Conventional wisdom says a team cannot lose on its bye week. Conversely, it cannot win either.
Those adages are not neccesarily true.
Lake Superior State enters their final bye week of the season scoreboard watching, as the outcomes of a number of games can make Lakers’ playoff hopes much more dire before the puck drops the following weekend against Ferris State.
The bottom of the WCHA standings is the typical logjam it has been for the past few seasons. Alabama-Huntsville sits in 6th place with 30 points. Alaska has 29 points in 7th place, Ferris State is in 8th with 28 points and the Lakers sit in 9th with 27. In short, 6th and 9th are separated by just three points – or one league win.
The Bulldogs and Nanooks play Minnesota State and Bemidji State respectively this weekend; the Chargers, like the Lakers, are idle.
The following is a small breakdown of each team ahead of Lake Superior State that the Lakers can potentially pass, qualifying for the postseason in the process:
Alabama Huntsville – 30 points, 6th place
Remaining schedule – Home vs Bowling Green
The Chargers are 2-4-0 in their current homestand, being outscored by their opponents 21-16. They were swept last weekend by the Mavericks, but took the fifth-ranked team to overtime on Friday night before falling 6-1 the next night.
UAH and Bowling Green met back in December, with the Falcons taking 4 of 6 points in Ohio.
Alaska – 29 points, 7th place
Remaining schedule – Away vs Bemidji State, Home vs Alaska-Anchorage
The Nanooks have been inconsistent for much of the season. Their 5-0 win over then No. 7 Minnesota State was followed by three straight losses. Alaska then followed a home sweep of Ferris State up with a trip to Marquette, where the 20th ranked Wildcats broke out their own brooms.
Alaska and Bemidji State split earlier in the year, with the Nanooks winning in overtime on Friday before falling 3-2 to the host Beavers the next night.
Concerning the Seawolves, Alaska has won four games against their interstate rival (although two were played as a non-conference series). All bets are off for a rivalry series, but the Nanooks should be favoured.
Ferris State – 28 points, 8th place
Remaining schedule – Away vs Minnesota State, Home vs Lake Superior
Ferris State has been about as streaky as they come. Following a three game win streak in the beginning of December, the Bulldogs proceeded to go 1-9 in their next 10 games. The lone win in that stretch was a 4-0 win over Lake Superior. While a sweep of Michigan Tech gave the Bulldogs some life, a trip to Alaska the following weekend proved fruitless, as the Nanooks had their brooms in hand.
The Bulldogs face fifth ranked Minnesota State this weekend in Mankato before hosting the Lakers to end the season. Ferris State has not played the Mavericks yet this year, a team that has laid waste to the rest of the conference (and much of college hockey).
Lake Superior State – 27 points, 9th place
Remaining schedule – Away vs Ferris State
The Lakers will enter their final weekend on a four game winning streak. Making a desperate Northern Michigan-esque push to make the playoffs, Lake Superior swept Bemidji State on the road before flying to Anchorage and claiming two more wins.
Lake State’s final games of the regular season will take place at Ewigleben Arena, a place that has not been friendly to the Lakers over the years. Then again, neither Bemidji nor Anchorage have been kind to the anchor either.
While the actions of other teams will play into the Lakers’ postseason hopes, one thing is certain — the Lakers must win one of their final games to have any hope of qualifying.
The picture will become more clear after this weekend. It is possible Alaska and Ferris State pull off sweeps, putting them beyond the reach of the Lakers. Likewise, it is possible they both get swept, leaving them within striking distance. The Lakers can catch Alabama Huntsville and, depending on how things go, may be crowded around a radio on the bus back to Sault Ste. Marie, intently listening to learn of their postseason fate.