No. 6 North Dakota at No. 1 Minnesota
Joe: This series should bring out the best in both teams. That bodes well for UND, which did not put together a full 60 minutes each night against Holy Cross and Colorado College. North Dakota will have to play its best to beat Minnesota, which it will at least one night. Let the trolling begin because neither side will like this pick: Split.
Tyler: There is no doubt this will be the most entertaining series of the season throughout the league. It often is, but this weekend is different. Barring encounters in NCAA tournament play, UND and Minnesota won’t see each other for a few years after Saturday. A big key this weekend will be which team can harness its emotion, buckle down and play smart. UND’s top line needs to group that crack Adam Wilcox and Minnesota’s stingy defense, which few teams have been able to do this season but Alaska-Anchorage was able to with three goals last Friday. The Gophers have an edge with a balanced attack and solid ‘D’, but UND is going to find a way to win one of these games. Split
No. 7 Denver at No. 19 St. Cloud State
Joe: SCSU is at home but that has not translated into a strong start to the second half of the season with a 1-3 mark against RPI and Northern Michigan. That is less than impressive, unlike the performance of DU sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora. He makes the difference as Denver leaves with three points.
Tyler: Olkinuora has been solid as a rock all season and the Pioneers offense came around after the break. That works well in Denver’s favor going into St. Cloud, where the Huskies have been awfully inconsistent all season. SCSU went 3-1 against Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College in the two home series before break and went 1-3 against RPI and UNM. I think SCSU is too talented of a team with guys on every line that can produce for these struggles to continue. Split
No. 8 Miami at Wisconsin
Joe: Miami’s offense is not all that productive, especially in the first period when the RedHawks have gone scoreless the past four games. That gives the Badgers a chance to play with a lead, especially beneficial for a team playing sound defense. Badgers could sweep, but Miami should pull one game out with its good goaltending. Split.
Tyler: Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I really like Wisconsin’s chances in this nonconference series because of its defense. Both teams have top-10 defenses and below-average offenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are less than 10 combined goals this weekend. The Badgers’ ‘D’ shut down potent offenses all season and have found ways to win close games and this weekend their going against a Redhawks attack that’s struggling. I’m taking Wisconsin in a sweep at home.
No. 14 Minnesota State at Alaska-Anchorage
Joe: The purple Mavs came down to earth a bit with two home overtime losses to Wisconsin. MSU will come out firing on Friday but I expect to see UAA come back on Saturday. Split.
Tyler: MSU has the edge talent-wise but he Mavericks must stay focused on burying the Seawolves early if they want to leave with a sweep. Teams like Minnesota and St. Cloud State left points on the table when their offenses looked inept at times in November series in November. UAA has proven, on a few occasions this winter, they can steal points when teams let them hang around. The Seawolves came close in a 4-3 loss at Minnesota Friday. I can’t imagine MSU taking much for granted after losing twice in OT last weekend to Wisconsin. MSU sweep
Minnesota-Duluth at Colorado College
Joe: Two teams looking to string together four well-played games in a row square off for their only regular-season meeting. CC’s power play is improved, which may be enough to offset the league’s worst penalty kill. Minnesota Duluth relies on its power play with 23 of its 60 goals with the man advantage. Look for the Tigers to play disciplined hockey and pick up three points.
Tyler: I think UMD’s power play/CC’s penalty kill will become a huge factor in the outcomes of this series if the Tigers don’t play disciplined. CC doesn’t take a ton of penalties but the Bulldogs are one of 12 teams to go on the power play more than 100 times this season and they take advantage at a rate of 22.8 percent (sixth-best nationally). CC was so competitive at UND last week because it got the early lead both nights and a quick start is important against UMD, a team that has scored 28 first-period goals this season. Split
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech
Joe: Like the UMD at CC series, this is another two games both teams could really use a sweep and a chance to get back into home playoff contention. In Houghton, the Huskies should get three points.
Tyler: This weekend has the recipe for Pheonix Copley to bounce back after a bad five-goal game Saturday night. He stopped 111 of 112 shots in three straight games leading into Saturday’s 5-4 loss to UMD, but BSU’s offense has its struggles. Copley will need the goal support, though, against a Beavers defense that can frustrate teams. Tech sweep