For the vast, vast majority of UNO hockey fans, I won’t be telling them anything they don’t already know in this blog.
But for anyone who is confused about how the upcoming playoffs work in the Mavs’ new league, all the answers can be found below. (We’ve been getting our share of calls in the OWH office for how the conference’s postseason works, so it’s clear that some people have questions. It’s understandable, since UNO is a newcomer to this conference.)
I’ve also tried to answer any potential questions people might have about the 2011 NCAA hockey tournament.
So here goes:
**The addition of UNO and Bemidji State to the WCHA this season bumped league membership up to 12 schools.
**The top six squads in the final conference standings after the completion of Saturday’s games all host a best-of-three, first-round WCHA playoff series on March 11-13.
**Already this season, North Dakota, Denver, UNO and Minnesota Duluth all have locked up home ice to open the league playoffs. North Dakota has clinched the No. 1 seed and will host a first-round series against last-place Michigan Tech. The remaining WCHA playoff matchups won’t be determined until the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday night. The No. 2 seed hosts the 11th-place team, the No. 3 seed hosts the 10th-place team, and so on.
**The six teams that win first-round series all advance to the WCHA Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. The conference’s showcase event, this year’s Final Five runs March 17-19.
**The WCHA wanted to keep it’s Final Five brand name in tact. The event previously featured five teams. But now it features six teams playing five games. Thus the Final Five still is an appropriate name.
**The two highest seeds that advance to St. Paul both receive quarterfinal byes and won’t play on March 17. On that day, the four lowest seeds that make it to the Xcel Center will face off in two quarterfinal matchups.
**On March 18, the two teams that win their quarterfinal games will play the two teams that earned Final Five byes.
**The two semifinal winners advance to the March 19 championship game and play for the Broadmoor Trophy. The team that claims the WCHA playoff championship that day also earns the conference’s automatic berth into the 16-team NCAA tournament.
**The WCHA should land three or maybe even four additional teams in the NCAAs via at-large invitations. The 16-team NCAA men’s hockey field will be unveiled at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, March 20, live on ESPN2.
**The NCAA tournament begins on the weekend of March 25-27. The four pre-determined regional sties this year are Bridgeport, Conn.; Manchester, N.H.; St. Louis; and Green Bay, Wis.
**The 2011 NCAA Frozen Four is April 7 and 9, and it’s also going to be at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. College hockey takes a weekend off between its opening two rounds and the national semifinals. It does this to avoid a conflict with the men’s basketball Final Four.