The WCHA Final Five shifts to Grand Rapids, Mich., after 15 years in the Twin Cities.
Eight of the league’s 10 teams are involved in conference play this weekend, meaning the standings are once again due to be shuffled. Meanwhile, Minnesota State participates in the North Star College Cup and Alabama-Huntsville gets a week off.
Here are the picks:
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green
Shane: These two teams are going different directions. The Lakers have dropped five in a row and six of their last seven. The Falcons are unbeaten in seven of eight, including five straight. Bowling Green’s going to keep itself close to Minnesota State and Ferris State in the race for the MacNaughton Cup. Falcons 3-2, 4-2
Matt: The Falcons are finally playing like the team that impressed me early on in the season, and living up to the potential that many thought they had. Goaltender Tommy Burke has been a big reason the Falcons are finding success. Falcons 3-1, 3-2
Ferris State at Michigan Tech
Shane: Now we’ll see what Ferris State is made of. After losing its first two WCHA games of the season, the Bulldogs will find out if they have some rebound in them. They’re fortunate that C.J. Motte wasn’t given a game DQ on Saturday and is available for tonight. Still, I see a split. Big games for the Huskies, too, and they’re at home. Huskies 3-2, Bulldogs 3-1
Matt: Every point at this point in the season is now a crucial one for the Huskies and Bulldogs, who are both in tight — but different — races. Ferris is trying to hold off Minnesota State. Tech is surprisingly trying to make the WCHA playoffs, locked in a three-way tie for seventh with LSSU and Alaska. Bulldogs 3-1, Huskies 2-1
Northern Michigan at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: The Wildcats appear to have reinvented themselves after the new year and are 3-1 in 2014. The Seawolves have that impressive home record, and are 5-1 since the calendar turned. What gives? Probably nothing. Seawolves 2-1, Wildcats 4-2
Matt: The Seawolves dominance at home (9-2-1) has left them competing for home ice in the WCHA playoffs rather than just a spot. Meanwhile, even a split allows Northern to gain ground on the rest of the league having still played the least amount of WCHA games after this weekend. That finally changes after next weekend. Seawolves 4-3, Wildcats 4-3
Bemidji State at Alaska
Shane: The Beavers got one point at home when the Nanooks visited them last month but appear to be playing better hockey now. Alaska salvaged its road trip to Michigan with a win on Saturday and return home where it’s only .500. Beavers 2-1, Nanooks 4-1
Matt: I learned last week the Nanooks have the firepower to keep up with much of the WCHA, but that offense is no good if you can’t stop anyone. The Nanooks did hold the Wildcats to 1 for 8 on the power play, which is a step in the right direction. Nanooks 4-1, Beavers 3-2
Minnesota State in North Star College Cup
Shane: The Mavericks are coming off their best weekend of the season and now play in Minnesota’s version of the Beanpot. They haven’t been great on the road, but these are important games. Mavericks 4, Minnesota Duluth 1; Minnesota 3, Mavericks 2 (Hey, can I hedge my bet and call for an MSU win Saturday if it’s St. Cloud State?)
Matt: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but should the Mavericks be concerned about a letdown in St. Paul after a heated weekend against Ferris State? Seriously, if you are a Maverick, who do you want another crack at the most right now: Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Minnesota … or the Bulldogs? Mavericks 2, Minnesota Duluth 1; Minnesota/St. Cloud State 4, Mavericks 2
Last week: Shane 5-3-2, Matt 5-3-2. Overall: Shane 98-42-20. Matt 91-49-20
Here is what I think I learned after what turned out to be a crazy weekend in the WCHA, specifically in Mankato.
The race is on for the MacNaughton Cup
Just when we thought the WCHA regular season championship was destined for Ferris State, Minnesota State came along this weekend and made the conference title race interesting with a sweep of the Bulldogs in Mankato.
And boy was it an interesting series to say the least, with a line brawl during the third period on Saturday that resulted in 26 penalties for 160 minutes, with 10 players getting ejected. Of those 10, three received game disqualifications and will be missing Friday’s action. We’ll see if more suspensions are handed out today from the league.
Oh, and someone also wasted a perfectly good bottle of Buffalo Wild Wings sauce by chucking it onto the ice. Who does that?
