No. 2 Minnesota (5-2, 2-2 WCHA) at Alaska-Anchorage (2-2-2, 0-1-1)
Tyler: Minnesota travels north to the Last Frontier needing a win more than any other team in the league. The Gophers haven’t proven the preseason hype, but it is common for even the best teams in the WCHA to go through a rough patch. The Gophers are getting blasted for how they’ve won by not dominating teams they should dominate. The defense is still coming together and don’t forget the Gophers lost three of four midway through last season but like good teams do, they re-grouped. The Gophers need to avoid another flat start, a key reason for the recent “rough patch,” and they’ll do just fine against two inconsistent goalies who allowed 17 goals to Minnesota last year.
Joe: The Gophers will take advantage of the long trip to focus on a better start, which could be critical against a UAA squad that applies a lot more pressure than last year. If the UAA team that tied North Dakota shows up, the series will be a tight one, albeit still a Minnesota sweep.
No. 3 Denver (5-1, 3-1) at Minnesota State (3-3-2, 1-3)
Tyler: This weekend will be the first time this season Denver sees an Olympic-size rink and that plays into MSU’s favor. The Mavericks got a much-needed boost with its win against No. 2 Minnesota Saturday and looked a lot better than they did at St. Cloud State two weeks ago. MSU pulls out a win, but Denver’s hot goaltending and superior skill will overpower the Mavericks one of the nights for a split.
Joe: Denver’s superior goaltending should be enough to get a win and tie on the road against an MSU squad that will play with more confidence and a chip on their shoulders.
No. 6 North Dakota (3-2-1, 1-0-1) at No. 15 St. Cloud State (5-3, 3-1)
Tyler: UND has left a lot on the table on Saturday nights this season, going 0-2-1 the second night, after starting the weekend with wins. I like SCSU’s speed, especially on its top defensive pair of Nick Jensen and Andrew Prochno, on the Olympic sheet. North Dakota has the edge in firepower up front while the Danny Kristo-Corban Knight-Carter Rowney line is still beginning to jell. Also, look for a great goaltending battle between two potential all-league goalies: UND’s Clarke Saunders and SCSU’s Ryan Faragher. A healthy St. Cloud State team with Ben Hanowski in the lineup might sweep this home series, but not without him and other key players David Morley and Joey Benik. Split.
Joe: North Dakota has not won a Friday game (0-6-4) and has not lost on Saturday (10-0) at SCSU in 10 years. Even with SCSU missing a couple key players, neither team has shown why this trend will not continue. Split.
Bemidji State (2-1-1, 1-0-1) at No. 19 Colorado College (5-3, 2-0)
Tyler: I think Bemidji State’s penalty kill, which has been on shut-down mode all season, can neutralize CC’s power play and if Andrew Walsh plays like he did two weeks ago at UNO, the Beavers can pull out the split on the road coming off the bye.
Joe: Bemidji State is a good defensive team, especially on an NHL sheet. The Olympic-sized home ice gives the Tigers enough of the room they need in transition to use their speed for 6-on-6 scoring chances. I predict two good, close games resulting in three points for the Tigers, though a split would not shock me.
No. 20 Minnesota-Duluth (2-3-1, 0-1-1) at Nebraska-Omaha (4-3-1, 2-1-1), Saturday-Sunday
Tyler: UMD hasn’t had a problem slowing teams down and keeping opposing goal totals low but the problem is on the other end of the rink for the Bulldogs. Scoring has been a big issue that faced UMD at the beginning of the season with key losses in the offseason and they still haven’t been able to find offense since the first game of the season. In the five games since that 6-1 win against a sloppy Ohio State team, the Bulldogs have scored eight goals. That isn’t going to work against UNO’s defense, which has allowed only 21.7 shots on goal per game and 2.23 goals per game. UNO sweep.
Joe: UMD has had more than a week to mull over its inconsistent effort and offensive struggles. I think the Bulldogs will come out fired up for at least one of the games (inconsistency may flare up again), and pull off a split.
Michigan Tech and Wisconsin, idle