With National Signing Day taking up most of the headlines last week, we took a week off to let you digest all of the MACtion going on. Besides, two MAC schools were sandwiching byes (individually that is) between the coverage, so there wasn't a large flux of games to be had anyways. Yet with 4 weeks left in the regular season, the competition is getting more fierce within the conferences. Let's take a look at the teams' weeks starting with the far-and-ahead front-runner for a NCAA bid, Western Michigan.
Western Michigan Sees Brooms Both Weekends
After a bye week to rest up and return home for the first time in what seemed like a while, the streaking Western Michigan Broncos were promptly swept by an equally red-hot Minnesota-Duluth team at Lawson Arena. In the first game, WMU was out-played by a mile in the 3rd period, surrendering three goals while entering the period in a 2-2 tie and holding a large chunk of a UMD major penalty to use at their disposal.
The next night, the Broncos responded well, scoring the first goal, but three straight Bulldog goals downed WMU 3-1. Each goal seemed to be more "fluky" than the rest. The first occurred when junior net-minder Frank Slubowski couldn't get a handle on a loose puck and the ensuing rebound just barely made it under his sprawled out body. The 2nd was a nifty wraparound between the legs of a waiting Jordan Oesterle (seriously, if you can find video of it, it's pretty sweet. All one motion). The 3rd happened while the Broncos were in the middle of a line-change.
The next weekend saw the Broncos take on Miami in Oxford, which leads us to. . .
RedHawks Woes Continue, Clipped By Broncos After Bye
Yep, Enrico Blasi's powerful RedHawk team returned home as well and also had a bye, but were swept again by former CCHA foe and fellow MAC team Western Michigan. Friday saw Miami come out completely flat, as the Broncos scored twice in 22 seconds just 2 minutes into the game. A third goal all but dejected the Goggin crowd, and Miami never got the lead down to a single goal en route to a 5-2 victory. Shane Berschbach had two of those three 1st period goals.
The RedHawks responded well on Saturday, scoring two goals in the 1st period with solid special teams play. First, Riley Barber netted his 17th goal of the season on a nice short-handed goal. Then, Matthew Caito scored on the power-play to knock Lukas Hafner out of the game. However, Frank Slubowski's appearance re-energized WMU, as they scored 3 goals in the 2nd period, with Will Kessel's game-winner occurring just 29 seconds before the intermission.
How rare is WMU beating Miami? Well, they hadn't won in Oxford since 2004, and hadn't swept Miami in a season series of four or more games since 1987-88. So, yeah. Anyways, WMU needed that sweep badly, as they still sit in a tie for 5th place in the NCHC even with all 6 points. However, they trail conference leader St. Cloud State by just 4 points. Meanwhile, Miami is reeling. They are likely to play one of the top two seeds on the road, as they sit tied for last and a full four GAMES behind WMU (who, with Denver, are the team[s] directly above the RedHawks). Oof.
UMass Splits A Pair Of Series, Everyone Loses Their Minds
So I'm beginning to think UMass reads this stuff. After all of the dogging we've (or I've) done on the Minutemen, they've responded with two somewhat solid weekends. They first drew a usually decent Boston U team 3-3 despite apparently outplaying them (49-22 SOG differential). They then followed that up with a huge road win against #11 Northeastern, who may or may not have been looking forward to their Beanpot final match-up with soon-to-be #1 Boston College on Monday. Sure they dropped their next game on Saturday at home versus #7 UMass-Lowell 5-3, but they hung tough against a team that was ranked #1 pre-season.
Seriously though, the Minutemen are starting to put games together. They have 4 games left, and all of them are against teams that are ranked in the top 11 currently: @UMass-Lowell, vs Northeastern, and a home-and-home against #8 Providence. They were just moments away from holding 8th place in the Hockey East before Notre Dame made a furious, and somewhat miraculous come-back against Maine on Saturday to tie them up. The Irish also have a game on UMass while 10th place Boston U has two games in hand, so the Minutemen could very likely play on the road in the Hockey East first round. But they suddenly look like contenders for that host spot as well, so anything can happen!
Falcons Falling Fast, Swept By Michigan Tech
Remember when Bowling Green was 2nd in the WCHA and looking like contenders for a possible at-large bid in the NCAAs? That was a month ago. Since then, they've had two bye weeks, and have gone 1-3-1 against relatively weak opponents, all at home. Worst yet, they now sit tied for 4th in the WCHA that sees LSSU and Northern Michigan sitting just six and five points respectively out of 3rd, but have two games in hand on the rest of the conference. Usually, that means nothing, but Lake Superior State is currently the first team out of the WCHA tournament, so the log-jam isn't just for home ice anymore, it's for a vital play-off spot.
Bowling Green is fighting for their playoff lives now, and must do it predominantly on the road. Their next two series are at Alaska-Anchorage, the team they are tied with for the last home-playoff spot and a team that is 10-3-1 on it's home ice, and at Northern Michigan, who are usually pretty solid at home as well. They'll have a semi-bye week between those series, with the U.S. U-18 National Development Team coming to town in an exhibition match. Either way, Bowling Green fans must now hope that the Falcons find their mid-season form or risk missing out on the post-season altogether.
Full standings below, rankings put in after article written. . .
|1||#4 Ferris State||20||15||3||2||32|
|9||Lake Superior State||20||9||11||0||18|
|1||#6 St. Cloud State||16||9||4||3 (0)||30|
|2||#16 Minnesota-Duluth||16||8||6||2 (2)||28|
|3||#17 North Dakota||16||9||7||0 (0)||27|
|5||Western Michigan||16||8||7||1 (1)||26|
|#18 Denver||16||7||6||3 (2)||26|
|Colorado College||16||3||9||4 (1)||14|
|1||#1 Boston College||15||13||1||1||27|
|8||#20 Notre Dame||15||5||9||1||11|