Depending on who you ask, the Michigan hockey team is either the seventh-, ninth-, 10th- or 11th-ranked squad in the nation.
Like many other college sports, college hockey has a bevy of systems to rank teams and predict tournament seedings.
College hockey’s answers to the BCS are the PairWise rankings (PWR), the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Ken’s Ratings for American College Hockey (KRACH), which is named after co-creator Ken Butler.
All the systems have different ingredients: round robin winning percentage, teams under consideration and strength of schedule, to name a few.
So with all these competing methods, where should you turn for answers?
Sophomore Andrew Cogliano, for one, is a PairWise fan.
“The higher you get (in the PairWise), means you’re in the Tournament,” Cogliano explained. “Right now we’re seventh, and we really didn’t think we’d be that high, so that’s a good thing.”
But ask Cogliano about the RPI (Michigan is ninth) or KRACH (Michigan is 11th), and you get a different reply.
“I don’t know what those really mean,” he admitted.
With a NCAA Tournament by no means guaranteed, one thing every Wolverine understands is the importance of this weekend’s series at Ohio State.
No. 10 (in the USCHO.com/CSTV poll) Michigan goes into tonight’s game at Value City Arena just one point ahead of Miami (Ohio) for second place in the CCHA. With first-place Notre Dame out of reach, the Wolverines have just one goal in mind.
“We need these wins to get second place,” junior Kevin Porter said. “So that’s what we’ve been thinking about, and that’s most important to us right now.”
Miami travels to 10th-place Northern Michigan for its final regular-season series.
Even though the difference between second and third seems trivial, it will determine which team gets home ice should Michigan and Miami meet in the CCHA semifinals or finals. The higher-seeded team will have the final line change, a subtle but important advantage in hockey. Before each faceoff, the away team puts its players on the ice first, giving the home team the chance to respond with its own line.
Michigan (17-8-1 CCHA, 22-11-1 overall) has already clinched a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs, so this weekend’s games will be its last until March 9.
But the Wolverines know Ohio State won’t bend over to become the first weekend of a two-week break. The Buckeyes (11-11-4, 13-14-5) feature a number of talented players, most notably forward Jeff Fritsche.
The junior missed the season’s opening month while suffering from ulcerative colitis, but he has played well since returning after Christmas, with eight points in 14 games.
Ohio State averages more than three goals per game, which statistically is no match for the Wolverines’ nation-best 4.18 goal average. But Michigan has scored just 13 goals in its past five games, well below its season average.
No matter what the averages, the polls or the experts say, Michigan coach Red Berenson knows there’s just one thing above the jurisdiction of opinions or equations.
“The only thing we can control is our games,” Berenson said. “We have to give ourselves a chance by winning our games.”
Whether Michigan is a bubble team like KRACH says or a surefire two seed as PWR asserts, there’s no question the Wolverines would benefit from winning both games this weekend.
Michigan at Ohio State
Matchup: Michigan 22-11-1; Ohio State 13-14-5
When: Tonight 7:05 P.M.
Where: Value City Arena
TV/Radio: WTKA 1050