NMU icers to host Alabama-Huntsville

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University hockey has known for nearly two months that it would qualify for the eight-team WCHA playoffs.

And the Wildcats found out weeks ago that they would host a first-round series as a top-four team in the league.

But they didn’t discover until the wee hours of Sunday morning who their opponent would be this weekend.

A late-night series between Alaska-Fairbanks and Alaska-Anchorage had to be completed before NMU knew it will host Alabama-Huntsville for 7:07 p.m. games on Friday, Saturday and if necessary Sunday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

Huntsville was going to get the eighth and final spot in the tourney until Anchorage pulled off a second straight upset of Fairbanks late Saturday night, moving the Alabama school up to No. 7.

NMU locked into the No. 2 position behind regular-season champion Minnesota State-Mankato and ahead of No. 3 Bowling Green State after the Wildcats’ Friday home win over Michigan Tech.

Northern finished its first 20-win campaign since the 2009-10 season and at 21-12-3 has its most wins since a 22-win season in 2005-06.

Huntsville made the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14 with its most wins since 2009-10. And the Chargers split both series with NMU, Dec. 1-2 in Marquette and Feb. 3-4 in Huntsville.

In other first-round series, also to be played Friday through Sunday, No. 8 Alaska-Fairbanks goes to No. 1 Minnesota State, No. 6 Ferris State travels to No. 3 Bowling Green and No. 5 MTU plays at No. 4 Bemidji State.

These best-of-3 quarterfinal series will be repeated the following weekend in the semifinals for the first-round winners, again to be hosted by the top remaining seeds.

If the top four seeds advance from these series, the semifinals would pit Bowling Green at NMU and Bemidji at Minnesota State.

One week after the semis, on Saturday, March 17, the playoff championship will be decided by a single game to be played at the rink of the top seed still standing.

The Wildcats would host the finale that grants the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division I tournament if sometime in the first two rounds Minnesota State is upset while at the same time NMU survives each of their first two series.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.