No. 2 Denver (7-1, 5-1 WCHA) versus No. 14 Colorado College (7-3, 4-0), home and home series
Joe: This always entertaining series enters its 20th year with the Gold Pan Trophy on the line. The deciding factor could be special teams with a good Denver play (20 percent), especially with a healthy Nolan Zajac, taking on a CC penalty kill that struggled early (75 percent). CC has the second-best power play overall (24.2 percent), including 5-of-10 (tops in WCHA play) while DU has the top penalty kill (87.8) overall and third-best in league play (87.9). Both teams are playing well, have league road sweeps under their belts, and enter a rivalry series that brings out the best in both programs. These teams are very alike, making this a likely split.
Tyler: One of the early surprise teams in the league, Colorado College, has a chance to really prove itself this weekend. The Pioneers rank near the top of nearly every stat count but you have to throw that out, in at least one of the games. Denver is the superior team in terms of talent but the way this series is generally played, the Pioneers aren’t going to run away with both games. CC will get the split, but Denver goaltending will be an important factor to get a Denver win. There’s no point in predicting who will win in which night because both have road sweeps and both have proven they can win in one another’s building.
Wisconsin (1-4-1, 1-2-1) at No. 3 Minnesota (6-2-1, 3-2-1)
Joe: With an extra week to prepare, the Badgers will be ready, but without Mark Zengerle, a popgun offense (last-place 1.83 goals scored) lost most of its individual firepower (team-high six points). Minnesota, which tends to play well in these rivalry games, has plenty of offense (3.44 goals) and enough goaltending and defense (two goals) to sweep.
Tyler: This weekend gives Wisconsin a perfect chance to stick it in the face of everyone who’s leaving it for dead. The team’s best player, Zengerle, is out, the top freshman, Nic Kerdiles, is suspended, and the Badgers are still sorting out the ruins left by Bill Butters’ unexpected departure. One win at Mariucci Arena would show an uncanny ability to overcome adversity but I don’t see it happening. The Gophers PP power play came alive last weekend and Wisconsin ranks near the bottom in killing penalties at 75 percent. Wisconsin would have to play really tight and slow the Gophers down to keep it close because the Badgers won’t keep up with Minnesota in a high-scoring game. Minnesota sweep.
Minnesota-Duluth (2-5-1, 0-3-1) at No. 6 North Dakota (4-3-1, 2-1-1)
Joe: A last-place Bulldogs team that desperately needs a win has a considerable challenge this weekend in Grand Forks. On paper, it is a mismatch with North Dakota enjoying an edge in offense, defense and both teams tied in net special teams in conference play. My gut says Duluth gets out of there with a tie if UND continues to struggle on Saturdays, but the Bulldogs are struggling too much right now to not predict a North Dakota sweep.
Tyler: This is a league full of surprises, but I don’t think UMD is ready to pull out a win at The Ralph. UND has every advantage in this series, on paper, as Joe pointed out. Favored teams lose games to teams with struggling offenses when they become complacent and that’s something Minnesota has to watch out for too. UND’s Saturday struggles are well-documented but a program as good as UND has to fix the problem this weekend. UND sweep
Michigan Tech (2-6, 1-5) at Bemidji State (2-3-1, 1-2-1)
Joe: The Huskies have the league’s worst defense (3.88 goals allowed) but Bemidji State can’t be more even, averaging 2.67 goals allowed overall and 2.67 scored. Recent instability in goal after Tech freshman Pheonix Copley cooled off points to opportunistic BSU generating and finishing more of its offensive chances. Tech is due to break through for its first road win of the season. Split.
Tyler: I think Michigan Tech will still be looking for that first win on the road after this weekend, despite having the bye to use to its advantage. Copley hasn’t been able to keep the puck out of the net, recently, so expect to see Kevin Genoe this weekend. The Beavers are back at home for the first time in a month after an impressive three-point series at Nebraska-Omaha and two close road losses at CC (the 6-3 loss on Saturday was closer than the final showed). BSU sweep
Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota State, Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State, idle.