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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: ACHA Bubble Watch for Division I National Tournament

As the season winds down and selection day for the national tournament is near, the No. 19 Arizona Wildcats hockey team still has a shot at making it to postseason play for the first time since 2004.

The team has been inconsistent under first year head coach Sean Hogan throughout the season, earning both painful losses and impressive wins.And while the Wildcats might be on the wrong side of the bubble right now, they still have hope.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, the tournament field expanded from 16 teams to 20, giving them a little more room for error.

Unfortunately that number is deceiving.

Six automatic bids are given out to the winners of ACHA conferences— (only the ESCHL doesn’t get one—), which limits the amount of at-large bids. This becomes even more troublesome for Arizona since it’s independent and can’t gain an auto-bid.

In conferences like the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) and Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (GLCHL) this won’t be a problem since the current leaders are No. 5 Ohio and No. 13 Davenport respectively, both of whomteams which would have made the tournamentit regardless. However, four of the six conferences currently have a projected winner ranked behind the UA, taking away precious tournament slots.

With only two weekends left, the Wildcats will need to take advantage of their upcoming games against stiff competition if they want to fulfill their goal and finally return back to the national tournament.

No. 19 University of Arizona Wildcats (12-12-1 overall, 3-10-1 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
Arizona has some impressive wins on its resume. The Wildcats beat No. 5 Ohio at home, and No. 8 Oklahoma on the road. They also beat No. 7 Iowa State on the road in a shootout. During its early home stretch, Arizona dominated its opponents. Spanning from the end of its Iowa State loss to its second victory against Weber State, Arizona was on a 47-0 run during a 237 minute shutout streak. The Wildcats also have a shot to make up ground in their final two series against No. 3 Arizona State and No. 10 Minot State. Unfortunately for Arizona, it lost 2-1 in both games against Davenport this past weekend, and while the games were very close, including an overtime loss, they were still missed opportunities. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 15 and No. 16 in the two computer polls, so they have that in their favor.

Case against tournament:
The Wildcats have two of the worst losses compared to their competitors, with losses to Division II Colorado and Michigan State. Also, aside from the ranked wins previously mentioned, they haven’t done well against other ranked teams, losing to No. 14 Oakland, No. 16 Stony Brook and No. 17 Central Oklahoma. Still, four of their losses came against No. 3 Arizona State, including one that went to shootouts.

Outlook: The Colorado loss was devastating, and so was the Michigan State loss, but Arizona is still alive. The Spartans have actually beaten even higher ranked ACHA teams like Oakland and No. 12 Illinois, so the loss isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Still, the Wildcats need to win at least three of the four upcoming games for a realistic shot.
Of course, good play by the Wildcats won’t mean anything if they don’t get some help from the teams ahead of them.

No. 15 University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos (14-13-0 overall, 6-11-0 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
The Bronchos have beaten No. 1 Penn State and No. 3 Arizona State in Tempe, but both were in a shootout. Also, their worst losses were against No. 16 Stony Brook and No. 22 Kent State at home. On first glance, Central Oklahoma has a very impressive resume.

Case against tournament:
The Bronchos have been a .500 team the whole season and haven’t really passed the eye test.

They have some nice wins on their resume, but they haven’t gotten the respect you would expect from them. Hogan didn’t think Central Oklahoma was very good when they beat Arizona 3-2 at home, but it was still a win for the Bronchos. They’re ranked No. 16 and No. 15 in the computer polls, so they are right on pace with the Wildcats. It might take some work, but for being the No. 15 team they can be passed.

No. 16 Stony Brook University Seawolves (11-11-0 overall, 5-9-0 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
Stony Brook has pretty much lived up to its expectations— they have only lost the games they should have and won the others. Their only anomaly is an impressive shootout win over No. 6 Liberty 5-4 at home. The Seawolves are very vanilla, but sometimes that’s all you need to make it.

