Round 4: WSR's unofficial D2 Central Region poll

11/27/14 - SPRINGFIELD, MO - Judging from the numerous debates raging through the various forums, the decisions of who the pollsters send to the playoffs in the Central Region this year may spark riots and move continents.

The top 15 teams can all stake a claim to one of the ten playoff spots except for, oddly enough, the undisputed top dog (Lindenwood Belleville), who is ineligible for post season play in their first year of existence.

WebSports Radio has their opinion, of course, combining the efforts of broadcasters Steve Casson and Dan Lee into one comprehensive and inarguable answer to everyone’s questions.

Yeah, right.

For what it’s worth, here is the final WSR Central Region Division II poll for what has been a very entertaining year. Good luck to all the teams in the playoffs!

 

TW = This week ..... LW = Last Week

 

1 - Lindenwood (Belleville) - Steve: 1, Dan: 1

Steve: It’s a given that the Lynx will finish in the top spot, even though they are ineligible for post season play.

Dan: Congrats to the Lynx for being the best regular season team in the region this year. Such a shame we won’t see them in the playoffs.

 

2 - Grand Valley State - Steve 2, Dan 2

Dan: With a split with Michigan State and a loss to Michigan the Lakers stumbled across the finish line, but they still cross that line in second place nonetheless. Missouri State and Lindenwood tripped a little too, and Grand Valley will stay where they are for the same reasons that Lindenwood will be forced to make a regional tournament appearance.

Steve: It was a tough final ranking period for the Lakers including a 4-1 defeat to unranked Michigan. While splits with Michigan State and Davenport didn’t help, the losses don’t justify a drop from the top seed in the Central. Grand Valley has lost just 4 games to division II teams.

 

3 - Missouri State - Steve 3, Dan 3

Steve: Despite a 7-6 OT loss to Robert Morris-Maroon the ice bears stay in the third spot. Going 7-1 in the final ranking period with sweeps over Dallas Baptist, Missouri and Illinois by large margins adds credence to a team that has only surrendered five losses to division II teams.

The return of two defensemen and a forward by the time Nationals get underway in March will bolster a tough defensive core that has given up only 89 goals.

Dan: Even if Missouri State had not blown a 5-2 lead and lost a road game to Robert Morris in OT, I still don’t believe they would have done enough to hop past a shaky Lakers’ effort in period 4. The Ice Bears had a relatively easy last lap that would not have warranted an upward move.

By the same token, they won big in the games they were supposed to (with that one exception), and a 10-game win streak near the end should guarantee they join GVSU at the Nationals via the automatic bids.

 

4 - Lindenwood Steve 4, Dan 4

Dan: Before you Lion fans get too excited you should know that a split with Illinois State pretty much kills any thought of leap-frogging Missouri State for the second auto-bid. I don’t believe you could have given it to them even if they had swept the Redbirds, because there’s still that nasty business of having been swept by the Ice Bears. The good news is, not being swept by Illinois State and strong wins over Waldorf will make the Lions the favorite at the Regionals, and I fully expect them to show up at the Nationals.

Steve: Two forfeit wins against Ferris State altered the 7-1-1 record for the Lions in the final ranking period. Not only did the Lions split with Illinois State, they needed a pair of goals from John Mulligan to secure a win - and ultimately a sweep - against #12 Waldorf. Mulligan scored the tying tally with less than five minutes to go in regulation, then notched the game winner on a power play at 1:34 of overtime.

 

5 - Illinois State - Steve 5, Dan 5

Steve: A 9-7 victory January 17 over Lindenwood is the only reason the Redbirds stay put. Compiling a 4-4 record including losses to Florida Gulf Coast (No. 1 Southeast) and No. 13 Iowa might have dropped Illinois State in my book. But a 1-1-1 record with Northern Illinois earlier in the season and NIU’s split with Wisconsin-Eau Claire hurts the Huskies more than it helps Illinois State.

Dan: Illinois State had moments of greatness all season but slight inconsistencies kept them from the mountain top. Period four was no different as they squandered a chance at the automatic bid by splitting (instead of sweeping) Lindenwood and Iowa. Still, the Redbirds are going to be a team to reckon with at the Regionals and should find themselves the No. 2 seed going in.

 

6(T) - Northern Illinois - Steve 6, Dan 7

Dan: Read my paragraph below to see why I dropped the Huskies a notch.

