No. 19 Nebraska Omaha (6-5-1, 5-2-1 WCHA) at No. 11 Denver (4-3-2, 3-2-2 WCHA)
Tyler: Nebraska-Omaha’s goaltending situation, between John Faulkner and Ryan Massa, has held the Mavericks back but Adam Murray hasn’t exactly put a lid on Denver’s net either. This weekend will see a couple of high-offense shootouts out on the range. Neither team is head and shoulders above the other so…split. UNO earns its first ever win in Denver.
Brian: The Pioneers hold a 8-3 advantage in the all-time series, and have dominated in Denver (6-0). DU’s power play has struggled overall so far going just 6-of-40 (15 percent) with the man advantage but UNO’s penalty kill (79.1 percent) ranks just ninth in the conference for the season. Something’s got to give there. In conference games, the Mavericks rank first in third-period scoring with 16 while only two teams (Bemidji State and Wisconsin) have allowed more than Denver’s 10 goals in the final period. In addition, the third is DU’s least-productive scoring period so it’s advantage-Mavericks if it’s close after two. On the heels of snapping a seven-game winless streak against Bemidji State last week, UNO will break another streak of futility in Denver and earn a split.
No. 15 Michigan Tech (6-3-1, 4-3-1 WCHA) at Alaska Anchorage (3-6-1, 0-6-0 WCHA)
Tyler: The biggest thing yet to learn about Michigan tech is whether or not it can win on the road. The Huskies lost their only two games away from Houghton, getting swept in Bemidji, Oct. 21-22. Now, the Huskies are going to Anchorage and won’t return home until after Thanksgiving. The Seawolves are struggling to score but I expect a minor turnaround, but one big enough for UAA to sweep this weekend.
Brian: To say the Seawolves have lost their scoring touch would be an understatement. After outscoring four non-conference opponents 17-9, UAA has been outscored 23-4 in conference play. Although the Huskies lost their only two road games of the season I don’t see Alaska-Anchorage’s offense getting healthy against MTU’s team defense and goaltending. Michigan Tech sweeps UAA in Alaska for the first time since Feb. 13-14, 2004.
Minnesota State (3-7-0, 2-4-0 WCHA) at No. 8 Minnesota-Duluth (7-3-2, 5-2-1 WCHA)
Tyler: Minnesota State’s offensive struggles will become even more visible this weekend. J. P. Lafounaine provides a lot of hope for the Mavericks but they’ve run into a buzzsaw/goalie-on-a-hot-streak in Kenny Reiter. UMD sweep
Brian: The Mavericks are coming off of a couple of impressive splits at Michigan Tech and at home against St. Cloud State. But hitting the road to face, arguably, the nation’s hottest team in UMD and its equally-sizzling goaltender is a task far more daunting. The Bulldogs don’t return to AMSOIL Arena until they host Alabama-Huntsville on Jan. 20-21 but give their fans a fond farewell with a sweep of Minnesota State.
No. 1 Minnesota (10-2-0, 7-1-0 WCHA) at/vs St. Cloud State (5-5-2, 3-2-1 WCHA) – Home and home
Tyler: Minnesota should get plenty of chances on the power play this weekend, especially if St. Cloud State continues to consistently fill its penalty box this weekend. The Huskies have accumulated 133 penalty minutes over the course of the past six games and have been forced to kill multiple 5-minute majors. The Gophers PP is slumping the last three weeks but could have a turnaround weekend against SCSU’s freshman goaltender, Ryan Faragher, still wet behind the years. Whenever an in-state rival hosts Minnesota, it always brings out the best in the local crowd. Expect a rowdy atmosphere Friday at the National Hockey Center. SCSU wins Friday, Minnesota win Saturday at home.
Brian: While St. Cloud State leads the league in penalty minutes (22.2 PIM/G) Minnesota is not far behind in third place (15.8 PIM/G). But don’t expect the Huskies’ anemic power play (9.5 percent conversion rate) to have much success against Kent Patterson and the Gophers’ WCHA-leading penalty kill (88.6 percent). SCSU holds a 3-2-0 edge in the last five meetings between the schools but Minnesota has won six of the last 10 (6-3-1). Unfortunately for Minnesota, that record is reversed (3-6-1) in its last 10 as the nation’s No. 1 team. I’m going to go against that grain, however, and predict the Gophers to take two from SCSU.
Wisconsin (5-6-1, 4-5-1 WCHA) at No. 5 Colorado College (5-2-0, 3-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: Wisconsin beat No. 1 Minnesota last Friday because they got a great game out of Joel Rumpel and because they were able to slow the Gophers game down from the puck drop. But the Badgers were outshot badly last weekend and they paid for it in Saturday’s loss to Minnesota. I think CC will sweep but the Tigers need to shore up their recent defensive issues to make it happen.
Brian: It’s time for Colorado College to perform the way many of us expected it to this season and play up to its ranking, at least in its own zone and goal crease. I think it happens for the Tigers this weekend as they sweep the Badgers in just the second series of the season at World Arena.
North Dakota (3-6-1, 1-5-0 WCHA) at Bemidji State (4-7-1, 2-5-1 WCHA) – Saturday/Sunday series
Tyler: North Dakota is well-rested with a week off and hungry for a win, which the Fighting Sioux hasn’t earned since Oct. 29 at home against SCSU. For those reasons, the Sioux will pick up a victory this weekend, but UND has been so bad on the road to this point that I doubt they’ll leave Bemidji with a sweep. Split.
Brian: These two teams rank one right after the other in four WCHA overall statistical categories (scoring offense, scoring defense, power play, and penalty kill). Don’t expect a lot of power-play goals because as adept as each team is on its penalty kill, its power-play proficiency is equally inept. They are within half a goal per game of each other in even-strength scoring and .2/game in even-strength goals against. But since 1970, the Sioux have a whopping 21-1-1 record in the all-time series and are 16-0-1 against the Beavers since their Division I rivalry began in 1999-2000. With records and statistics this similar, history and a hot goalie in Aaron Dell wins out as North Dakota sweeps.