Sure we might be mad at Penn State for creating a hockey program that forced a B1G hockey conference and led to "Those Left Behind" killing the WCHA. But now we at least have something to thank the Nitts for- they beat Wisconsin and may very well have killed their NCAA tourney chances.
Not that we'd ever be ones to point and laugh at the misfortune of others but come on- when Bucky Badger loses to Penn State 3-2 in OT?!? AT HOME? Yeah something that beautiful simply cannot be overlooked.
From Andy Johnson's recap on Bucky's 5th Quarter:
"We're going to look back at this game and say it was a game of missed opportunities," Eaves noted. "We're going to probably look at the film and say we out-chanced them two-to-one and we didn't score enough to put it out of the game in regulation."
...Regardless of who they've beaten, the loss is an embarrassing one for a Badger club that has NCAA tournament aspirations. The loss dropped Wisconsin from No. 17 in the Pairwise to No. 28, virtually crippling its ability to earn an at-large birth.
You know what else Eaves may say about this game when he looks back on it after the season? It was the game that eventually got him fired. Johnson again:
If the Badgers don't make the NCAA tournament this season, it will mark the third year in a row and the fifth in the past seven that Eaves has failed to lead his club to the tournament.
Barring a miracle finish you can change that "IF the Badgers don't make the NCAA tournament.." to WHEN, as Bucky faces perhaps the country's toughest remaining four games at UNO and home to St Cloud State. I'd say it's much more likely UW gets swept than sweeps those last two series, and regardless, they'll now likely have to win the Final Five in St Paul to go dancing. Unless they play the games outside on the Mississippi so the horrible ice conditions can play to Wisconsin's favor and their horrible defensive style of hockey, let's just say I don't like their chances. And I like that I don't like their chances. Besides studying game film for these last two weekends, Eaves may want to brush up the ol' resume too as, unless Joel Maturi suddently becomes Wisconsin's AD, missing the NCAA's three years in a row would be considered unacceptable for any top college hockey program.
As for your Gophers, it's business as usual with another non-sweep in conference play and yet the polls and Pairwise still love them as they remain a strong #2 in both. However, it's looking very doubtful they'll be #1 in anything to finish the regular season as they have virtually no chance of catching Quinnipiac for #1 in the polls or Pairwise, and their chances aren't great of eclipsing St Cloud State for the MacNaughton Cup either. The Huskies host Michigan Tech this weekend before closing at Madison, and if they sweep Tech this weekend (which I'd say is likely), they would only need to split with Wisconsin to put a strangle hold on the top spot in the WCHA. A sweep and split would give them six more points for 39, meaning Minnesota, currently with 31 points, would need to sweep their remaining four games for eight points just to tie. Considering Minnesota has swept just one conference series all season...yeah it's looking like St Cloud will win their first ever MacNaughton Cup in their last season in the WCHA.
And good for them. While it would have been great to claim back-to-back regular season crowns, St Cloud still sits 10th in the current Pairwise, and while wins against Tech and UW would sew up a regular season championship it won't help their Pairwise much at all as Bucky's in danger of falling out of the top 30 while Tech isn't in the rankings at all. Barring a collapse in their last four, Minnesota remains in great position to hold that #2 spot heading into the postseason, and would then likely only need to win their first round WCHA series and Final Five opener to clinch a #1 tourney seed. And in a season where getting back to the Frozen Four and winning the National Title should be the ultimate goal, not being in the top spot in anything to end the regular season would be just fine with me.