One more series, one more week is all that remains for the Huskies in the 2018-2019 regular season. The Huskies have already matched their points total (43) from Joe Shawhan’s first year and have one last chance to improve on last year’s total. And who better to do battle with than Northern Michigan and the Wildcats. Starting Friday in Houghton at the JMac, and ending Saturday in Marquette, there’s nothing more exciting in late February than a dog-and-cat fight in the UP on the ice–particularly when there’s something important to play for.
Despite last weekend’s sweep of Alaska-Anchorage, Tech’s chances of getting home ice in the opening round of the WCHA playoff aren’t great. They didn’t get the help they needed. It’s still possible, though. For the Huskies to play again in Houghton, these things all have to happen this weekend:
- Tech has to get all six points against Northern
- Bemidji State cannot get more than three points in their series with Minnesota State in Mankato (four points would result in a tie with the Huskies and the Beavers own the tie breaker)
- Lake Superior State can’t take more than two points in their home series against Ferris State
Is all that possible? Of course, it’s possible but what could lead to all of those things happening? Let’s look first at the two series Tech can’t do anything about.
Minnesota State has clinched the MacNaughton Cup for the WCHA regular season championship, but they certainly want to keep winning with the aim of getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. At the same time, Bemidji State still has a slim chance of getting into third place, and some chance of getting home ice in fourth place. Add this to the all-Minnesota final series rivalry, and anything can happen. I’d bet on the Mavericks giving Tech the help they need in this series.
Ferris State has every reason to play do-or-die hockey against LSSU. The Bulldogs trail Alabama-Huntsville by four points for the final playoff spot, and desperately need every point they can get to keep playing for at least one more weekend. On the other hand, the Lakers are likely smarting after getting swept by NMU in Marquette last weekend, and will make it very difficult for the Bulldogs. I really don’t think that Lake State can fail to win at least one of these games outright, and if they do, the Huskies can’t finish any better than fifth.
Finally, Tech will have to play both games just like playoff games, and hope they catch the Wildcats at less than their best. Does that pass the sniff test for the Old Dog? If we go by the past two months of Husky hockey, there’s no way that happens, particularly with NMU still having a great chance to finish second if they get a lot of points in these games. So I’d say the odor isn’t very good, and the Old Dog’s sense of smell is still pretty good about these sorts of things.
When you look at all three “musts” for home ice, that looks like a long shot Trifecta that only a sucker would bet on. That leaves the Huskies likely to end up in fifth or sixth place, because Alaska has no chance to move up to sixth from seventh, even though the Nanooks won a game from Mankato last weekend in Fairbanks.
There are a number of ways that the final order and playoff match-ups can fall, but does it really matter for Them Dogs? Fourth place and home ice would be nice, but it will take a lot for that to happen. That leaves Tech in fifth or sixth place, and they could end up playing NMU, LSSU, Bowling Green or Bemidji State on the road. Traveling to one of Tech’s UP rivals is the most probable result.
For An Old Dog in Texas, it doesn’t really matter who the Huskies play or where the games are played. We’re at the time of year where we should all forget about possibilities, forget about what is slightly better or slightly worse, and just keep saying the same thing.
Just win, baby.
Mike Anleitner is a 1972 Michigan Tech grad, and he was in the first class of what has become the Scientific & Technical Communications program. He also has an engineering degree from Wayne State and an MBA from Michigan-Ross. He spent forty seven years in various manufacturing and engineering positions, and is currently a semi-retired freelance engineer. He lives during the fall and winter with his wife of 49 years Carol–also a ’72 Tech grad–in Addison, TX, a Dallas suburb with more restaurants per capita than any other municipality in the US. During the summer, Mike and Carol reside in Elmira, MI and avoid the Texas heat.