Minnesota State and Michigan Tech could both be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, while Bowling Green is on the tournament bubble. Ferris State needs to win the Broadmoor Trophy to get into the NCAAs.
Dare we say this is rivalry week in the WCHA?
Lots of good matchups this weekend, with, once again, all 10 team in action against each other. And there’s some history between a lot of these teams, even if that history only goes back to last season.
So without further ado, let’s pick …
Minnesota State at Ferris State
Shane: This series was a heated one in Mankato last year when the roles were reversed. Ferris State was ranked No. 2 and Minnesota State was trying to play its way out of the middle. The Mavericks swept and then beat the Bulldogs again for the Final Five title. This year, MSU is No. 1, and FSU is sitting at .500. I think that’s where the similarities end, and we’ll see a split. Mavericks 3-2, Bulldogs 2-1
Jack: I guess the only concern for the Mavs would be the seeming “curse of No. 1″ that’s been plaguing college hockey tonight. A ton of teams have lost a game (or two) and dropped out of the rankings after going to No. 1 in the poll. Of course, the polls don’t “matter” but they can mean a lot for the confidence of a team. Ferris is tough to beat at home. They’ve struggled lately but I agree with you that it’s a likely split. Bulldogs 3-2, Mavericks 4-1.
Bowling Green at Michigan Tech
Shane: Another rivalry that was born last year when these teams squared off six times, including in the WCHA playoffs. These two teams sit a point apart at second and third in the standings, so I expect another barn-burner. The Falcons are red hot, having lost just once in their last 13 games, while the Huskies are on a small slide. They’ll split. Huskies 4-2, Falcons 3-2
Jack: I’m tempted to think Bowling Green will sweep this series, just the way they’ve been playing so well and the fact tat Tech has fallen to earth a bit after their hot start. But I’m not so sure. So I guess I’ll just call a split here too and see what happens. Huskies 3-2, Falcons 3-2
Bemidji State at Lake Superior State
Shane: The Beavers are quietly moving their way up in the standings, thanks to a seven-game unbeaten streak. With the schedule they have coming up after this weekend (Bowling Green at home, road series at Tech, Northern and Ferris, just to name a few), these might be must-wins. Same could be said for the Lakers, who are at home for the only time in a 14-game stretch. Beavers 5-2, 4-3
Jack: This might not seem like it, Shane, but this is actually another old-school rivalry, dating back to the 1960s when both teams played in the NAIA and the NCAA simultaneously (or something… college sports was way less regimented back then). Anyway, these have actually been close games when the teams have played recently, but the Lakers are struggling so much I’m not very confident picking them to win anything. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I like the Beavers (and their goaltending and defense) right now. That seven-game unbeaten streak turns to nine games this weekend. Beavers 4-0, 4-2
Northern Michigan at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: The Wildcats are another team that seems to be playing better hockey again. They also have found a way to get at least one point in every league series so far, including four the last two weekends against Michigan Tech and Minnesota State. There might be a couple of goalie battles this weekend against the Chargers, but I see an NMU sweep. Wildcats 3-1, 2-1
Jack: I was surprised at how poorly the Chargers played last weekend, since it seemed like they had turned a corner. Meanwhile, it does seem like maybe the Wildcats are back on track. The Chargers were able to steal a point from NMU in the nonconference series that didn’t count, but Wildcats’ goalie Mathaias Dahlstrom is also 5-0-1 against UAH in the past two years with an 0.81 GAA. I’m going to call a close NMU sweep as well. Wildcats 1-0, 2-1.
Alaska Anchorage at Alaska
Shane: The Governor’s Cup has been a longtime rivalry between the two Alaska schools, and it got ramped up last year when they played in the same conference for the first time. Then there was the three-game playoff series at the end of the year that the Seawolves won in upset fashion. Anchorage is desperate for some of that road magic after winning just one of its last 13 games. The Nanooks have lost one of its last six, meanwhile. Still I see a split. Seawolves 3-2, Nanooks 4-1
Jack: I’m going to call a Nanooks sweep here. The Seawolves’ last win was in the month of November, which seems crazy. Alaska is playing very well. Maybe if it was in Anchorage I could see the Wolves rallying, but I’ll call a sweep in Fairbanks. Nanooks 5-3, 3-2.
