No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 9 Denver
Joe: Two teams with potent offenses and solid defensive corps that also chip in offensively. The difference will be in goal where Denver has the edge with Juho Olkinuora. Pioneers win and tie.
Tyler: Olkinuora is the key in this series. In his last 20 games going back to Dec. 17, 2011, he’s given up more than three goals in a game just twice. The last team to score four or more goals on Olkinuora was Colorado College on Nov. 16 and he’s shut down some pretty decent offensive teams in the meantime. But with all of its weapons, UNO will find a way past Olkinuora and get a split.
Alaska-Anchorage at No. 1 Minnesota
Joe: The Seawolves could not manage a home win against unranked Wisconsin. UAA will battle and keep one game competitive but the Gophers are flying too high right now after wins over Boston College and Notre Dame. Gophers sweep.
Tyler: Coming off two straight statement wins against Boston College and Notre Dame with North Dakota coming to Minneapolis next week, the Gophers can’t stumble in the “trap series” against last-place Alaska-Anchorage. Minnesota scored just one of six goals on even strength in its three-point weekend earlier this season at Anchorage. That won’t be the case because the Gophers’ depth and talent will wear the Seawolves down. Minnesota sweep
Colorado College at No. 7 North Dakota
Joe: The Tigers will play better defense but against a loaded team like North Dakota, 6-0-1 in its last seven, it will not be enough. UND sweeps.
Tyler: This one promises to be a high-scoring weekend with both teams’ offenses posting big numbers this season. UND is at home and has the edge defensively and in goal, were CC has been brutal this season. UND sweep
Wisconsin at No. 11 Minnesota State
Joe: The purple Mavs are deeper on offense and third in team defense while the Badgers defense is second in the WCHA. That is not a big enough advantage for UW to exploit. At home, MSU can get the line matchups it wants, further hampering the Badgers struggling offense. MSU sweeps.
Tyler: It looked like Wisconsin was falling apart when MSU got a sweep in Madison, but the Badgers have important pieces back in place and is a better team than it was in the first two months. Defense has been the cornerstone for Wisconsin for many years and it’s helped the Badgers keep a lot of games close and steal points this season since the beginning of December. The Mavericks’ streak may be a little hotter, winning 11 of 12, but of the seven teams they faced in that stretch, UNO is the only one above .500. Big weekend for both teams provides a win for both teams. Split
Michigan Tech at Minnesota-Duluth
Joe: The multiple one-game suspensions leave UMD quite shorthanded on Friday when the Huskies should win. Those same players should come back with something to prove to their coach on Saturday. Split.
Tyler: I agree with Joe that the Bulldogs are going to suffer from the team-imposed suspensions. The three players – Cody Danberg (captain), Wade Bergmann (team leader in assists) and Austin Farley (third in points) – are all important to UMD’s chances. I have a lot of respect for Scott Sandelin for benching a handful of key players to send the right message. With these guys out Friday, Pheonix Copley’s chances of stealing another game are improved. It’s possible Tech’s Blake Pietila may stay in Houghton to rest up after World Juniors, as Mel Pearson told Bruce Ciskie Thursday. Split
Bemidji State, No. 18 St. Cloud State idle.