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Unknowns outnumber certainties headed into final WCHA weekend

By: JOE PAISLEY
March 3, 2013
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One thing is certain: Colorado College can finish no better than eighth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Just about everything else entering the final weekend of this regular season is undetermined, including the champion. Only 12th place, Alaska-Anchorage, is decided.

Eighth is not certain for CC. The Tigers have a three-point lead over ninth-place Minnesota-Duluth (12-17-5, 8-13-5 WCHA), which could overtake CC (13-16-5, 10-12-4) with a home sweep of sixth-place Nebraska-Omaha.

The Tigers can avoid being swept at 10th-place Michigan Tech (11-17-4, 7-15-4) to secure eighth. The Huskies have plenty to play for; they could move up to ninth or drop to 11th.

CC wants to enter its March 15-17 first-round road playoff series, wherever it may be, on a positive note.

“We need to get back to playing the way we have the last two Fridays,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said.

As the eighth seed, CC would travel to the fifth-place finisher, who could be anyone from Minnesota or North Dakota, tied for second, to seventh-place Denver, which hosts Anchorage this Friday and Sunday.

“I would prefer finishing eighth so we can avoid playing against one of the top four teams,” Owens said. “I have no idea who we may play. It changes every night.”

Saturday proves that.

If St. Cloud State had not lost 5-1 to Tech, the hosts would have clinched the MacNaughton Cup and the top playoff seed. Instead, No. 7 SCSU clings to a two-point lead over No. 2 Minnesota and No. 6 North Dakota, both with 33 points, with four points available.

No. 9 Minnesota State-Mankato and No. 16 Wisconsin (31 points) are tied for fourth. The Badgers host SCSU and MSU entertains UND this weekend. Minnesota plays at 11th-place Bemidji State.

As many as four teams – Minnesota, North Dakota, SCSU and Wisconsin -- could tie for first and be declared conference co-champions. MSU could take UND’s spot as a co-champ if they sweep.

“Well, it’s like coach said that it wouldn’t be right if the conference title didn’t come down to the end of the season with the way our league is,” Huskies junior center Nic Dowd told the St. Cloud Times. “That’s how it is in the WCHA. You get punched in the face, you’ve got to bounce back up and play another two games next weekend.”

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