Case against tournament:
Again, they haven’t really done much to impress. Their second best win is a 5-2 victory against No. 15 Central Oklahoma, but they did beat Arizona 5-3 Their last series was against Liberty, where they lost one, but did get that key win, which should keep them from dropping when the new rankings come out.

They may not have a mind-blowing resume, but so far they have done enough to make the tournament. Plus, their win over Arizona will make it a little difficult to be picked over them, but it’s possible.

No. 17 Adrian College Bulldogs (12-12-1 overall, 3-10-1 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
Adrian has lost a lot of games, but they’ve also won some impressive ones. The Bulldogs beat No. 3 Arizona State 7-6 at home and No. 6 Liberty on the road. In addition, most of their losses have been to ranked teams in close games, with their only bad loss being a 2-1 defeat at unranked Eastern Michigan.

Case against tournament:
*Adrian has lost too many games to be a foregone conclusion for the tournament. Still, most of the losses were very close and against extremely tough competition.

Adrian dropped two places in the coaches’ poll this week and it’s ranked No. 23 in the second computer poll. Of course, it’s No. 14 in the other, so the Bulldogs definitely have an edge on the Wildcats but they’re trending downwards.

No. 18 West Chester University Golden Rams (16-7-0 overall, 8-4-0 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
The Golden Rams have a .696 winning percentage overall and a .667 percentage against ranked teams. Both of these marks are much better than any of the other bubble teams. Also, in their last game they won on the road at No. 20 Rhode Island.

Case against tournament:
Their two best wins are by only a combined three points against No. 16 Stony Brook at home. They also lost games against unranked Syracuse at home and at unranked Drexel. They’re currently ranked No. 20 and No. 13 in the computer rankings.

The Golden Rams bad losses aren’t quite as bad as the Wildcats, but they aren’t even close to having as many impressive of wins. If the final spot was between West Chester and Arizona, the decision would come down to what’s more impressive to the coaches: overall wins or beating elite teams.

No. 20 University of Rhode Island Rams (15-12-0 overall, 5-11-0 ranked games)
Case for tournament:
The Rams only bad loss was 9-1 against the University of New England, a NCAA Division III team. Also, they were No. 8 overall in the preseason rankings, so they definitely have talent. Rhode Island has beaten both Stony Brook and West Chester, two teams ahead of them.

Case against tournament:
Their best win is against the No. 16 team but they’re still only a game over .500. In addition, they are ranked No. 19 in the computer poll. While the Rams have only lost to ranked teams, they haven’t beaten many either.

If the Rams finish off strongly they could put pressure on the final spot, but it seems like a long shot. A bad sign for Rhode Island is that it’s ranked No. 19 in both computer rankings. Arizona should be pretty safe from them.

Projected Teams in National Tournament:
1. (Host) Kent State University (No. 22)
2. (Clinched) Rutgers University (No. 21)
3. (Auto-bid) Ohio University (No. 5)
4. (Auto-bid) SUNY Canton (No. 12)
5. (Auto-bid) Davenport University (No. 13)
6. (Auto-bid) University of Pittsburgh (No. 25)
7. (Auto-bid) Drexel University (NR)
8. Penn State University (No. 1)
9. University of Delaware (No. 2)
10. Arizona State University (No. 3)
11. Lindenwood University (No. 4)
12. Liberty University (No. 6)
13. Iowa State University (No. 7)
14. University of Oklahoma (No. 8)
15. Robert Morris University Illinois (No. 9)
16. University of Minot State (No. 10)
17. Oakland University (No. 14)
18. University of Illinois (No. 12)
19. University of Central Oklahoma (No. 15)
20. Stony Brook University (No. 16)
Projected Teams out of National Tournament
21. Adrian College (No. 17)
22. West Chester University (Tied No. 18)
23. University of Arizona (Tied No. 19)
24. University of Rhode Island (No. 20)

*Current as of January, 15, 2012

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