Happy Friday and welcome to this week’s edition of WCHA picks (brief pause to allow the applause to die down). Today we give you five of the weekend’s seven match-ups as we focus on the Friday-Saturday series. But wait, there’s more! As an added bonus, check back tomorrow for a special Saturday picks blog as we give our predictions for Saturday’s single games featuring Minnesota and North Dakota. Now it’s time to check out the picks and keep an eye on the comments to determine who completely blew off reading the headline and this paragraph and wants to know why we didn’t pick the Gopher and UND games.
Minnesota State (5-14-1, 2-11-1 WCHA) at St. Lawrence (7-10-2, 4-5-0 ECAC)
Tyler: Can MSU’s unreliable goaltending stop SLU’s Kyle Flanagan, who’s scoring more points per game than any player in the nation? The Mavericks struggle too much on the road with a 2-8 record and that the last time they won away from Mankato was Nov. 5 at Michigan Tech. SLU sweep
Brian: While MSU’s .200 road winning percentage should not impress you, neither should SLU’s .333 (3-6-0) home mark. Of Minnesota State’s road losses, two were by one goal and two more were an empty-net goal away from matching that margin so the Mavs have been very competitive away from home 60 percent of the time. If either team has a lead after one period, it’s time to make a bet with your buddies as each is winless this season when trailing after 20 minutes. A tie after one goes to the Saints (4-3-1 vs. 3-6-0 for the Mavericks). How’s that for taking the scenic route to calling a split?
No. 13 Cornell (8-4-1, 6-1-1 ECAC) at No. 6 Colorado College (12-6-0, 9-5-0 WCHA)
Tyler: The Big Red don’t commit a lot of penalties but if it does this weekend, the Tigers will feast. Colorado College’s fifth-ranked power play (25.3 percent) just got a boost when Jaden Schwartz returned from Team Canada’s World Juniors team. Cornell’s kill ranks near the bottom of Division I at 78.2 percent. The Tigers will beat the Big Re even strength too. CC sweep
Brian: I think it’s the Tigers who might want to be wary of serving penalty time this weekend. CC averages over two full minutes more penalty minutes per game than Cornell and backs that up with a kill (77.6 percent) which is even worse than the Big Red’s. Schwartz isn’t even scheduled to fly out of Calgary until 8 a.m. Friday morning and is not expected to arrive in Colorado Springs until late that afternoon. So even if he does play, his effectiveness may be limited. It’s the nation’s No. 3 offense (CC) vs. the No. 3 defense (Big Red) and I think Cornell has a shot to steal one. Split.
No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (12-3-3, 10-2-2 WCHA) at No. 8 Western Michigan (10-5-5, 7-4-3-3 CCHA)
Tyler: After watching the Broncos struggle with St. Cloud State in a split last week and the fact that they didn’t move down a single slot makes me believe their No. 8-ranking might be a little high. Meanwhile, WMU is one of UMD’s tougher opponents from here until the playoffs so there’s not much of a reason for the Bulldogs to look past this one. UMD might end up settling for a tie one night, but the unbeaten streak won’t end here. UMD split
Brian: Although the Bulldogs bring the country’s second-ranked offense (4.06 goals per game) to Kalamazoo, the Western Michigan defense waiting to greet them isn’t exactly what you would call loosey-goosey (2.15 goals allowed per game good for seventh overall). The Broncos are one of the nation’s least penalized teams while an average UMD game features over 33 combined penalty minutes, with just fewer than 16 of those served by the Bulldogs. It will be interesting to see if UMD is able to goad the Broncos out of their disciplined game. I said the Bulldogs’ unbeaten streak would end last month in Madison and was nearly right until Caleb Herbert’s tying goal and I’m once again predicting its demise. Bulldog fans can thank me later. Split.
R.I.T. (10-6-2, 7-4-2 AH) at Wisconsin (7-9-2, 4-8-2 WCHA)
Tyler: A rematch of the 8-1 2010 Frozen Four matchup th
at went in Wisconsin’s favor. RIT is a better nonconference opponent for Wisconsin than Mercyhurst was. Keep in mind that RIT beat a pair of ranked teams (Ferris State and Lake Superior State) last week. Split
Brian: Despite playing an exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 Team last weekend, the Badgers are essentially returning from a long layoff while the Tigers got off and running in the second half by drubbing a tandem of CCHA teams (Ferris State and Lake Superior State) last weekend by a combined 6-1. But the Badgers play better at home and should be itching to get going while R.I.T. has struggled (1-4-0) in its limited road action. I think there is a split to be had here.
Alabama-Huntsville (1-21-0) at No. 11 Denver (10-7-3, 6-5-3 WCHA)
Tyler: The Pioneers have every advantage in this series from up front to the defense to the goaltending. Denver sweep.
Brian: I love the Chargers and pull for their program to succeed but I’m not going break this one down. Denver sweeps as it appears Jason Zucker will spend the weekend resting up from the WJC and return next week when the Pioneers host Bemidji State.