Waiting Time for Minnesota-Duluth
Loss Slides Bulldogs Down the NCAA Bubble
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
Entering the WCHA Final Five this weekend, Minnesota Duluth had only one thing in mind.
"It was live or die," said senior forward Drew Akins. "We were thinking if we lost this game, our season's over."
While a win over North Dakota could have cemented the Bulldogs' place in the NCAA tournament beginning next weekend, their 2-0 loss Thursday in St. Paul pushes UMD even further onto the bubble.
No longer controlling its own destiny, UMD now needs help to return to the tournament for the second consecutive season.
"It's not a position we wanted to put ourselves in," said sophomore goaltender Kenny Reiter. "Hopefully, the hockey Gods will treat us well, everything will pan out and we'll have another shot at it."
"It's definitely going to be hard," Akins said of the 48-hour wait that began following the game. "Now we just have to hope and pray that the top teams win their conference championships and maybe we'll slide into that last spot."
The Bulldogs entered Thursday's game tied for 11th in the Pairwise, which determine the field for the NCAA tournament. Niagara's defeat of Bemidji State last weekend didn't help Duluth, as Alabama-Huntsville won the CHA title, and with it, the league's automatic berth. That slid the bubble down one more spot, leaving one less at-large spot available for teams like the Bulldogs, who are now tied for 14th.
Depending on how things shake out the rest of the weekend, that could be the final spot in the field.
"We went into it tonight with the same mentality," said Bulldogs head coach Scott Sandelin. "It's a one game shot. We had to keep winning games. That's the best way to take care of whatever is going to happen down the road.
"We didn't do that and now it's going to take some help."
Should the Bulldogs find themselves on the outside looking in, look no further than their non-conference record. At a pedestrian 4-4, the Bulldogs lost games and key comparisons with teams in front of them like Northern Michigan (11th), Vermont (13th) and Bemidji State (7th).
"Last year, we were 6-1-1," Sandelin said. "Within our league, we've done a good job so if anything hurts us, it will probably be that [non-conference record]."