Steve: Although an 8-2 record down the stretch is commendable, splitting with DePaul and No. 14 Wisconsin-Eau Claire tainted a possible leap over Illinois State. The Huskies handed the Bluegolds their second loss of the season, 4-3, before falling 10-2 in game two.

 

6(T) - Michigan State - Steve 7, Dan 6

Steve: Yes, the Spartans went 1-5 (as of this writing) with a pair of losses to Florida Gulf Coast and a loss to (No. 6 Southeast ) Toledo, but a split with the Lakers helps MSU more than it hurts GVSU.

Jim Martin's squad always seems to rise to the occsassion when it's playoff time and the Spartans usually put their best on the ice. Look for good things from this team in Regionals.

Dan: There is plenty of room for argument here and mine probably won’t be the most popular solution, but I’m moving Michigan State ahead of Northern Illinois for three reasons.

First is a comparison against Florida Gulf Coast, which both teams were swept by in the final go-round. Michigan State’s 4-5, 2-5 performance looks noticeably better than the Huskies’ 1-8, 2-5 shellacking.

Second, the Spartans split with GVSU while Northern Illinois could only muster a split with lower-ranked DePaul. Finally, Michigan State’s other losses were close against top-ranked Southeast Region teams, while NIU self destructed in a 2-10 loss to Wisconsin-Eau Claire. They did manage a split in that series, and if you look at the entire course of the season an argument can be made that NIU belongs ahead of Michigan State.

But the last ranking period makes me believe that at this point in time, the Spartans are a better team.

 

8(T) - Southern Illinois-Edwardsville - Steve 8, Dan 10

Dan: I just can’t put Southern Illinois ahead of Iowa after being swept by them and quite frankly I have to wonder what to do with a team that had splits against six of the top 15 teams (if you count a 4-3 shootout loss to Waldorf as a tie instead of a loss since the ACHA doesn‘t recognize the shootout in this case).

They have shown that they can beat just about anybody, but they lack consistency. I really think you can take positions 5-11 and make a case anyway you want to sort them, but I trust my instincts on this one. They will get their chance to prove themselves at Regionals.

Steve: Ignore the defeat to Waldorf. Strange losses have happened to Lindenwood-Belleville, -Illinois State, Missouri State and Grand Valley among others. That’s a hockey season for you. While the Cougars continue to mystify, their 6-1-1 record (in the last period) is no fluke.

This will be the only situation where a sweep by Iowa — which happened early in the season — will not be enough to help a surging Hawkeyes team surpass SIUE. But it won't matter come playoff time.

 

8(T) - Waldorf - Steve 10, Dan 8

Steve: This is where thinking about ranking criteria has given me a headache. Taking a win and skating to a 3-3 tie with SIUE almost gave the Warriors the No. 7 spot, but I just can’t justify a leap from No. 12 to No. 7 in the same ranking period and to base it on one game. Add taking Lindenwood to overtime in a 3-2 loss helps their cause.

Dan: Waldorf’s sweep of Iowa looks better and better as Iowa improves. But a pair of losses to Lindenwood (even though impressive games) and a split (officially) with SIUE halts the Warriors rise at #8 on my ledger.

 

10(T) - Iowa - Steve 11, Dan 9

Dan: Iowa continues to atone for their slow start at the beginning of the year. In period four they gained a split with #5 Illinois State and swept DePaul convincingly, while playing fairly well in losses to powerful D1 Iowa State.

Yes, they dropped a sweep to Waldorf early on in the season, but they also swept SIUE among other noteworthy feats. I’m keeping the Hawkeyes above the Cougars.

Steve: It’s at this point where I could argue that Central Michigan should stay in the top ten. While a 6-3 win over Ferris State and a sweep over D1 Indiana Institute of Technology should keep them afloat.

Despite a lack of scheduled games, I have to put Iowa in this spot. There, I finally said it. The Hawkeyes’ triumph over Illinois State January 30 combined with a victory over Lindenwood-Belleville and a sweep of SIUE earlier in the season have convinced me.

 

10(T) - Davenport - Steve 9, Dan 11

Steve: All season long there was trepidation when placing the Panthers. Wins against Division III teams didn’t seem to justify a look, but a convincing sweep over No. 10 Northern Michigan and a three goal victory over Grand Valley State gives Davenport the third to the last Regional spot.

Dan: You just knew Davenport would be coming on strong by the end of the season and sure enough, here they are. In the last period they split with GVSU and blew Northern Michigan 10-3, 10-4) right out of the Regionals. A sweep by Michigan State shouldn’t hurt them bad enough to keep them out, as they are still the best alternative from what remains.