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It could always be worse/The Red Line

October 20, 2011
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

One of, if not the most celebrated straw men out there is the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Are those darned private schools recruiting? Blame the MHSAA. Had to play the best team in the tournament in the first round? Blame Lansing. Gas bill cost too much for that state tournament game below the bridge? Their fault.

I'll admit to being frustrated by certain decisions they have made, but when you get right down to it, it's not an easy job, balancing competing interests along nearly every conceivable dividing line, and the MHSAA does a fairly good job at it. After all, at least they can add.

On the other side of the border, it hasn't been so easy. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association had to re-do the pairings in its Division 6 football tournament after it got it wrong on Hurley's playoff resum.

This is not the first time it's happened, either. In 2009, Hurley had to challenge the first draft of the bracket because it didn't get the home game it deserved.

This year, the Wisconsin football season started a week early to try and normalize the process, getting rid of mid-week first-round playoff games and giving teams more time to prepare. It didn't work out that way. The WIAA got sued by representatives of the suburban Messmer/Shorewood co-operative, which was serving the fourth year of a playoff suspension for leaving its assigned conference (another bad idea) and used a loophole in the rules to convince a judge that the penalty only applied if they were to be an independent.

Fact Box

Highlight of the weekend? Correctly picking Tech to beat Wisconsin Friday. Lowlight of the weekend? Everything else after a ghastly 5-11-1 start.

Michigan Tech at Bemidji St.

Cautious optimism is the scene here in Houghton as Tech's 4-0 start has created buzz, but buzz tempered by the fact that the Huskies started 3-0-2 last season. Continuing that into this weekend's series at Bemidji St. could be a challenge, but having lost three in a row (including a sweep at Colorado College last week), BSU has problems of its own. The good times roll, at least for another game.

The Verdict: Tech 4-3 Friday, BSU 3-1 Saturday

Minnesota St. at Denver

Denver beat the No. 1 team in the country last week (Boston College) on the road. Granted, they lost the next night out to Boston U., but Minnesota State got swept at home by UMass-Lowell, a team on the opposite end of the Hockey East standings from BU. This may not be pretty.

The Verdict: DU sweeps, 6-2, 4-0

Alaska-Anchorage at Nebraska-Omaha

Wait, didn't we just Yes, UAA and UNO met last Friday in Fairbanks for a non-conference game (UAA won 3-0). The teams migrate to the Lower 48 for a game that counts in the league standings and I expect UNO to raise its game to match.

The Verdict: UNO sweep 4-2, 3-2

North Dakota at Wisconsin

Three goals in both games was good for three points in North Dakota's non-conference series with Maine last weekend. Meanwhile, the Badgers are probably just happy that Grand Forks isn't in the U.P. Wisconsin started with NMU and Tech and won just once (coming from 2-0 down to do it). Both teams suffered big losses from last year, but it's clear that ND is much farther ahead than the Badgers.

The Verdict: ND sweep 3-2, 5-4

Minnesota Duluth at Providence

I doubt he was hired specifically for this series, but there may be no better expert on Minnesota Duluth on the Eastern seaboard than Providence assistant coach Jamie Russell, previously of Michigan Tech. After all, he saw them four times a year for eight years. Then again, the Friars are at the beginning of a rebuilding project and scouting can't bridge the gap between next-to-last in Hockey East and the national champs.

The Verdict: UMD sweep 5-3, 5-2

New Hampshire at

St. Cloud State

It was not a fun return to the U.P. for SCSU defenseman Kevin Gravel of Kingsford, as the Other Huskies got swept at the Berry Center. They'll take a three-game losing skid into a non-conference series with UNH, which has gotten its doors blown off (combined score 14-1) in three Hockey East games so far. Someone's got to win this one.

The Verdict: UNH 3-2 Friday, SCSU 3-2 Saturday

Vermont at Minnesota

Hockey East and the WCHA had an interlocking schedule for a time in the 1980's. I assure you that has not returned, no matter what it looks like. Not much data on the Catamounts, who haven't played a real game yet. The Gophers grabbed a surprising road sweep in Duluth, winning both games 5-4 on the back of some bad UMD goaltending (.833 save percentage and five goals on 16 shots Saturday). Can UVM be that rusty?

The Verdict: UMn sweep, 5-3, 3-2

Last Week: 5-11-1

For the season: 32.3 percent

The WIAA released the brackets in Divisions 3-7 Monday night (two days late) and finally in 1 and 2 Tuesday after a judge ruled in favor of "Messwood."

The Michigan system that has been in place since 1999 is not perfect (too many good U.P. teams can't find games because teams won't hop on the bus for a game they could lose), but it seems to be the least worst.

A quick reminder of how it works: Any team that wins six games (or five in a schedule of eight games or less) qualifies into the playoffs automatically. Calumet is in and Lake Linden-Hubbell will be if it beats Forest Park Saturday.

The rest of the field of 256 teams is filled by teams in each class (A, B, C, D) with the highest playoff point average (a system that basically measures 'strength of victory').

Once the 256 are established, they're ordered from top to bottom by enrollment and chopped into eight equal divisions, each of which has a 32-team tournament with districts decided by geography and seeded by playoff points.

A home game for Calumet seems unlikely, even if it beats U.P. No. 2 Marquette Friday, as current projections put a pair of eight-win teams (Iron Mountain and McBain) in Division 6, Region 1, District 1. Barring a big surprise, the Copper Kings will be in one of those locations next weekend.

In Division 8, LL-H is in now, but if Ontonagon beats Baraga and Forest Park takes down the Lakes, Ontonagon would be in line for the 5-4 lifeboat ahead of LL-H, mostly due to the fact that the opponents LL-H has beaten (Houghton, Hancock, Bessemer-Wakefield-Marensico, Bark River-Harris and Baraga) have a combined 7-33 record. The teams the Glads, who won the head-to-head matchup, vanquished are currently 14-18 (North Central, L'Anse, B-W-M and LL-H).

If both or either makes the cut, they'll probably see Forest Park or North Dickinson again in the first round.

Any team that goes 5-4 knows it's on the knife edge, so there could be a lot of nervous watching when the MHSAA Selection Show airs Sunday on Fox Sports Net Detroit. As far as I know, there'll be no corrections and no lawsuits. Just football, and that's how it ought to be.

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@



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