Minnesota State (2-2-2, 0-2 WCHA) vs. No. 2 Minnesota (4-1, 1-1)
Joe: Minnesota’s power play (15 percent) should find its footing against Minnesota State’s last-place penalty kill (71.4 percent) which would allow the Gophers, even though they are still trying to jell, to use their superior offensive talent to sweep this home and home series. If the UM power play continues to struggle, Gophers freshman goalie Adam Wilcox (3-0, .934 saves) is playing well enough to eke out two wins.
Tyler: For Minnesota State to keep it close this weekend, the Mavericks need good starts both nights because the Gophers lead the league in first-period scoring (10 goals) and MSU is dead last with two goals. Minnesota had trouble last weekend scoring against an overmatched opponent but that merely an aberration. Tony Capobianco, who turned away 41 shots, played a terrific game and the Gophers offense certainly wasn’t stagnant. Minnesota is going to be just fine in the offensive end and that includes this weekend. Minnesota sweep.
No. 18 St. Cloud State (4-2, 2-0) at No. 3 Denver (4-0, 2-0)
Joe: The Denver forwards are chipping in goals, the defensemen are recording points and the goalies are playing well, especially Sam Brittain. Five of the top seven scoring defensemen so far in the WCHA wear either Huskies or Pioneers uniforms so the game-winners will likely be scored by a blue-liner this weekend. Those players are also a big reason Denver leads the league with five goals a game with SCSU second with 4.5. SCSU would be hard pressed with injured Ben Hanoswki in the lineup but without, even the talents of Nic Dowd, Kalle Kossila and Drew LeBlanc will not be enough to crack the top-rated Pioneers defense and keep DU from getting three points in two close games.
Tyler: SCSU is the best team Denver will face to this point but it’s a team with a depleted lineup. Hanowski and David Morley are both out for the Huskies and when SCSU was decimated by injuries last season, Hanowski was the guy that kept the ship afloat. The Huskies’ top line played fine without Hanowski in four periods against Minnesota State, but Denver’s defense is a lot better. The Pioneers are one of the more talent-laden teams in the WCHA and they have great goaltending to back it up. This is a big test for both teams, a road win would be huge for the Huskies but Denver might be too overwhelming at home. The Pioneers could run away with this one if their special teams continue to take care of business. Denver sweep.
No. 12 Boston University (3-1) at No. 5 North Dakota (2-1-1)
Joe: With all due respect to the two Alaska schools, North Dakota faces a serious step up in competition this weekend against the Terriers. That said, I expect UND, sparked by Rocco Grimaldi and Danny Kristo, to respond with two strong performances, which will still only be enough for a series split against the perennial Hockey East contender.
Tyler: UND still getting its feet under itself in a loss to Alaska and a tie at home to Alaska-Anchorage and now its hosts the most talented team its seen to this point. UND has a lot of talent up front but the Terriers have a hot goalie – freshman Matt O’Connor with a .945 saves percentage and didn’t allow any of the four goals, playing half the game against New Hampshire. This weekend will tell us a lot about where UND is at. The home team will beat BU, it isn’t ready to sweep a team like the Terriers.
Colorado College (3-3, 0-0) at Wisconsin (1-2-1, 1-0-1)
Joe: The host Badgers (seven goals in four games) takes on a CC team whose special teams were anything but in two road losses against a good Cornell squad. The difference is CC’s three losses are against two high-caliber teams while the Badgers managed only four goals to record a tie and win at up-and-down Minnesota-Duluth. Both have good goalies in Joel Rumpel and CC junior Josh Thorimbert. I predict two low-scoring games for a series split decided by a power-play goal both nights.
Tyler: Yes, everything that’s happened with these teams, so far, points to little action on the scoreboard this weekend. CC showed it can’t score against good teams and Wisconsin has showed it can’t score much at all. The Tigers have gone scoreless on 12 straight power plays and Wisconsin’s special teams, along with the defense, have kept the Badgers going. I’ll call a split.
Nebraska-Omaha (2-3-1, 0-1-1) at Michigan Tech (2-4, 1-3)
Joe: The Huskies are 2-1 at home this year with a 5.0 goals per game average, 3.3 goals more than their road average of 1.7. If the Huskies can get the right line matchups at home and do a better job attacking the net for higher-quality chances, as I expect they will, the Huskies can resume that home offensive production. Unfortunately for the fans in Houghton, UNO goalie John Faulkner (2-0-1, 1.76 goals against, .903 saves percentage) is playing like he did a couple seasons ago and should steal one to garner a series split.
Tyler: If Tech jumps on UNO right away at home like it did against a much more talented team like Minnesota two weeks ago, the Huskies set the tone for the weekend. The Mavericks can pull out a win if their penalty kill (92 percent) can stop Tech’s power play (21.4 percent) but MacInnes Ice Arena is going to be hostile and UNO hasn’t played in an environment like that yet this season. Tech sweep.