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Handicapping The Golden Bears’ CWUAA Title Run

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This is not a gambling advice column. I repeat, this column is not encouraging students at western Canadian universities to start an unlicensed, and therefore illegal sportsbooks in their dorms or whatever, and take bets on a level of hockey that is currently not available for wagering on any major sportsbook, as far as I’m aware.

That being said, I thought it might be fun to try and figure out what the Golden Bears’ playoff series odds would be, if one could bet on such a thing. So, I made a stats model. Here’s how:

Step 1:

Figure out CWUAA teams’ goals scored and allowed averages, relative to league average. I’ll use the Golden Bears as an example.

The Bears scored 134 goals in 28 games this season, an average of 4.79* goals per game. Meanwhile, the average CWUAA team scored 3.13 goals per game, meaning that the Bears’ offence was 53% more potent than the average team in their conference. This gives them an offensive index of 1.53.

*if you’re doing the math at home, rounding is likely why your numbers aren’t exactly the same.

The Bears also allowed 55 goals in 28 games, an average of 1.96 goals allowed per game. This means that they allowed 63% as many goals as the average team. A defensive index of 0.63.

Step 2:

After determining each team’s offensive and defensive indices, apply them against their opponents’ raw goals scored and allowed averages.

For example:

The Saskatchewan Huskies scored 4.11 goals per game this season, and allowed 1.75. If the Bears continue to outscore the average team by 53%, and the Huskies allowed an average of 1.75 goals per game, that means that the Golden Bears are going to be projected to score 2.67 goals in a hypothetical neutral-site game against the Huskies.

The Huskies score 4.11 goals per game against everyone, and the Golden Bears allow 63% as many goals as the average team, so the Huskies would be projected to score 2.57 goals against them.

*note: For this CWUAA model, I am using goals only as the basis. For my NHL model, I use a combination of actual goals and expected goals, and, for my AHL model, I use a combination of goals and shots on goal. This is partially because I’m not sure where to find shot-data for this level of hockey, and because, even if I did have this information, I suspect the lack of parity in Canada West would mean that top teams can sustain an other-worldly PDO.

Step 3:

Adjust for home-ice advantage.

I made the assumption that home-ice advantage is has a similar impact in USports hockey, as it does in the NHL. So, I used NHL data from 2016-now which suggests that a home team should have their yearly goals per goal average boosted by just over 5%, and the road team should have their projected goal total suppressed by just over 5%.

*home teams have outscored road teams 10333 to 9266 since the start of the 2016-17 season, per hockey reference. 10333+9266= 19599. 19599/2 = 9799.5. 10333/9799.5 = 1.0544 = home ice multiplier; 9266/9799.5 = 0.9456 = road team multiplier.

For example, the most likely Canada west final will be #1 Saskatchewan hosting #2 Alberta. And, while I showed earlier how Alberta would be favoured against Saskatchewan in a neutral-site game. Saskatchewan’s home-ice adjusted projected goal total would be 2.71. Meanwhile, Alberta’s adjusted goals projection against Saskatchewan, in Saskatchewan, would be 2.53.

Step 4:

Converting goal projections to win probability.

To do this, use the pythagorean win expectancy formula, which is: GF^2/(GF^2+GA^2). For Alberta, their win expectancy % for each game they play against the Huskies, in Saskatchewan, would be 46.4%. Which means that you would have to be offered a betting line higher than 2.15 (in decimal odds) in order to have positive expected value. Oddsmakers, such as pinnacle, who operate with a 5% margin (2.5% on each side), would probably offer Alberta at 2.10 for each game and Saskatchewan at 1.82.

Of Course, those are just the win probabilities for each game. If a team is favoured to win each game of a best-of-three series, they will be even more favoured to be the first team to with the two out of three games needed to advance.

To figure out how favoured a team would be in a series, one needs to calculate the probability of every possible outcome, and add them together, and see how many scenarios will have one team winning, compared to how many scenarios will have the other team winning.

For example, in the most likely CWUAA final, the possible outcomes are as follows:

scenario 1: UofS, UofS - probability (0.536 * 0.536) = 28.7%

scenario 2: UofS, UofA, UofS - probability (0.536 * 0.464 *0.536) = 13.3%

scenario 3: UofS, UofA, UofA - probability (0.536 * 0.464 * 0.464) = 11.5 %

scenario 4: UofA, UofS, UofS - probability (0.464 * 0.536 * 0.536) = 13.3 %

scenario 5: UofA, UofS, UofA - probability ( 0.464 * 0.536 *0.464) = 11.5 %

scenario 6: UofA, UofA - probability (0.464 *0.464) = 21.5%

If you add up the three scenarios where the bears win (scenarios 3,5, and 6), you’ll see they add up to 44.5 out of 99.8, which is because I rounded everything to 2 decimal places. Use a spreadsheet, and you’ll see that the Golden Bears would win the series 44.6 % of the time, given these single game win probabilities.

This means that, without a bookmaker’s margin, the Golden Bears would be priced at 2.24 to win a best-of-three series against the Huskies, in Saskatchewan. With a five percent margin, that’s 2.19, and, with a 10% margin, like you’ll get for pre-match bets on most sites, that’s about 2.13. But, remember. I am not suggesting that anyone should start an unlicensed sportsbook. That would be illegal. Probably fun, and profitable. But also illegal.

Of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself. The bears would still have to beat the highest remaining seed left, after this upcoming weekend’s first round of playoffs, to even make the Canada West finals, and compete for their 16th conference title in the last 20 years. Their most likely opponent in that series would be none other than the Calgary Dinos.

If it is in fact the Dinos that the Bears will host in two weeks, the bears would have a 76.6% chance of winning each game, which would result in a 86.1% chance of advancing, and a 58.7% chance of sweeping.

Combine the Bears’ 86.1% chance of making the final, and their 44.6% chance of winning it, and I would say that the Golden Bears have about a 38.4% chance of winning Canada West again.

A strong Huskies team is making it interesting this year, so, if the Golden Bears do win again, it will be as much of an underdog story as 16 titles in 20 years could ever be. But the chances of it actually happening are still a hell of a lot higher than the Oilers’ playoff odds.