Eight of the WCHA’s 10 teams are in action this weekend while Alaska and Bowling Green take the weekend off so the rest of the league can catch up to them in games played.
After the weekend, everyone in the WCHA will be within two games played of each other. Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State and Alabama-Huntsville will have played 20 games while the rest of the league will have played 22.
Here are this week’s picks:
Alabama-Huntsville at Michigan Tech
Matt: It’s Winter Carnival weekend in Houghton, where winter is embraced, not mourned. The university has been done with classes since Wednesday, when engineering students stayed up all night into Thursday building some of the cooler snow and ice sculptures you ever see. I’m looking forward to checking those out, and some hockey on Saturday. It should be another good weekend for Tech. Huskies 4-1, 5-1
Shane: Nothing says welcome to the WCHA like that first trip to Houghton, and the Chargers get a double-shot, as they’re the opponent of choice for Winter Carnival weekend. I’ve never been there for the Carnival myself but was there the week before once when the sculptures were under construction. The students worked deep into the night after the Friday game but must have been at the bars on Saturday. A tradition like no other? Anyway, big chance for the Huskies to make a move in the standings. Huskies 4-1, 4-3
Northern Michigan at Ferris State
Matt: According to the NMU hockey Twitter account (http://twitter.com/NMUHockey), the Wildcats have not played in Big Rapids since the 2009-10 season. It was an old quirk of the CCHA scheduling rotation, which also seemed to keep Michigan from ever playing in Marquette as well. The Wildcats played the Bulldogs tough during their unbeaten streak, mustering a tie in Marquette. I say the NMU seniors get a win in their first ever games at Ferris. Wildcats 3-2, Bulldogs 4-2
Shane: The best thing the WCHA did a few years ago was go to a real scheduling rotation that Minnesota coach Don Lucia came up with to prevent scenarios such as the one Matt mentioned above. The plan guaranteed every team play in the other teams’ barns at least 3 of every 4 years. That worked until Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha came aboard to make it a 12-team league. Back to 10 in the newlook league, I hope the Lucia Plan is back in place. Anyway, I liked some things I saw from NMU last weekend and think Ferris has cooled a bit. Wildcats 4-2, Bulldogs 4-1
Alaska-Anchorage at Lake Superior State
Matt: The Lakers desperately need points this weekend, though they still have some games in hand. The problem is they don’t have games in hand on the team right in front of them — Northern Michigan. UAA is 1-5-2 this year on the road in the WCHA, but LSSU is only 4-6-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, having lost three of its last four. Lakers 4-3, Seawolves 3-1
Shane: It’s hard to believe the Lakers, who started off so hot this year, are now in real danger of missing the WCHA’s postseason. They have a tough road the rest of the way, so if they’re going to get out of the hole, it better start now. They’re hosting an Anchorage team that is in position to be at home for the playoffs but one that hasn’t been all that good away from Alaska this season. A sweep by Lake Superior could really shake up these tight, tight standings. But I don’t see that happening. Seawolves 2-1, Lakers 3-1
Bemidji State at Minnesota State
Matt: The Beavers have been better on the road (5-3-2) than at home (3-5-2) this year, while only Ferris State (7-0-1) has been better on their home ice than the Mavericks (7-1-0). Bemidji split with MSU back in the first two days of November when the Mavericks were clearly struggling. That’s not the case, at least in Mankato, in February. Mavericks 3-1, 4-1
Shane: Other than the Mavericks themselves, no one’s happier to see that team play in Mankato this weekend than me (well, maybe my wife … well, maybe not). Anyway, MSU has played 10 of its last 12 games away from home. They’re 9-1-0 at home this season and have also won 5 of the last 6 games in which they’ve hosted the Beavers. The two teams split in Bemidji in November.Mavericks 3-2, 5-2
Last week: Matt 5-1-0, Shane 3-2-0. Overall: Shane 104-51-20, Matt 100-56-20.