The Mavericks’ 6-2 and 4-3 wins cut Ferris’ lead down to two points, however, FSU still has two games on hand and will be able to extend that margin on Friday and Saturday at Michigan Tech. The Mavericks wrap up nonconference play Friday and Saturday in the Minnesota North Star Cup.
Following the North Star Cup, MSU finishes the season at Northern Michigan, at home back-to-back weekends against Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville, at Lake Superior State and at home against Michigan Tech.
After traveling to Tech, FSU hosts Northern Michigan, travels to Bemidji, hosts Alaska-Anchorage, travels to Alaska and closes at home against LSSU.
Don’t overlook Alaska’s Morley brothers
Nanooks senior forward Cody Kunyk gets a lot of praise and deservedly so. He’s a tremendous player who can do great things with the puck.
However, I left the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Saturday night more impressed with Alaska freshman forward Brandon Morley and his older brother, sophomore forward Tyler Morley.
Brandon finished with two goals and an assist in the split with the Wildcats while Tyler totaled three goals. Both combined to score three goals and an assist in Saturday’s come-from-behind 4-3 win.
Brandon only had two goals and an assist in 22 games heading into the weekend as he has found the penalty box more than the net this year.
Tyler, however, is now tied with Kunyk for the team-high in goals with 12 as both sit tied for fourth overall in the WCHA.
Northern Michigan’s John Siemer is going to be special
As good as the Morley brothers were this weekend, especially on Saturday, Northern Michigan true freshman John Siemer was better.
In just his fourth and fifth collegiate games since becoming eligible in the middle of December and his first weekend playing in front of the Wildcats’ home crowd, Siemer scored two goals and two assists with three of those points coming Saturday in the loss to Alaska.
Siemer scored his first collegiate goal in his first game in Marquette on Friday to give NMU a 4-2 lead. Then on Saturday, he set up senior forward Erik Higby twice before scoring again in the third period to cut Alaska’s lead to one.
His coast-to-coast underdressing of the Nanooks that put NMU up 2-0 in the first period Saturday was as impressive of a play I’ve seen all year. Pinned back in the Wildcats’ own zone, Siemer escaped past one Nanook by passing the puck off the boards to himself. He then weaved through three more Nanooks before backhanding a pass at the end line to Higby through the same three Nanooks. Higby one-timed the shot for the score.
Six WCHA teams are involved in conference play this week while Bemidji State and Lake Superior State play nonconference series. Michigan Tech and Bowling Green both are on the bye. Here are the picks.
Alaska at Northern Michigan
Shane: The fun thing about the WCHA this year is that there’s not just a race for home ice but there’s a race for the final playoff spot(s) and trying to avoid being ninth or 10th. These two teams seem too talented to miss the postseason, so it should be a battle this weekend in Marquette. Nanooks 3-2, Wildcats 4-1
Matt: Fairbanks Daily-News Miner reporter had a few interesting stats at NewsMiner.com this week about the Nanooks’ lack of success in Marquette. Alaska hasn’t won at NMU since Feb. 5, 2005 and have only picked up five points in 12 games at the Berry Events Center. All time, Alaska is just 1-16-7 at NMU. Wildcats 2-1, 3-2
Alaska-Anchorage at Alabama-Huntsville
Shane: The Seawolves are on a roll right now, thanks to the renaissance of goalie Chris Kamal. I don’t have the guts to pick the Chargers’ second win of the season, but I think one of these games, probably Saturday, could be very, very close. Seawolves 3-1, 2-1
Matt: The Seawolves are on a roll, but not on the road, where they are 1-6-1 this year overall and 0-5-1 in WCHA play. Chargers are going to get their second win this season and first at home. Chargers 2-1, Seawolves 3-0
Ferris State at Minnesota State
Shane: When the league schedule came out last summer, this series was the first non-rivalry matchup circled on a lot of calendars. These were the WCHA’s top two teams as picked by the coaches and the media. Ferris State hasn’t lost in league play yet, and Minnesota State is looking to bounce back from a disappointing trip to Alaska. Bulldogs 3-2, Mavericks 3-1
Matt: The Bulldogs are six points up on the Mavericks and have two games still in hand. Three or more points for the Mavericks gets them right back into contention for a WCHA regular season title, while three or more points for Ferris puts the MacNaughton Cup practically in Big Rapids. Until FSU loses in WCHA play, I can’t pick against them, even in Mankato. Bulldogs 3-2, 4-3
Bemidji State vs./at North Dakota
Shane: The Beavers had a huge sweep last weekend at Lake Superior and return home to play a big nonconference series. The Sanford Center should be rocking Friday before the series goes west to Grand Forks. North Dakota is playing better but it’s not the mighty UND we’re used to. Beavers 3-2, UND 4-2
Matt: NoDak may not have been as mighty as some are used to in October and November, but has since shown some life, not counting exhibition games played outside the U.S. against Canadian teams. Beavers hang tough, but get swept. UND 3-2, 4-1
Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Shane: What happened to the Lakers after that great start to the season? They might be in trouble with a tough remaining schedule that includes 10 of their final 14 games on the road. It starts with this nonconference series in South Bend. Irish 4-1, 3-2
Matt: The Lakers, facing former coach Jeff Jackson this weekend, are 4-1-1 in nonconference games this season having swept Robert Morris and Union while losing and tying at Wisconsin. This is the league’s last chance to get a win against Hockey East. So far, the WCHA is 0-10-0. Irish 3-1, 2-0.
