The road to Detroit is finally on the last stretch. Just 2-6 games separates 4 teams from a trip to Detroit, and just 2 wins away from the Mason Cup. Last year we saw two MAC schools meet in the final, where Miami beat Western Michigan in a tough game 5-2 (if you watched the game you know the score doesn't tell the story of the game) to capture their first Mason Cup.
Flash-forward to this year. Both Miami and Western Michigan are back in the hunt and Bowling Green is back as the pesky home-wrecker everyone suspects as a quiet friend. We are going to quickly look at the three teams' last weekend, then look at the 3 First round match-ups coming up this weekend.
We start in Bowling Green where we had the only team hosting 2 home games this week play the # seed in the CCHA tournament, Michigan. The Falcons were simply playing to play the role of spoiler, and they did beautifully. They played Michigan for 100 minutes so close, and almost gave Western (who we'll get to later) a chance to get the 2-seed in the tournament. BGSU won the first game 4-3, and held Michigan scoreless Saturday through 2 periods, but the Wolverines finally broke through and won 3-0. Andrew Hammond played his butt off still, stopping 46 of the 48 shots he faced (the other shot was an Empty netter) in the loss. That's scary good.
Now we go to Oxford, where the RedHawks pounded their in-state rival Ohio State to a combined score of 8-1. The results of the weekend overall bumped Miami up to the 4-seed, and will now host Michigan State after a first-round bye. Miami played some great defense, and had their offense going as they kept the Buckeyes down (they've won 1 game in 2012).
And we finish in Kalamazoo, where the Broncos continued to be Bulldog kryptonite taking 5 of 6 points against the #1 Ferris State team in a home-and-home. The Friday game included a thrilling shootout that went 7 rounds before WMU finally won on a Greg Squires goal followed by a Frank Slubowski save. In the Saturday game, Western spoiled FSU's senior night and won 3-0 to clinch at least a tie for the 2 seed. They did tie with Michigan, and will be the 3-seed in the CCHA tournament. They get a first-round bye and will host the highest seed to come out of the 1st round.
So about those first round match-ups.......
(All numbers are the seedings, and all series are Best of 3.)
#11 Bowling Green at #6 Northern Michigan - "Hmmmm. This sounds familiar." If you are thinking that, it is probably because we had this exact same match-up, with the exact same seeds last year. Bowling Green won the series 2-1, winning the last two games including a 2-1 double overtime thriller in game 3. This is the only series where both teams know who they'd face if they won. If NMU wins, they get Western Michigan. If BGSU wins, they go to Ferris State.
#10 Alaska at #7 Lake Superior State - Lake State got swept by NMU this weekend, and fell from first-round bye status to hosting an always dangerous Alaska team. This Nanooks squad was predicted to finish 5th this year, but couldn't seem to win games throughout the season. Nevertheless, this is still a very talented squad who could easily pull the upset. Both teams will be looking to advance to the second round for a 2nd straight year.
#9 Ohio State at #8 Notre Dame - Remember a time when these two teams were at the top of the standings? For Ohio State it was just a month ago and for Notre Dame it was December. Nevertheless, thanks to awful Januaries and Februaries these two teams are at the bottom of the totem pole, and will face off in the marquee series. Both teams are scary to play in the 2nd round, so if the seeds hold true, Ferris State could get the nightmare team to play in the 2nd round.
The playoffs begin on Friday, the same day I start my break. Good luck to all our MAC teams as they make their run to the Joe