For the first time this season, all 10 WCHA teams are in action against one another. It should make for a more exiting weekend than we’ve seen before this season — all five series will have four league points on the line.
Which teams will separate themselves from the pack? Will Michigan Tech remain undefeated? Can Alaska pick up its first win?
Most importantly: Will either Shane or I be able to pull away from one another in the pick ‘em standings?
SO MANY QUESTIONS!
Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this weekend. I’ll be able to watch all 10 games from afar from my compound on the shores of Lake Bemidji (well, more like newsroom office building a couple miles from the actual shore of Lake Bemidji, but who’s counting?). Shane, meanwhile, will be in Houghton, Mich., for the best college hockey series of the week.
Let’s see who picks best.
Minnesota State (7-3-0, 5-1-0) at Michigan Tech (10-0-0, 8-0-0)
Jack: I’m a little jealous you get to be at series game, Shane. But raise your hand if you expected this to be a game between the top two teams in the Pairwise at any point this season (MSU perhaps… Tech no). That said: Michigan Tech is a really fun team to watch. I saw them play perhaps their worst two games of the season last week against Bemidji State and still find a way to win. And Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips might be a legitimate Hobey Baker candidate if he stays as hot as he has lately. Despite all that, I still don’t think Tech is going to go 44-0-0 this season. If anyone can beat this Huskies team right now, it’s the Mavericks. I’m picking a split. Huskies 3-2, Mavericks 3-2.
Shane: I’ll admit: I love the road trip to Houghton. This year, however, takes the cake with No. 1 vs. No. 9 (or No. 2, if you like early Pairwise chatter). This should be a fantastic WCHA — no, college hockey — series, and I just hope the lake-effect snow subsides for a bit so I can get there on time! I think these two teams split. Huskies 4-3, Mavericks 3-2
Bemidji State (3-7-0, 2-4-0) at Bowling Green (8-3-1, 5-1-0)
Jack: There’s not much more the Beavers can do other than hope for a some freak illnesses. After scoring 10 goals in a sweep of the Alaska Nanooks at the Sanford Center, Bemidji State has played four pretty outstanding games in a row and lost each of them (special teams could use some work, but 5-on-5 the Beavers have been excellent). Granted, they played Minnesota State and Michigan Tech — two of the best teams in the country — but there wasn’t much separating the Beavers from either team. At some point the wins have to come if BSU is going to keep playing at this high level, but this week doesn’t get any easier against a sneaky good under-the-radar Bowling Green team. I’m going to call a split so long as the Beavers can finally get some bounces to go their way. Falcons 5-4, Beavers 4-2
Shane: Seems like Bemidji State deserved better than to go 0-4 with the way it played the last two weeks against Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. Now it gets no easier with a road series against a very good Bowling Green team. I think the Falcons are a legit MacNaughton Cup contender, but the Beavers are going to flex some muscle and force a split. Beavers 4-2, Falcons 4-2
Alabama Huntsville (2-8-2, 1-5-0) at Ferris State (6-5-0, 3-3-0)
Jack: Did the Bulldogs finally figure it out? They scored 14 goals last weekend after getting just 11 in their first nine games. It’s hard to tell if that was just an anomaly against a road-weary Anchorage team. The Chargers, meanwhile, aren’t the Chargers of the past three years. They have a legitimate goaltending duo and are learning how to play in the WCHA. I can see the Chargers scoring at least a point. Bulldogs 4-2, Chargers 2-1
Shane: If these two teams had played a week ago, I might have been poised to pick an upset, just because of the Chargers’ goaltending and the Bulldogs’ scoring woes. Then Ferris State went and hung 14 goals on Anchorage. Huntsville might keep things close with Carmine Guerriero trying to match C.J. Motte in net, but Ferris sweeps. Bulldogs 3-0, 4-1
Alaska (5-5-0, 0-4-0) at Lake Superior State (2-10-0, 2-6-0)
Jack: I have no idea what to make of this series. It’s weird that the Nanooks, with all that talent, are winless in the WCHA right now. It makes sense, however, considering their recent tribulations. Lake State, meanwhile, has just two wins overall and hasn’t looked super impressive in either. I’m not sure how this is going to play out but I’m going to pick an Alaska sweep simply because I don’t know if the Lakers can score enough to beat the Nanooks. Nanooks 6-4, 3-1
Shane: I wonder if the week off was good for the Nanooks, who have lost five in a row and had the bombshell of NCAA sanctions go off in the middle of it all. This weekend’s long trip to the Sault could be an interesting look at where their heads are at. Meanwhile, the Lakers appear to be playing better after their 0-9 start. Nanooks 5-2, Lakers 2-1
Northern Michigan (6-1-1, 3-1-0) at Alaska Anchorage (4-6-2, 1-5-0)
Jack: Much like Bowling Green, NMU is another sneaky good team . Mathias Dahlstrom is the best goaltender in the country, and leads the nation in goals against (0.74), save percentage (.970) and shutouts (3). Still, that Alaska trip is never easy. So I’m picking a split and can see Dahlstrom faltering a little bit in the first game and giving up TWO WHOLE GOALS in a loss before rebounding Saturday with a shutout. Seawolves 2-1, Wildcats 3-0.
Shane: A road-weary Seawolves team returns home after 11 days in Michigan in hopes of snapping a five-game losing streak. A rested Wildcats club begins a two-weekend Alaska trek and has the best goaltender in the country going for them. Still not ready to call for an Alaska school to get swept at home. Wildcats 3-1, Seawolves 2-1
Last week: Shane 4-4-0, Jack 4-4-0.
Overall: Shane 43-27-5, Jack 44-26-5.