Last week: Shane 5-3-2, Jack 5-3-2
Overall: Shane 76-45-13, Jack 71-50-13
1. Mavericks pulling away?
Michigan Tech has led the WCHA standings for what seems like the entire season. But after the past two weekends, the paradigm is starting to shift. Minnesota State has surged to a six-point lead after taking seven points in the last two weeks. The Mavs swept Lake Sueprior State this weekend then got three points from Northern Michigan the week before.
Meanwhile, Michigan Tech returned to WCHA play this past weekend and managed just one point against UP rivals Northern Michigan. The Huskies played six straight nonconference weekends, which allowed the Mavericks to sneak in behind them and take the lead.
MSU still has to play Ferris State twice and make another Alaska trip, while Michigan Tech still has to play another series against both MSU and third-place Bowling Green, which is a point behind Tech for third place with 20 points.
2. Bowling Green streaking
Meanwhile, the Falcons are unbeaten in their last nine games and haven’t lost since Nov. 14 against Ohio State. BG rallied from a 4-1 hole against Alaska on Saturday to keep the unbeaten streak alive.
The Falcons own the nation’s top penalty kill — they’ve only given up five power play goals — and BG’s three-goalie rotation has impressed lately. Freshman Chris Nell is unbeaten in seven games in net.
The Falcons travel to Houghton this weekend for a huge series against Tech. BG has two games in hand on Tech and four on Minnesota State, so four points against Tech could give the Falcons a fast track to overtaking second — and possibly first — in the standings soon down the road.
3. Separation on the bottom
On the other side of the standings, it looks like last weekend has given us a more clear picture of the three teams who will be fighting for the final few playoff spots.
The bottom three teams in the conference — Alabama Huntsville, Alaska Anchorage and Lake Superior State — were all swept over the weekend.
Bemidji State, which came into the weekend just a point ahead of Huntsville for seventh place with nine points, took all four from the Chargers to put some separation between them and the bottom of the league. The Beavers in seventh now with 13 points and are just three points out of home ice position.
Now, Huntsville still has a hold on the No. 8 spot in the standings (eight points) while Anchorage and Lake State are tied for No. 9 with six points.
These three teams are surely glad that Alaska’s indiscretions led to their playoff suspension, as it will give them an extra chance to make the postseason. Still, one team in the conference is going to be on the outside looking in at the end of the season, and unless something crazy happens down the stretch it will almost certainly be one of these three teams.
I love these weeks, and there needs to be more of them. It’s good for the WCHA when all 10 WCHA teams are in action, especially when they’re all playing against each other, which is the case this weekend. It’s just the second time this season that it has happened, but it gets everyone paying attention to the races taking place up and down the standings.
So what’s going to happen?
Ferris State at Alaska-Anchorage
Shane: The Bulldogs get a to leave Alaska a bit early, thanks to this Thursday-Friday series. Both of these teams are trying to break winless streaks, with Ferris State hoping to stay in the hunt for home ice and Anchorage hoping to do the same but also get out of the conference basement. The Bulldogs dominated the Seawolves two months ago in Big Rapids, but Anchorage has been better at home than on the road. Bulldogs 3-1. Seawolves 2-1
Jack: For some reason both Ferris/Anchorage series this year have been Thursday/Friday instead of Friday/Saturday. Maybe the coaching staffs just don’t like playing on Saturdays? Regardless, Ferris has lost their last four games and will be looking to get out of their rut. I think they’ll score one from the Seawolves on the road, if only yo snap the streak. Seawolves 3-2, Bulldogs 2-1.
Alaska at Bowling Green
Shane: The only thing that would make this a more intriguing series would be if Alaska was eligible for the postseason. These are two of the hottest teams in the league, if not the country with just three non-wins (one loss, two ties) combined in their last 13 games. The Falcons swept the Nanooks in Fairbanks in early November, right after Alaska got the news about its NCAA sanctions. I’ve been on the BG bandwagon all year, but I think this will be a split. Nanooks 4-3, Falcons 4-2
Jack: Seems like the BG bandwagon is getting bigger every week. And with good reason: The Falcons keep proving to everyone in the country just how good they are. The Nanooks struggled early in the season — they were swept by Bemidji State the week before the sanctions were announced then were swept by the Falcons the week after — but they seem to have rallied from that initial shock and are playing some great hockey. I agree with you that this looks like a split. Falcons 5-3, Nanooks 2-1.
