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College Hockey:
WCHA Picks: Jan. 4

No. 12 Cornell at No. 11 Denver

Joe: The Big Red have been scoring pretty consistently with 20 goals in the past five games, but none against teams with as strong a defense as Denver anchored by sophomore goalie Juho Oklinuora, who has been playing well of late.  Denver sweeps.

Tyler: Joe’s right in that Cornell hasn’t faced a good defense in its recent offensive outburst. Last weekend’s domination of Boston University said a lot about a Denver team that’s trying to get back on track, but I’m not ready to call a Pioneers sweep. Olkinuora has been consistent while the Denver offense struggled going into the break. The sophomore has given the Pioneers a chance to win every night so Denver should stick with him, but I’m calling a split.

Colorado College at No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha

Joe:  Two of the league’s top three offenses square off but the difference will be on defense. UNO has senior goalie John Faulkner and a large defensive corps that can keep CC away from in front of him. If the Tigers can find room, the offense could get on a serious roll and overcome any defensive struggles. It happens at least once. Split.

Tyler: The Tigers are 1-7-2 in their last 10 games but perhaps the time off may be what they needed to get back on track. CC does have a good offense but its defense will have a tough time containing UNO’s offense. Mavericks sweep

Wisconsin at Alaska-Anchorage

Joe:  The battle between the 11th and 12th place teams should make for a competitive series.  The Badgers play with effort but cannot finish takes on a UAA squad that is much the same. Anchorage is at home but the Badgers are desperate for points. Split.

Tyler: Wisconsin has been a different team since it struggled to a 1-7-2 record on Nov. 24. The Badgers are 3-0-3 since then, but scoring has been an issue all year and also against WCHA opponents Denver and Michigan Tech. Joel Rumpel has been good; Landon Peterson has been better. Both would put Wisconsin in position to win at UAA, the seventh-worst offense in the nation at two goals per game. Badgers sweep

No. 20 Holy Cross at No. 7 North Dakota

Joe:  UND won’t need Rocco Grimaldi in a tune-up series after the holiday break. Props to the North Dakota schedule makers. Sweep for North Dakota.

Tyler: I’m also not predicting another miracle at The Ralph for Holy Cross this weekend.  I’m not saying Holy Cross will roll over but UND is bolstered by Michael Parks and Mitch MacMillan expecting to make their season debuts. UND sweep

Northern Michigan at No. 15 St. Cloud State

Joe:  It’s worst in the CCHA versus first in the WCHA. It really is that simple sometimes. Huskies sweep.

Tyler: I can’t overlook anyone playing St. Cloud State after RPI, last place in the ECAC, surprised the Huskies at home last Friday. Inconsistency was an issue for SCSU in the first half. I think that loss to RPI was because SCSU was slow coming off the break, like it was against Minnesota-Duluth in November. The Huskies should be ready to go and they should sweep.

Providence at No. 14 Minnesota State

Joe: This should a good nonconference series with the fourth-place Friars from Hockey East making the trek out West. The Friars look much improved under second-year coach Nate Leaman but a tad inconsistent. Host Mavericks sweep because they are at home.

Tyler: Providence doesn’t give up many goals. In fact, the Friars allow just 2.25 per game, but look for that to change with goaltender John Gillies still making his way back to the States after the World Junior Championships. MSU at home: sweep.

No. 10 Western Michigan at Bemidji State

Joe: With a short turnaround and an offense that is not terribly productive (2.17 goals per game), the Broncos are ripe to get knocked off at Bemidji State, which gave UMass a tussle and put a scare into New Hampshire. The Broncos are the better team but I predict a split.

Tyler: I wouldn’t be surprised if either team breaks out and scores some goals but these are two fairly unproductive offenses. Andrew Walsh has been playing well enough lately to steal a victory. Split.

No. 1 Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth are idle this weekend.

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