No. 8 St. Cloud State at No. 14 Wisconsin:
Matthew: Thanks to the Wisconsin high school state basketball championships going on at UW’s Kohl Center, this series will take place at Madison, Wis.’s much older Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Many Badgers fans aren’t over the moon about it – the two games aren’t part of the team’s season ticket package, and tickets for the series are expensive even before factoring in handling fees – but the UW fans that do go to these games will be in for a treat. St. Cloud State is on the verge of winning its first (and final) WCHA regular season championship – and I think the Huskies will do just that – and the Badgers could still secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs despite having experienced a nightmarish start to this season. Four points would be huge for both teams, but I think they’ll have to settle for two apiece.
Tyler: Anytime Wisconsin has had a small ice sheet to work with, they’re successful because of the style it plays, and this weekend’s series is at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the smaller regulation rink. That gives the Badgers an advantage, but the Huskies are going to be gunning for their first WCHA regular season title and a higher seed in the national tourney. SCSU’s skilled offense against the Badgers defense will ensure a split.
No. 2 Minnesota at Bemidji State:
Matthew: On paper, this series should belong to Minnesota. The problem for the Gophers, though, is that that’s not what games are played on. Bemidji, Minn.’s Sanford Center ought to be packed for the Beavers’ final home games of the season – and playing the state’s flagship school for the last time in league regular season play will help – and I can see BSU frustrating the Gophers, perhaps even picking up a point from the four on offer this weekend. That’s the most I can see head coach Tom Serratore’s Beavers picking up, however, and that’s what I’ll go with here. Minnesota gets three points and finishes the regular season in second place with 36 points, one behind SCSU.
Tyler: The Beavers will rely on a pesky defense to keep these games close but the Gophers will be able to get past it and Minnesota’s skill will overmatch Bemidji State. Minnesota sweeps.
No. 5 North Dakota at No. 10 Minnesota State:
Matthew: Minnesota State probably ought to have wrapped up home ice in the first round of the playoffs last weekend at Colorado College, but the Mavericks only picked up two points in Colorado Springs. The good news is that MSU is at home this time around, but head coach Mike Hastings’ men will face a fifth-ranked North Dakota team that, tied on points with Minnesota, could also still win the regular season title if a bunch of results go UND’s way. However, I see these two teams canceling each other out. Split.
Tyler: This series doesn’t have the same ramifications as SCSU/Wisconsin, but it will certainly be the most entertaining series in WCHA play this weekend. MSU has gotten big contributions from senior Eriah Hayes as well as a solid group of underclassmen this season, while UND has arguably the best top line in college hockey that includes Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. Goaltending is going to be an important variable and I think the Mavericks have a slight edge with freshman Stephon Williams. Split.
No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota-Duluth:
Matthew: UNO is incredibly only 1-10-0 in the month of March under head coach Dean Blais, and many Mavericks fans feel now as though they’re watching something similar to last season’s capitulation in which UNO lost its final four regular season games, went on the road in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and was swept by St. Cloud State. This UNO team is better than last season’s, but the Mavericks have lost five of their last seven games and, although UNO swept Minnesota-Duluth in Omaha back in November, I think a split this weekend at Amsoil Arena might be the best the Mavericks can hope for this time around. That’s what I’m going with as my prediction for this series.
Tyler: UMD has an advantage on special teams with an effective power play that recovered after it went into a mid-season lull. Meanwhile, the Mavericks offense has struggled and its defense hasn’t done UNO any favors, either. UMD sweeps.
Alaska-Anchorage at No. 12 Denver (Friday-Sunday):
Matthew: UAA cemented itself to the bottom of the WCHA standings a couple weeks ago, and the best the Seawolves can hope to do now is play the spoiler role against first 12th-ranked Denver and then whichever team wins the league’s regular season championship. I can’t see any upsets here, though. George Gwozdecky’s Pioneers will sweep this series and, if DU picks up more points this weekend than UNO does, will be at home in the firs round of the playoffs.
Tyler: Denver finishes out the regular season with a pair of wins and sneaks into the top six of the standings and get a home playoff matchup. The Pioneers are the far better team and, more importantly, they have something big to play for, and that makes them the heavy favorite this weekend. Denver sweeps.
Colorado College at Michigan Tech:
Matthew: Tech is in a similar situation to Bemidji’s in that this weekend sees the Huskies play their final two home games of the season against a team that soon will be leaving in favor of a new breakaway league. Both of these teams will be on the road in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, so there’s not much on the line here apart from vying for higher postseason seeds. CC’s the marginally better team here, and even though this series is in Houghton, Mich., I’m taking the Tigers to pick up three points against MTU.
Tyler: Colorado College has played well the last month and a half and went 3-2-1 against solid competition in the last three weekends. The Tigers got bogged down in a second period marred by penalties in a loss to Minnesota State last Saturday. That kept their regular offense from getting into a rhythm, but otherwise, it’s been clicking. I’ll call a split because Tech has played well at home in the second half of the season. After two straight weekends on the road, the Huskies will look to finish the season strong in front of their own fans.