Last week: Shane 5-4-1, Matt 6-3-1. Overall: Shane 93-39-18, Matt 86-46-18
Three things I think I learned this week:
1. No place like home
Much was made of Alaska Anchorage’s travel problems last week, (In case you missed it, weather delays stranded the Seawolves in Minneapolis until Thursday.), yet it found a way to win two games and spoil Minnesota State’s long trip to Alaska. Senior goaltender Chris Kamal was a big reason for the wins, allowing just one goal a night to a team that had averaged 3.9 goals per game over their previous nine games. Perhaps recent history was on the Seawolves’ side. The bulk of their turnaround under new coach Matt Thomas has taken place at Sullivan Arena, where they are an impressive 9-2-1.
2. FSU showdowns
Ferris State remained undefeated in WCHA play (12-0-2) with a sweep of Michigan Tech. The Bulldogs pushed hard to sell out the games and got full houses for their wins, drawing 2,490 on Friday and 2,529 on Saturday. Up next is a trip to Mankato to take on Minnesota State. Had the Mavericks been able to win two games at Anchorage, first place would have been up for grabs. It still has a chance to be a great series. I’m curious to see what kind of crowds they get in Mankato Friday and Saturday.
3. A season saved?
Bemidji State went into the weekend at Lake Superior State on an eight-game winless streak. Four ties in that stretch kept the Beavers afloat, but they needed a win – or two. They got the sweep against the No. 19 Lakers – on the road no less – and are in the thick of the WCHA race for home ice (top four). “This was a huge game,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said on the radio after Saturday’s game. “I told our guys this is game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, and that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the year. The sweep is what we needed to rectify last season.”
Eight of the 10 WCHA teams are involved in league contests this weekend while Alabama-Huntsville heads to Notre Dame and Northern Michigan plays pond hockey during its bye week. Here are the picks.
Alaska at Bowling Green
Matt: I may have called a split for the Nanooks a week ago — though I had the winners flipped — but I was still impressed Alaska was able to take two points from a red-hot Minnesota State. Because of that, I like Hockey Bear’s boys to steal one on the road. Falcons 4-1, Nanooks 3-2
Shane: This is a big weekend for both teams. Bowling Green is trying to keep pace with Ferris State and Minnesota State, despite playing 16 league games already. Alaska, after splitting with MSU, has to feel like it’s better than a bottom-two team. So, yeah, a split. Falcons 4-3, Nanooks 3-2
Michigan Tech at Ferris State
Matt: Colgate the giant killers stole their second win of the season over Ferris State a week ago. That should only fire up, if not anger a Bulldogs team that is set to play in front of a sold-out Ewigleben Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday. Bulldogs 2-1, 3-1
Shane: Like everyone else, I’m curious to see how the Bulldogs bounce back from that rare loss. Suddenly, they have a lot to prove. Being at home in front of those sold-out crowds ought to help. I keep thinking Tech is better than its record, but I’m not sure the Huskies will win this weekend. Bulldogs 4-2, 4-3
Bemidji State at Lake Superior
Matt: LSSU is the last team to lose to the Beavers back on Nov. 23 in Bemidji. Since then, BSU has gone winless in its last eight games, going 0-4-4. It needs a win badly, probably more than the Lakers, who have played more games than the Beavers. Lakers 3-2, Beavers 2-0
Shane: After that strong start, the Lakers have been a steady .500 team. Meanwhile, the Beavers’ scoring seems to have run dry. I’ll take the team with the better goaltending. Lakers 3-1, 2-1
Minnesota State at Alaska Anchorage
Matt: So the Mavericks have become the home team after the Seawolves got stuck in Minneapolis until Thursday night. They don’t get to practice on their own rink until today — game day. I like the Mavericks to take advantage of a weary Seawolves team. Mavericks 4-2, 3-2
Shane: Minnesota State’s Alaska grind certainly doesn’t seem so bad compared to Anchorage’s travel woes. On a normal week, I’d probably pick a split, especially with Anchorage being so good at home. But I like an MSU sweep. Mavericks 5-2, 4-2
Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Matt: I thought the Chargers did an admirable job against Wisconsin two weeks ago, but took a step back in getting routed by Bowling Green. Fighting Irish 5-1, 4-0
Shane: Huntsville’s going to get another win this year, maybe more than one. As usual, they’ll make it close on Saturday, but I don’t see a win this weekend. Irish 4-0, 3-2
Last week: Shane 9-3; Matt 8-4. Overall: Shane 88-35-17; Matt 80-43-17.
