No. 16 Michigan State at No. 2 Minnesota
Joe: Mariucci should be a loud place for the MSU rookies (12 on the roster) to handle with Gopher fans excited about this UM squad. Goalie Will Yanakeff (.922 save percentage) gives the Spartans a chance against Minnesota’s offensive firepower, led by Nick Bjugstad, the media and coaches’ pick as Preseason Player of the Year. Until proven otherwise, the only likely weakness for UM is in goal. Minnesota collects three points.
Tyler: It’s a little tougher opening-weekend matchup than Sacred Heart, but the Gophers start the season 2-0 two years in a row with a sweep against the Spartans. Mariucci Arena is going to be rocking on homecoming weekend with expectations as high as ever.
St. Cloud State at New Hampshire
Joe: This could be a very good series. UNH returns a solid group of forwards including Kevin Goumas (9-25-34) and Nick Sorkin (9-26-35). Goalie Casey DeSmith has a good defensive corps in front of him. SCSU has talent like junior defenseman Nick Jensen (6g-26-32), senior forward Ben Hanowski (23g-20a-43) junior Nic Dowd (11-13-24) and goalie Ryan Faragher (.915 saves) who enters the season as No. 1 after a strong freshman campaign. The games should be close with New Hampshire catching a break in at least one game. Series split.
Tyler: The Huskies start the season without its top freshman offensive threat, Joey Benik, who broke his leg in practice Saturday and will affect SCSU’s secondary scoring until he returns. Although I think SCSU is the better team, I’ll take UNH to win one game and split the series.
Minnesota State at Alabama-Huntsville
Joe: The Mavericks will be anxious to impress new coach Mike Hastings. MSU’s superior depth will be too much for the Chargers who lost their best player in goalie Clarke Saunders (transfer to North Dakota). MSU sweeps.
Tyler: The only Division I team to visit Hunstville this season, the Mavericks have a lot more offensive ability than the Chargers, who don’t have an experienced goaltender. There is no reason MSU shouldn’t sweep.
No. 15 Wisconsin vs Northern Michigan at Resch Center (Green Bay, Wis.)
Joe: It’s Wisconsin senior Mark Zengerle (50 points) leading the Badgers forwards against a solid Wildcats defense anchored by goalie Jared Coreau (2.22 goals against, .928 save percentage). With five freshman forwards in the mix for NMU, Wisconsin has an edge in experience, which should help with first-game jitters. UW comes out of the weekend with three points (win, tie).
Tyler: The Badgers have a nice group of sophomores and juniors to compliment 50-point scorer Mark Zengerle on offense, but Wisconsin gets tested by a tough NMU defense. The Wildcats return goalie Jared Coreau, who posted a .928 saves percentage. Split
Ohio State at No. 13 Minnesota Duluth
Joe: No senior forwards for the Buckeyes, who are also facing an unsettled goalie situation. That is not a recipe for success on the road in a season-opener at a tough arena. Brady Hjelle, a former Bulldog, will play inspired but freshman Collin Olson may show why he is the goalie of the future for Ohio State. Enough Bulldogs remain from last year (Mike Seidel, Cody Danberg, Wade Bergman) for Duluth to sweep.
Tyler: Here’s a couple of teams trying to figure out their identities early on. Both need to find goaltending and offense and though the Bulldogs have the advantage of starting at home, I think the Buckeyes steal a game and earn a split.
Clarkson at Colorado College
Joe: Senior goalie Cody Rosen, assuming he starts, will rely on an experienced group of Knights blue-liners to slow down what could be a fast-paced Tigers’ attack out of transition with five regular defensemen returning this season. The altitude and the Olympic sheet of ice will be another adjustment for the Golden Knights. The key for CC will be if senior Rylan Schwartz and the secondary scorers can get on track quickly. Tigers garner three points.
Tyler: Senior Rylan Schwartz is ready to be the face of the program with proven goaltenders, a good defense and the big sheet will benefit the Tigers this weekend against Clarkson, which lost it only two 30-point scorers. I’m going CC sweep.
Nebraska Omaha vs. Army, Friday; UNO vs. No. 14 Notre Dame/No. 20 Maine, Saturday (Icebreaker, Kansas City)
Joe: UNO gets a taste of the national stage right away with Army scheduled for a live broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Even with their offseason losses, the Mavericks have enough back to down the Black Knights but may struggle against either Notre Dame or Maine, which will have two regular-season games under its belt. The unranked Mavs go 1-1 on the weekend and place second in the four-team tournament.
Tyler: The Mavericks will have no trouble beating an Army team that won four games in a lower-echelon league Friday night, but Saturday brings trouble. UNO faces a respectable opponent either way and either the Irish or the Black Bears will expose the Mavericks’ early-season weaknesses. UNO goes 1-1.
Canisius at Alaska Anchorage, Friday; Air Force at Alaska Anchorage, Saturday (Kendall Hockey Classic, Anchorage)
Joe: The Seawolves have an opportunity to pick up two nonconference wins but will have a far more difficult time with the Falcons, who return goalie Jason Torf and most if its forwards. Seawolves go 1-1 on the weekend.
Tyler: Anchorage flew out of the gates last year, including a tie and a win at the KHC, then spiraled out of control shortly after. A new season means a fresh start and I’ll give UAA a win against Canisius but a loss the following night to Air Force in a very watered-down KHC field this season.