Minnesota has almost wrapped up their third consecutive Big Ten title. Unfortunately, their road split at Michigan State also means that they are essentially eliminated from contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. This also means I'm left feeling a bit frustrated about a potential title winning season. Such is life with Big Ten Hockey unfortunately.
The elimination of the Gophers from contention for an at large does simplify this post though. So it's not all bad.
Where things stand in the B1G
Let's take a quick peek at the Big Ten Hockey standings to see what work remains:
Thank you Michigan! The Gophers went into this past weekend with a 1 point lead in the Big Ten standings but left with a 4 point lead despite falling to MSU on Saturday night. Friday night's Minnesota win over MSU combined with Michigan's loss to Ohio State left the Gophers with a chance to clinch the title. Sadly Minnesota had another "sleepwalk" game on Saturday, but Michigan's sweep at the hands of Ohio State means that the Big Ten Title is almost guaranteed to end up with the Gophers regardless. Also, thanks to Penn State's split with Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions are now 7 points behind Minnesota and eliminated from title contention. This final weekend is all about Minnesota and Michigan.
How Minnesota wins the title no matter what
- Minnesota sweeps Wisconsin: Regardless of what Michigan does, the Gophers finish first in this scenario.
- Minnesota splits with Wisconsin: Same deal as above. One win is also enough for Minnesota to hang another banner regardless of Michigan's performance.
- Minnesota collects two points from the weekend: If Minnesota gets two points (either through a loss/tie with shootout win or two ties with shootout losses) they win the title even if Michigan sweeps PSU. All ties in point totals under 44 points go to the Gophers, and in this scenario the two teams would tie at 41 points.
How Minnesota wins the title with help
- Minnesota collects 1 point from the weekend: If Minnesota loses one game and ties the other while losing the shootout, they'll have 40 points on the season. If Michigan ties Minnesota with 40 points (a 5 point weekend), then the tiebreakers go to the Gophers.
- Minnesota is swept by Wisconsin: While this is a horrible potential outcome on it's own, it also means that Minnesota would need Michigan to collect 4 or fewer points against Penn State.
How Michigan win the title
There are only three outcomes that get Michigan it's first Big Ten Hockey title:
- Michigan sweeps PSU while Minnesota earns only 1 point: Michigan would finish the season with 41 points, one better than Minnesota. As noted above, in this scenario anything less than a sweep (including a tie at 40 points) gives Minnesota the title.
- Michigan sweeps PSU while Minnesota is swept: This would be an ugly way to lose out on a third Big Ten title.
- Michigan earns 5 points while Minnesota is swept: Michigan wins the title with 40 points. 4 points or fewer in this scenario means the Gophers have another banner.
What should we expect?
If the odds seem long for Michigan, it's because they are. Both teams finish the year at home, but the Gophers are facing a terrible Wisconsin squad while Michigan is playing a Penn State team that is hoping that might still be able to land an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction: Minnesota wins it's 3rd straight Big Ten Title and 5th straight conference title in a row (which would be a school record) following a sweep of the hated Badgers!
How Minnesota Makes The NCAA Tournament
Simple. Win the Big Ten Hockey Tournament. Minnesota clinched a first game bye with their win on Friday. Winning the regular season title would of course give them the #1 seed. That means Minnesota needs wins on back to back days at the B1G tourney to punch their ticket to the Tourney as a #4 seed in St. Paul.