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan
Shane: This should be a good series between U.P. rivals, starting Friday in Marquette before moving to Houghton on Saturday. The Wildcats are on a six-game winless streak but one with three ties, including last Saturday against Minnesota State. The Huskies have been impressive, and it took a couple of great goaltending performances to beat them recently. Mathias Dahlstrom missed the MSU series last week. If that’s still the case, I say … Huskies 4-2, 4-3
Jack: That Phillips/Dahlstrom matchup would have me (or anyone who loves good goalie battles) salivating, but if Dahlstrom is still out, as you say, I don’t know if I can see Michael Doan or Derrick Dun being able to stop Tech’s powerful forward group. I’ll agree with the sweep. Huskies 3-1, 5-3
Lake Superior State at Minnesota State
Shane: The Mavericks swept the Lakers by a combined 10-0 score over Thanksgiving weekend in Sault Ste. Marie, but coach Mike Hastings insists that a very different Lake Superior State team is coming to Mankato this weekend, one that won a tournament championship its last time out. Still, the Lakers have been shut out six times this season, including in a shootout win in that Florida tournament. Minnesota State just scores too many goals to lose. Mavericks 4-1, 4-1
Jack: You basically made all the relevant points to this series. The Lakers do seem to be a slightly better team than before — freshman Gordan Diefel has improved, at least — but I can’t see him shutting down the Mavericks’ offense. Mavericks 5-2, 4-2
Alabama-Huntsville at Bemidji State
Shane: The Chargers and the Beavers are a combined 4-0-4 in their last eight games, so something has to give, right? Alabama Huntsville has some swagger right now after scoring its first-ever WCHA sweep, but it has to go on the road to face a Bemidji State team that’s tough at home. An improved Huntsville team is good for the conference, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tie (or two) this weekend. But I’m going with … Beavers 4-2, 3-1
Jack: This may put me in hot water in Bemidji, but the Chargers have already won one game at the Sanford Center in the past year and I see no reason to think they won’t be able to do it again. I think these games are going to be really fun to watch and cover, especially if the BSU student section returns from break a few days early for some “We Hate Huntsville” chants. I think the Beavers and Chargers split. Beavers 4-2, Chargers 3-2
Last week: Shane 5-3-2, Jack 4-4-2
Overall: Shane 71-42-11, Jack 66-47-11
1. Positive Charge(rs)
Alabama-Huntsville made a big stride over the weekend, scoring its first-ever WCHA sweep, beating Alaska-Anchorage at home 3-2 and 2-1. It was also the Chargers’ first series sweep of a Division I opponent since Jan. 29-30, 2010, when they swept Niagara. “We were trying to figure out when was the last time we had a Division I sweep here, and nobody knew,” coach Mike Corbett said in a UAH video posted after the game. “[Assistant] coach [Gavin] Morgan, it’s his fifth year, and he hasn’t seen one since he’s been here. It’s been a long time and a long time coming and our guys did a great job tonight.” Max McHugh and Cody Marooney each scored two goals in the series, and goalie Carmine Guerriero stopped 58 of 61 shots. The Chargers are on a three-game unbeaten streak and are sitting in eighth place in the WCHA, one point behind next week’s opponent, Bemidji State.
2. Bulldogs stumbling
Ferris State began its long trip to Alaska and a tough second-half schedule on a flat note, getting swept in Fairbanks. Perhaps most surprising about the weekend was seeing star goalie CJ Motte allow six goals in a 6-0 loss on Saturday night. The Bulldogs have lost four games in a row and have set themselves up to be in a real battle for a home-ice playoff spot over the rest of the season. They’ll stay in Alaska to face Alaska-Anchorage Thursday and Friday and then face each of the conference’s top two teams — Minnesota State and Bowling Green — back to back over the following five weeks. Meanwhile, second-half spoiler Alaska has won five of its last six games.
3. No brooms at the top
The WCHA’s top three teams had solid weekends but not perfect ones. Minnesota State was the only team in league action and took three of four points at Northern Michigan. The Mavericks had to kill off a five-minute major for the majority of overtime on Saturday to preserve a tie with the Wildcats. Michigan Tech split a nonconference series at Wisconsin despite dominating the weekend. The Huskies won 8-1 on Friday but lost 2-0 on Saturday despite a 47-19 shot advantage. Shot stats don’t show up on the PairWise comparisons, however, and losing to the now-two-win Badgers was a bit of a blow. Finally, Bowling Green got a boost from a tie and win against Robert Morris. The tie took place outdoors in Toledo, Ohio, and the win took place Sunday in Pittsburgh. After the weekend, MSU dropped from first to second in the PairWise, BGSU moved up to fifth and Tech dropped to 13th.
