One last chance at perfection in CCHA Week 21

By Ryan Stieg 

It was close, but no cigar last week with my predictions. In my ongoing quest for achieving a second perfect week this season, I was on the cusp of finally completing that quest. I just needed one more series to go my way.  

However, Michigan Tech ended up rallying in the third period Saturday and swept Bowling Green, crushing my hopes. Mine weren’t the only hopes that were smashed this weekend as the Huskies completely changed the MacNaughton Cup race. Well, welcome aboard guys. Misery loves company.  

Now, I get one last shot at my goal as it’s the final week of the regular season. The Cup and home ice during the first round of the CCHA Playoffs are also on the line, so there’s a lot to play for this weekend. So, let’s get started for one last season series. Here are my picks for Week 21.  

Ferris State at Lake Superior State (Friday only) 

Yep, there’s a one game matchup this weekend again between these two squads. They battled once already back in December in Big Rapids where the Lakers emerged with an easy win. Will they do it again? The odds are in LSSU’s favor and it also has more to play for. The Bulldogs are in last place and are guaranteed the No. 8 seed, but the Lakers could possibly lock up the sixth seed with a regulation victory and a couple of stumbles by NMU, who is one point behind them in seventh. I think LSSU gets that win and then its fate lies in the Wildcats’ hands. The Lakers win 4-2.  

St. Thomas at Michigan Tech 

Oh, how things have turned around for these teams with the latter moving forward and the former going in reverse and on its way backing into the ditch. Just a few weeks ago, the Tommies were in first place and in MacNaughton contention with home ice seemingly a lock. Now, thanks to multiple injuries in the lineup where it couldn’t roll four full lines last Saturday, UST no longer has a shot at the Cup and is on the verge of losing home ice as it’s now tied with Tech for third place and the last home spot. It’s kind of sad how things have gone so quickly downhill for the Tommies. Then there’s the Huskies, who were left for dead at one point. A lot needed to go right for them to get back into home ice contention and sweeping a hot BG team on the road was a great start. The smart money here is to put money on Tech since it’s playing well, and UST is basically limping into the playoffs. However, I think the Tommies force a split and with the win, lock down home ice as they hold the tiebreaker over Tech. The Huskies win Friday 4-1, but UST wins Saturday 2-1.  

Minnesota State at Bemidji State 

The MacNaughton race has come down to two teams and appropriately, they face each other for the chance to hoist it. The odds are in the Beavers’ favor as they are up by four points on the Mavericks and need just two more to lock up the Cup on their own. However, given its track record for the past few years, you can never count out Mankato. When the conference title is on the line, it seems to find another gear and get the job done. The Mavs split with LSSU last weekend and needed a late goal Saturday to make that happen. I think they force another one here, but Bemidji ends up with the Cup. Mankato wins Friday 4-3, but the Beavers win Saturday 3-2.  

Bowling Green at Northern Michigan 

Here’s another series with a lot to play for when it comes to playoff seeding. The Falcons were the hottest team in the league going into last week, but then they ran into a wall against Tech. BG is currently in fifth place, one point behind both the Huskies and UST, so the Falcons are very much in contention for the last home ice spot. Now, do you want things to get wacky? If NMU sweeps BG, it would climb up to fourth place in the standings and if the Tommies were to sweep the Huskies, the Wildcats hold the tiebreaker over Tech and would get the last home ice spot. A lot must go well for that to happen, but it’s still possible for Northern. However, I don’t think it will, and I think it’ll be a split in Marquette. The Falcons win Friday 5-4, but the Wildcats win Saturday 3-2.  

Alaska Fairbanks at Augustana 

This series doesn’t matter when it comes to the CCHA standings, but the Vikings are still a partial member, so I must mention them. This is the last regular season series for Augie as it’ll close out its year next week with back-to-back exhibition games against the USNTDP Under-18 team. The Vikings get to battle a Nanooks team that isn’t afraid to fight anyone. Alaska made that quite clear last Friday with its many brawls against Arizona State, which led to both teams handing out suspensions to their players. Things probably won’t get as heated this weekend, but it should be a competitive series and I’m picking a split. The Nanooks win Friday 5-3, but Augie wins Saturday 4-2.  

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