The entire WCHA returned to action this week with eight of the 10 teams in league play. Here is what I think I learned after the first weekend of WCHA games in 2014.
Ferris State and C.J. Motte are beatable
In the first half of the season, a tie against the Ferris State Bulldogs and their goaltender C.J. Motte was something to brag about. Not anymore.
Colgate, which entered 2014 at 7-9-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the ECAC, beat No. 1 Minnesota on Friday in a shootout and then halted the No. 2 Bulldogs 16-game unbeaten streak (13-0-3) with a 3-0 win on Saturday to capture the Mariucci Classic championship in Minneapolis.
It was only the third loss of the season for Ferris State, with all three defeats coming against the ECAC. Prior to this weekend, Ferris lost at Colgate on Oct. 6 and at home on Oct. 18 against St. Lawrence.
Both of those early season losses came with sophomore Charles Williams in goal for the Bulldogs. Saturday was the first loss in 19 games for Motte, who fell to 15-1-3 on the year.
FSU is still undefeated in WCHA play at 10-0-2, but Minnesota State has cut the Bulldogs lead to two points. Ferris has two more games in hand than MSU. The Bulldogs and Mavericks meet in Mankato Jan. 17-18.
Northern Michigan can survive without C.J. Ludwig
The Wildcats picked up their second sweep of the season and first on the road in convincing fashion at Bemidji State via 4-1 and 3-1 victories.
And they did it without senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig.
The last time NMU played in the state of Minnesota, it had just learned Ludwig was lost for the season, and struggled mightily in 3-2 and 3-0 losses to Minnesota State in Mankato.
This was a much different trip to Minnesota, though, with the seven goals scored by seven different players. Another six Wildcats got on the scoresheet via assists.
NMU finished 2 for 8 on the power play, but more importantly, killed all nine Beavers penalties.
The Wildcats, who are on the bye again next week, still sit seventh in the WCHA standings, but are only five points back of third place having played a league-low 12 conference games.
Bemidji State has the best WCHA TV broadcast
As much as I’d love to be at a hockey rink each weekend a WCHA team is in action, my location in Marquette makes it tough to get anywhere but the Berry Events Center in Marquette on a consistent basis.
The geography of the league is of course a problem, but the U.P.’s cold and snow alone makes even a 100-mile drive from Marquette to Houghton a challenge in my two-wheel drive, four-cylinder, compact sedan that may have gotten me to Sault Ste. Marie this weekend, but not back.
The result is I get to take in plenty of WCHA TV on weekends I’m either working the desk of The Mining Journal or snowed in on my couch. From either location, I’ve now had a chance to take in nine of the 10 WCHA broadcasts multiple times for multiple periods, with NMU being the only broadcast I haven’t watched because I’m at every home game for the MJ.
Some efforts to broadcast games are obviously farther along than others, and I’m not here to call out the amateurs — and there are some. But when it comes to declaring an example for the rest of the league to follow, hands down it’s Bemidji State and Lakeland Public Television.
Everything from the production to the on-air broadcast team is top-notch, with the team of Scott Williams and Eric Monsrud clinching the win for me.
