to be costly, as UMD now sits two points behind the Gophers in the league and loses any tiebreaker to them. To win the league, they'll likely need to take at least seven of their remaining eight points and hope the Gophers do no worse than split down the stretch. That could be a tough task, as the Bulldogs host Colorado College and travel to St. Cloud to end the year.

3. Denver (UP 1)
Last Ranking: #4
Recent Results: Sweep vs. (1) Minnesota, Split @ (10) Wisconsin
18-10-4 Overall, 13-7-4 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (4) North Dakota

Denver launched itself staunchly into the conversation for the league title with a sweep of Minnesota two weeks ago. They followed it up with a win Friday night against Wisconsin, but could not complete the sweep, falling on Saturday. With a Minnesota sweep, Denver gave up two points to the Gophers, and now sit four points back. They will probably need to sweep their remaining series' versus North Dakota and at Nebraska-Omaha and hope for a misstep from Minnesota in order to win the league.

4. North Dakota (UP 1)
Last Ranking: #5
Recent Results: Split @ (2) Minnesota-Duluth, Win & Tie vs. (7) Michigan Tech
17-11-3 Overall, 13-10-1 WCHA
Next Week: @ (3) Denver

The Fighting Sioux have their name back (for now), and they seem to have found their game as well. North Dakota has climbed from the bottom of the league standings into a tie for fourth place, but they have a series with rival Denver and a home matchup with Minnesota State remaining.

5. Colorado College (DOWN 2)
Last Ranking: #3
Recent Results: Swept @ (8) Bemidji State, Split vs. (6) Nebraska-Omaha
16-12-2 Overall, 13-10-1 WCHA
Next Week: @ (2) Minnesota-Duluth

Colorado College continues to be a team that cannot figure out what it is. In a split against Minnesota they were a team with solid goaltending. In taking three out of four points from Denver, they were a team that could beat the best the league had to offer. In being swept at Bemidji State, they were a team that could not win on the road in games that they needed to win. CC takes its act on the road to Duluth this weekend.

6. Nebraska-Omaha (UP 1)
Last Ranking: #7
Recent Results: Tie & Win @ (7) Michigan Tech, Split @ (5) Colorado College
14-12-6 Overall, 11-8-5 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (1) Minnesota

UNO survived two very important series fairly well in the last two weekends, taking five out of eight points against teams tied with them in the standings. The grind continues for them, as they host Minnesota and Denver in their final two weekends. UNO is in a position to grab home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, but they will need to take some points in those difficult games and hope that Michigan Tech cannot make up three points in the standings.

7. Michigan Tech (DOWN 1)
Last Ranking: #6
Recent Results: Tie & Loss vs. (6) Nebraska-Omaha, Loss & Tie @ (4) North Dakota
13-15-4 Overall, 10-10-4 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (9) St. Cloud State

Michigan Tech moves back out of the top half of the power rankings with disappointing results in games that they needed to take points in. They're now on the outside looking in for a home playoff spot - at this point, they'll need to win some games against St. Cloud State and at Colorado College, and will need to get some help from one of the three teams tied for fourth place in the league.

8. Bemidji State (No Change)
Last Ranking: #8
Recent Results: Sweep vs. (5) Colorado College, Swept @ (1) Minnesota
15-14-3 Overall, 9-12-3 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (10) Wisconsin

Bemidji State has experienced the highs and the lows the last few weeks. They swept Colorado College at home before being swept at Minnesota. The good thing for Bemidji is that they have a chance to make up some ground in their final two weekends of the season - they host a Wisconsin team that has won only one road game all season, and then travel to Anchorage to take on a Seawolf squad that has occupied the bottom of the league table all season. They'll need to get a lot of help in order to make up enough points to get home ice, but they could easily make up enough points to climb into seventh or eighth place in the league.

9. St. Cloud State (No Change)
Last Ranking: #9
Recent Results: Idle, Split vs. (12) Alaska-Anchorage
13-15-4 Overall, 10-11-3 WCHA
Next Week: @ (7) Michigan Tech

After a much needed break, St. Cloud dropped a stunner at home to Alaska-Anchorage before winning the rubber match on Saturday night. Despite all their injuries, the Huskies still sit just four points out of home ice. They'll need to do damage against good teams the rest of the way, as they travel to Houghton to take on Michigan Tech before coming home to host the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth.

10. Minnesota State (No Change)
Last Ranking: #10
Recent Results: Sweep @ (12) Alaska-Anchorage, Loss & Tie vs. (2) Minnesota-Duluth
12-20-2 Overall, 8-16-2 WCHA
Next Week: Idle

Mankato continues to prove that they're not as bad as their record suggests. They went up to Anchorage and swept (something that the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth could not do), and then came home and took one point against that same Bulldogs team. The one point came in stunning fashion, too - down two goals with just over two minutes left, Minnesota State scored two in just ten seconds to force a tie. The Mavericks have this weekend off before traveling to Grand Forks to take on the Fighting Sioux in their season finale.

11. Wisconsin (No Change)
Last Ranking: #11
Recent Results: Idle, Split vs. (3) Denver
13-15-2 Overall, 8-14-2 WCHA
Next Week: @ (8) Bemidji State

For a team that is allergic to winning on the road, the next couple weekends might not be all that fun for the Wisconsin Badgers. Bucky travels to Bemidji to take on the better-than-expected Beavers, before heading to Minneapolis to battle the Gophers in both teams' regular season finales. Wisconsin could very well finish 11th in the league.

12. Alaska-Anchorage (No Change)
Last Ranking: #12
Recent Results: Swept vs. (10) Minnesota State, Split @ (9) St. Cloud State
8-20-2 Overall, 5-20-1 WCHA
Next Week: Non-Conference Home-and-Home vs. Alaska-Fairbanks

Alaska-Anchorage was swept at home by Minnesota State, but traveled to St. Cloud and took an overtime win on Friday night. The Seawolves play a home-and-home versus Alaska-Fairbanks before hosting Bemidji State in their final WCHA series of the season. They will likely finish last in the WCHA and will need to travel to the WCHA champion's rink for the first round of the playoffs.

Team Tiers:

Last Week

Tier 1 - Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth
Tier 2 - No Teams
Tier 3 - Colorado College, Denver
Tier 4 - North Dakota
Tier 5 - Michigan Tech, Nebraska-Omaha
Tier 6 - Bemidji State, St. Cloud State
Tier 7 - Minnesota State, Wisconsin
Tier 8 - Alaska-Anchorage

This Week

Tier 1 - Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver
Tier 2 - No Teams
Tier 3 - Colorado College, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha
Tier 4 - Michigan Tech
Tier 5 - Bemidji State, St. Cloud State
Tier 6 - No Teams
Tier 7 - Minnesota State, Wisconsin
Tier 8 - Alaska-Anchorage

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