ST. CLOUD, Minn. � After Friday’s 2-1 victory over the St. Cloud State Huskies, it appeared certain that the Wisconsin Badgers were on the fast track to secure home ice for the WCHA tournament’s first round.
Just 24 hours later, that certainty was fleeting.
With their 3-2 loss in Saturday’s series finale, the Badgers allowed the Huskies to pick up the two points they surrendered the night before and climb to within just one point of them in the conference standings.
�I don’t think we let it slip,� sophomore Michael Davies said after Saturday’s loss.
He was referring to the game. The chance to host the first round, however, may well have slipped out of the Badgers’ grasp with Saturday’s loss.
St. Cloud, a team also fighting to earn home ice and an NCAA tournament bid, wasn’t about to go down without a fight after getting beat at home Friday in a close contest.
�Now it’s up to us,� St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko said following the loss. �We have to respond.�
His Huskies responded in the form of a 3-2 win and put themselves in prime position to leapfrog the Badgers in the standings.
The problem for UW, which has 27 points, is that it has no more regular season games. Meanwhile, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State�both tied with 26 points�each have one series remaining next weekend.
Home ice in the first round is given to the conference’s top five teams. The Badgers are currently in fourth, but Minnesota State and St. Cloud � tied for fifth � are nipping at their heels.
�It’s out of our control,� Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said about his team’s playoff fate. �So we sit and watch now.�
St. Cloud now travels to North Dakota, where they will take on the Fighting Sioux. UND is second in the WCHA with 35 points and boasts a 13-4-0 record at home this season. Minnesota State plays host to a Michigan Tech team that is just 12-17-5 and 4-8-3 on the road in conference games.
The Mavericks need just one point to secure one of the top five spots and home ice, as they hold the tiebreaker with the Badgers after beating them twice and tying twice. St. Cloud, on the other hand, will need two points against North Dakota, as Wisconsin took three out of four from them this season.
�You can’t really worry about it,� senior defenseman Kyle Klubertanz said about next weekend’s games. �If we worry about it, it’s just going to break away from our focus and everything we need to get done this week.�
The week off will allow the Badgers to get healthy before the playoffs begin March 14. Eaves said his team will have Monday off and will practice Tuesday through Friday.
�It’s a big week. We don’t play, but we can do a lot of things in practice as we gear up for the playoffs,� Klubertanz said. �It’ll be kind of nice to recover.�
An air of uncertainty will surround UW this week in practice, making it tough to gear its game plan toward a particular opponent. Not knowing if they will play at home or on the road will mean the Badgers will be keeping a close eye on the action in the rest of the league.
�It’s going to be interesting and fun to watch. We could be (playing) in four different places,� Davies said. �We can’t let it get to our heads.�
�That’s why we can’t worry about it too much because a lot of things could happen; we don’t know what’s going on,� Klubertanz said. �We just have to practice like we have games. We’ve got to stay intense; we can’t slack off too much. We’ll just have to wait and see.