The WCHA, in its final season in its current form, and most likely its final season on the men’s side of things, is having themselves a superb year. Alabama Huntsville is playing the underdog role with 13 freshmen and dramatically improved results from returning players. Ferris State has a World Juniors Champion . Bowling Green is one of the most complete teams in the country with multiple stars on it. Lake Superior State has one of of the top goalies in the country in Mareks Mitens leading a veteran team. Also, Michigan Tech has one of the best goalies in the country, a really tough system to scheme against, and is in a good spot as well. Minnesota State still is in pole position for the McNaughton Cup with its sterling start to its WCHA season despite losing a lot of scoring up front.
All of the top six teams in this league are playing good enough hockey, that the “eye test” should actually benefit this league this year without normal factors of consideration being used. In its final year, the WCHA may have more influence over the final field than realized.
Why write about this?
Well, the WCHA is being looked on by some as an after thought. Every year, like Atlantic Hockey, it seems like the leagues is talked about as an afterthought. Given that the ECAC only has four teams participating this year, and both independents do not look to be candidates for an at large bids, the other five conferences will get to compete for some extra at-large spots.
In addition, defensively, the WCHA is a league built on being able to play close games, like those which are commonplace in postseason hockey. Six teams are within the top 22 of fewest goals allowed, and all of those teams, arguably are fighting for a postseason spot in the league. Given the non-use of the pairwise, all of these teams still have some claim to being under consideration, as long as they finish at .500 or better of course. That style plays better in the postseason when games are typically tight checking, low scoring affairs throughout.
Not many leagues play consistently defensive hockey as well as the WCHA has. Given its top goaltenders, and opportunistic offense, they, like Atlantic Hockey, will have more teams representing them in the NCAA Tournament this year, and deservedly so.
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