One of the gripes I’ve heard from fans this season is homer announces catering just to the home team’s fan base. Typically there’s nothing wrong with that since the broadcasters or their station is hired by the school.
However, WCHA TV has brought in a number of opposing fans to those one-sided broadcasts. Williams and Monsrud do a great job catering to both sides and calling it as they see it, even if that means not always siding with Bemidji.
As the league moves forward with separate broadcasters for the video streams, Williams and Monsrud’s style should be the blueprint to follow.
All 10 WCHA teams are back in action now after the holidays, though not every school is in league play yet.
Michigan Tech is coming off a shootout win and overtime loss in the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park in Detroit, Bowling Green split at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh and Alabama-Huntsville was swept at Wisconsin last weekend.
Here’s Shane and my picks for this week. A thanks to Shane for being generous tallying our record from last weekend, giving us credit for Tech’s shootout win and for the Huskies’ loss, though we thought it would come against Michigan, not Western Michigan.
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior
Shane: This is the weekend’s best matchup as the two teams close out the first half of conference play (each has played 12 league games) tied for fifth place. The Huskies are better than their record with a tough schedule, even though they’re technically on a six-game winless streak. The Lakers went into break with one win in their last four. The teams split earlier this season; they’ll do it again. Lakers 3-1, Huskies 2-1
Matt: Great matchup. Horrible weekend to schedule it on. I’ve railed on this before with the first meeting between these two teams scheduled during the opening weekend of deer hunting. Rain may have chased hunters from their deer blinds to MacInnes Student Ice Arena in November — I literally drove to and from Houghton in a thunderstorm for Game 2 — but not even a series with Tech is getting LSSU students to return early from holiday break. Lakers 4-2, Huskies 2-1
Bowling Green at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: The Chargers’ lone win of the season came against the Falcons less than a month ago. Can they pull off another? If Bowling Green wants to stay in the race for home ice, it can’t afford another slip. Falcons 5-2, 2-1
Matt: Bowling Green could have really fallen apart after that home loss to Huntsville, but rallied to take three points from Tech in Houghton — the Falcons scored two late goals with an extra attack to get a tie in Game 2 — and then split in Pittsburgh. I like BGSU to keep building. Falcons 3-1, 4-1
Northern Michigan at Bemidji State
Shane: Both of these teams enter the weekend on six-game winless streaks. Something’s got to give, right? Well, with all of the overtime games the Beavers have played this season (8), maybe not. When the Wildcats played in Mankato, Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said his team might have caught them at a good time. While CJ Ludwig isn’t returning, Northern Michigan is getting other bodies back. I’m not going to predict ties here but: Beavers 3-2, Wildcats 3-2
Matt: When Shane says he’s “not going to predict ties here,” he means, “I’m predicting ties, but if I’m wrong, it kill my record.” I concur with that. Beavers 3-1, Wildcats 2-1
Minnesota State at Alaska
Shane: The Mavericks begin their long, strange trip to Alaska where they will play both teams there, starting this weekend with the Nanooks. Minnesota State won seven in a row going into the break. Alaska snapped a five-game losing streak and closed out the first half 2-1-0. I think MSU keeps it rolling though. Mavericks 3-2, 4-2
Matt: If Alaska wants to make the WCHA playoffs, it needs to defend its home ice and can’t get swept. At the same time, MSU needs every win it can get to keep pace with Ferris State. Mavericks 4-1, Nanooks 4-3
Ferris State vs. RPI on Friday; FSU vs. Minnesota/Colgate winner on Saturday
Shane: The hope here, of course, is that the Bulldogs and host Gophers win in the first round to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on Saturday. That’s also the call, but I’m afraid Ferris’ unbeaten streak ends on Minnesota’s home ice. Bulldogs 3-2, Gophers 4-2
Matt: Ferris should have no problem with RPI on Friday and I want to pick Ferris State to upset the Gophers on Saturday, but Mariucci Arena isn’t as familiar to the Bulldogs as the last place they faced a top-5 team — Michigan at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Bulldogs 4-1, Gophers 3-2
Alaska Anchorage at Wisconsin
Shane: The Seawolves’ turnaround this season has been impressive, but they’ve done almost all of their damage at home. The next step is winning on the road. But the Badgers are 9-0-1 in Madison (where they’ve also played 10 of their 16 games) and likely will stay unbeaten. Badgers 5-1, 3-2
Matt: The Badgers have owned the WCHA so far this year, going 5-0-1 so far against Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State and Alabama-Huntsville. UAA is the league’s last hope to beat Bucky, and I don’t like the Seawolves chances. Badgers 4-1, 3-1
Last week: Shane 5-0-1; Matt 5-0-1. Overall records: Shane: 79-32-17; Matt: 72-39-17
Happy holidays and a welcome back to college hockey after a short break.
