The UMD men's hockey team has a number of goals this season. However, one of those goals cannot be met without another. They're sort of married in a way.
The Bulldogs are striving to win the WCHA regular season championship for the first time since 1993. To accomplish that, they first have to do something they haven't done since 2004:
Earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the league playoffs.
UMD is very close to accomplishing this feat, giving the home fans playoff hockey for the first time in six seasons.
Heading into this weekend's two-game series at North Dakota, the Bulldogs have an eight-point lead over the sixth-place Fighting Sioux. Each team has six league games left, for a total of 12 available points.
That means UMD's "magic number" for home-ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs is six points. Any combination of six points accumulated by UMD or lost by North Dakota will give the Bulldogs a coveted home-ice position.
This could happen this weekend. UMD getting a win and a tie in Grand Forks would give them a ten-point lead on the Sioux with four games to go. It would be impossible for North Dakota to catch UMD, as they could only pick up eight points over the rest of the season.
If the Bulldogs just get a split, they would only need one win or two ties in their last four games to clinch home ice.
It's not time to buy your playoff tickets yet, UMD fans, but we're getting real close.
While it will be tough -- if not virtually impossible -- to win the league given the remaining schedules of the contending teams, the Bulldogs are in a good position to play at the DECC the weekend of March 12-13. Not only that, but they're still in a good position to finish third or better, which would guarantee that the Bulldogs will avoid the play-in game at the Final Five, should they advance that far.
These are attainable goals, as is everything else at this point. Not many teams can say this, so UMD fans should take heart and enjoy the stretch run.