The Pacific-8 Hockey Conference had their surprises this season. As the University of Washington Huskies prepare for their upcoming conference regular season finale this weekend in Eugene against the University of Oregon Ducks, the rankings and standings within the conference will get very interesting as the final four games of the regular season – conference and non-conference – for all teams can change things around thanks to the KRACH (pronounced as KRAY-ch) rankings that the conference instituted for the 2014-2015 season.
We will not go over how the KRACH rankings works, so let me spare the details and just move on to what could happen with the seven teams that are aiming for a trip to South Lake Tahoe.
Secure I-5 Cup, Wait Out the Rest of Other Teams Play
The Huskies go into this weekend’s I-5 Cup matchup with the Ducks down at The Rink Exchange with a comfortable third place spot and a 7-2-1-0 (wins-regulation losses-ties-overtime/shootout losses) record. Now remember, both Oregon and Washington met back in October with the Huskies winning the first game and the Ducks tying the second game without a shootout implemented. A Huskies win or tie on either Friday or Saturday night secures Washington their tenth I-5 Cup title since the championship began in the 1999-2000 season. After that, all they can do is watch and see what happens with the other schools that are not named UCLA, Washington State, and...oh yes, Oregon.
Ducks, Golden Bears are Hunting, Not Being Hunted
Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks are sitting in fifth in the standings with a 4-5-1-0 conference mark. However, Oregon currently has a slight advantage in regards to their schedule as they have all four of their final home games being played against conference opponents. Besides Washington this weekend, the University of California Golden Bears, who sit in second place at 7-4-0-1, visit Eugene next weekend to play the final two games against the Ducks, which could determine if the Huskies could propel into second place over the Bears if Oregon gives them help next weekend despite the Huskies playing their final two regular season games at home against lowly non-conference opponent Portland State University Vikings.
Trojans, Utes at War
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, the University of Southern California Trojans have been leading the conference standings with a 7-2-0-0 record despite holding on to an overall record of 7-13-0-0. Fortunately, USC is not anywhere in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s Division 2 West Regional rankings. That honor belongs to the University of Utah Utes, the defending conference champions who sit in fourth place with an undefeated conference record at 6-0-0-0, but 20-2-2-0 overall. Both teams play against each other this weekend in Utah.
Why in fourth place in the conference you ask?
One of the minimum requirements, according to the PAC-8, is that a team must play the minimum of eight games in order to be qualified to play in the conference tournament. The Utes only scheduled eight conference games – with two of them wins via forfeit to California – while the majority of the regular season schedule are all non-conference games against tougher opponents from around the west region just to be qualified for the ACHA Division 2 Nationals tournament. Utah would have been in the top spot if more games were played within the conference. Regardless, the Utes are the team to beat, regardless where or how they finish in the regular season and/or PAC-8 Tournament.
Cougars Control Own Destiny
The Washington State University Cougars and the UCLA Bruins are battling for the #6 and final seed of the tournament, but the Cougars, who already completed their minimum eight-game conference schedule, hold that advantage over the Bruins, who finally earned their first conference win of the season last Friday night over Oregon. UCLA has three conference games remaining, all against their crosstown rival Trojans, at the end of the month.
When (or shall we say, if) the Huskies advance…
A top two finish in the conference standings earns them a bye day into a Saturday semifinal as one of the top two seeds. A win in the conference tournament puts them into the ACHA West Regional tournament, which takes place February 26th – 28th at the Eccles Ice Center in Logan, Utah. If the Huskies captures the regional championship, they will move on to play in the Division 2 Nationals tournament on March 18th – 22nd at the Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
A lot can happen in these next two weeks. Let the drama begin.