Three WCHA teams are in action this weekend with Michigan Tech hosting the Great Lakes Invitational outdoors at Comerica Park in Detroit and Bowling Green participating in the Three Rivers Classic at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Here are Matt and Shane’s picks, with Matt reliving his CCHA days and adding some bonus out-of-league picks for the GLI.
Great Lakes Invitational
Shane: The folks in Michigan must be excited about this and everything else happening outdoors at Comerica Park. The Huskies are the GLI’s defending champion and have already taken two games from Michigan State. I think they’ll return to the title game, but Michigan will prove too tough.
Huskies 4, Spartans 2 / Wolverines 3, Huskies 1
Matt: The GLI was supposed to be played outdoors a year ago at the home of the Detroit Tigers, however, the NHL lockout pushed it back the entire Hockeytown Winter Festival to this season. Michigan Tech plays its third game of the season Friday against Michigan State having beaten the Spartans twice in Houghton already. Michigan is playing in its fifth and sixth outdoor game since 2001, starting Friday in the nightcap against Western Michigan. The Wolverines are 2-1-1 in outdoor games going into the weekend having won their previous two over MSU in Ann Arbor and last year against Ohio State in Cleveland. I like Tech and Michigan to win Friday with the Wolverines and Spartans prevailing on Saturday.
Huskies 3, Spartans 2 / Wolverines 4, Huskies 3
(BONUS: Wolverines 3, Broncos 0 / Spartans 2, Broncos 1)
Three Rivers Classic
Shane: Another good tournament is taking place in Pittsburgh and the Falcons are hoping to see if they’re back on track after closing out the first half of the season with a three-point weekend in Houghton. They have a tough matchup right away, but will bounce back against either Robert Morris or Penn State.
Eagles 5, Falcons 2 / Falcons 4, PSU or RMU 2
Matt: Junior forward Ryan Carpenter is practicing again for the Falcons, but it doesn’t appear he’s ready to play just yet based on the latest report from Kevin Gordon of the BG Sentinel Tribune. BGSU should get back forwards Adam Berkle and Brett Mohler this weekend, which won’t be enough to beat BC. It will be enough to beat either Penn State or Robert Morris, though.
Eagles 3, Falcons 1 / Falcons 2, PSU or RMU 1
Alabama-Huntsville at Wisconsin
Shane: If there’s ever a time to try to steal a win in Madison it might be the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s when the Kohl Center won’t be rocking and the Badgers’ best player is playing in the World Junior Tournament. Even under those circumstances, I can’t see the Chargers winning. Badgers 6-1, 4-1
Matt: The Badgers have won their last four games, sweeping Penn State and Colorado College. I expect Bucky to extend that winning streak to four this weekend, even without Nic Kerdiles or a packed house. Badgers 3-1, 4-1.
Overall records: Shane: 74-32-16; Matt: 67-39-16
Three things I thought I learned this weekend …
Note to MSU foes: Stay out of the box
Remember when Minnesota State’s power play was one of the worst in the country? I believe I used the word “feeble” to describe it in more than one story. Don’t look now, but the Mavericks have the WCHA’s best and the nation’s 10th best power play, as it’s shot up to 22.6 percent. It’s been clicking at nearly 40 percent during MSU’s recent seven-game win streak. Jean-Paul LaFontaine leads the league in power-play goals (7) and points (11). The Mavericks scored four power-play goals in their first 10 games of the season. In the eight since, they have 17. Against Alabama-Huntsville, they scored three power-play goals each night of the series sweep, which proved to be the difference in the games.
Falcons, Nanooks come up big on road
Bowling Green and Alaska not only scored some huge road points this weekend with each winning and tying at Michigan Tech and Bemidji State, respectively, but they buoyed themselves before break after some tough stretches before the weekend. The Falcons not only beat the Huskies on Friday but scored two late goals in a come-from-behind tie on Saturday. That series followed a 1-4-0 stretch that included four one-goal losses. The Nanooks, meanwhile, have two wins and a tie on the road in their last three games following a five-game losing streak and a 1-7-0 stretch.
League has good goaltending
There was quite the goaltending battle between Alaska Anchorage’s Chris Kamal and Lake Superior’s Kevin Murdock on Saturday night in Anchorage. The Seawolves and the Lakers appeared to be heading into overtime scoreless, but UAA’s Brett Cameron scored with just under 16 seconds to play. Murdock finished with 26 saves, and Kamal stopped 18 for the win, his first of the year, and series split. Anchorage is 7-2-1 at home this season. There’s been some pretty good goaltending in the league this season with Ferris State’s C.J. Motte, Minnesota State’s Cole Huggins, Northern Michigan’s Mathias Dahlstrom and Michigan Tech’s Pheonix Copley, to name a few.
Oh, and one more thing …
Interesting comments about the officiating – one no-call in particular – from Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson on Saturday night. It’s a long but measured statement probably best viewed than transcribed. Check it out.
Matt and I have done pretty well with the picks so far, which is surprising considering how little we knew about the no-longer new WCHA. This is the last week before break, and I’m enjoying a slim lead on my colleague from the UP. Of course, this is for entertainment purposes only. Onto this week’s picks …
Bowling Green at Michigan Tech
Shane: The Falcons are reeling with one win in their last five games. They’re also 1-6-2 on the road. The Huskies are on a five-game unbeaten streak, although there are three ties in there, and they’ve been good at home. Huskies 3-2, 2-1
Matt: I can’t think of a worse place to try and break out of a slump than John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. I expect the Huskies to be hungry after tying twice against Bemidji State at home a week ago. Huskies 4-2, 3-1
Minnesota State at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: Two teams feeling good about themselves right now. The Mavericks have won five in a row, while the Chargers won for the first time last Saturday. Minnesota State is finally playing like we thought they’d play. Huntsville won’t make it easy, but I don’t see a slip this weekend: Mavericks 3-1, 4-1
Matt: I said it on the blog earlier in the week that MSU is alive and well, finally living up to its preseason hype. UAH will get a home win soon enough, but not against the Mavericks. Mavericks 4-1, 3-0.
Alaska at Bemidji State
Shane: The Nanooks snapped a long, five-game losing streak on Saturday night, and now they make a tough road trip to northern Minnesota to face the Beavers. Both of these teams can score but both give up more than 3 goals per game. Beavers 5-4, Nanooks 4-3
Matt: I was really impressed by the Beavers ability to hang with the Huskies last week in what is a very tough environment to play in. The Beavers may very well be a top four team in the league, not a bottom four team. Beavers 3-2, 4-3
Lake Superior at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: Anchorage has never had a better start at home, going 6-1-2 to start at the Sully. The Lakers, however, have had some road success with splits at Tech and Bemidji. Lakers 3-1, Seawolves 4-3
Matt: The Lakers should not be down right now about being swept by Ferris State in Sault Ste. Marie. Ferris is doing that to a lot of teams lately. As good as the Seawolves have been at home, I expect Kevin Kapalka to not only keep each game close, but get the Lakers a win Saturday. Seawolves 2-1, Lakers 2-1
Northern Michigan at North Dakota
Shane: The Wildcats looked a little beat up last week in Mankato, in my opinion, and it sounds like the calvary’s not coming until after break. Mathias Dahlstrom’s good enough to keep things close but I see a UND sweep. North Dakota 3-2, 4-2
Matt: Dahlstrom is good enough to keep things close, but you’re right about the injuries. NMU probably needs the holiday break more than any team in the league right now to get things figured out. North Dakota 4-1, 2-1.
Ferris State at Michigan State
Shane: The Bulldogs kept their unbeaten streak going with a thrilling tie against Michigan on Wednesday. If this game had been the next night I might have predicted a letdown. I say Ferris keeps rolling. Bulldogs 3-2
Matt: Even the meaningless shootout against Michigan was exciting on Wednesday night, probably because I knew it was meaningless. It’s really tough to pick against Ferris State right now, especially when they are playing a team like Michigan State which is nowhere near the level of Michigan at this point in the year. Bulldogs 4-1
Last week: Shane 6-2-3, Matt 6-2-3. Overall: Shane 66-31-14, Matt 62-35-14