Shane here … Happy new year, everybody! Jack and I weren’t so hot with our WCHA picks last week. Didn’t see that Lake Superior State tournament championship in Florida coming (Congratulations, Lakers!). Didn’t see Michigan Tech and Ferris State losing in the first round of the Great Lakes Invitational. The picks get no easier this week as a few teams return to conference play and others continuing some intriguing nonconference series.
On to the picks …
Minnesota State at Northern Michigan
Shane: The third-ranked Mavericks kick off a tough second-half schedule with a trip to Marquette to face a Wildcats team that has cooled off since its red-hot start to the season. When we last left MSU, it had to cancel a game due to an illness that had spread through the team. The midseason break couldn’t have come at a better time. Same might be said for NMU, which has won one of its last seven games. I like the Mavericks’ offense more than the Wildcats’ defense right now. Mavericks 3-2, 4-2
Jack: The health of Mathaias Dahlstrom might be the key to this series. The NMU goalie missed their series at Bemidji State before the break and the Wildcats went 0-1-1 in Bemidji. If the Wildcazts have Dahlstrom back, they might be able to earn the split. If not, it could be rough on them. I don’t think Dahlstrom’s injury was serious so I’ll call a split assuming he returns healthy. Either way, they need him back healthy soon to try and get back on track. Wildcats 3-2, Mavericks 4-2
Alaska Anchorage at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: The Seawolves struggled in November and December, winning just one of eight games, although they have a win and two ties in their last three. If Anchorage has hopes of getting home ice for the playoffs, it needs to start getting points. There was a time, not all that long ago, when playing the Chargers seemed like an automatic four points. Not so anymore. Although, UAH is on a seven-game winless streak, it did score a tie at Nebraska Omaha on Sunday. Chargers 3-2, Seawolves 4-1
Jack: This could be an underrated fun series to watch. The Seawolves have some firepower but can’t seem to figure out how to close out games, while the Chargers have some good goalies but haven’t figured out how to score consistently. Maybe both teams will bring out the best in each other this weekend and we’ll see a split. Seawolves 3-1, Chargers 4-2
Ferris State at Alaska
Shane: Ferris State last week began a brutal stretch of games in which it will play just two home games in a span of six weekends. The Bulldogs are also the latest team to do the two-week stay in Alaska, which they begin this week against the Nanooks. I really think Alaska is a team that would get home ice (again) if it was eligible, and it will spend the rest of the season reminding people of that. Nanooks 3-1, 2-1
Jack: The fact that Alaska has to miss the playoffs is a real bummer. They’re an exciting team, and Tyler Morley and Colton Parayko probably aren’t getting the accolades they deserve due to the Nanooks’ punishment. Ferris might have a tough time up north so I’ll agree with you, Shane, and go with the sweep. Nanooks 4-3, 2-1
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin
Shane: The fifth-ranked team in the nation plays a one-win team. I’m sure that’s been a scenario in the past between these two teams, only with the roles reversed. I wonder when the last time Tech went to Madison as the favorite against the Badgers. Sometime in the 1970s, I suppose. The Huskies looked really good in the GLI last week, even in the 2-1 loss to Michigan in the first round. Huskies 4-2, 4-1
Jack: The only concern for the Huskies might be that they had a few less days of rest coming off the Sunday-Monday GLI games. I don’t really think that will affect them, though, since as you said, they looked very good in both games despite losing one. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has… not looked good this season. I can’t see anything other than a Tech sweep. Huskies 4-1, 4-1
Bowling Green vs. Robert Morris (Saturday-Sunday)
Shane: This series should be a good one between the 13th- and 19th-ranked teams in the country and will begin with an outdoor game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo (home of the Mud Hens!) before moving to Pittsburgh. The Falcons have lost just one of their last nine games and will be a force in the WCHA over the second half. It looks like the Colonials are pretty solid, too. Falcons 4-2, Colonials 3-2
Jack: The real question is if Bowling Green and Robert Morris will make like the host Toledo Walleye and wear some Star Wars-themed jerseys for the occasion. After all, playing a hockey game outdoors does remind one an awful lot of Hoth, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m expecting a really entertaining series like you. I see a split as well. Falcons 5-3, Colonials 3-2
Last week: Shane 4-4-0, Jack 3-5-0
Overall: Shane 66-39-9, Jack 62-43-9
Slim pickings as far as college hockey goes this week. In fact, aside from a Bemidji State/Ohio State women’s series also happening this weekend, this is the only non-exhibition Division I action this week.
Shane still has a slim lead over me in the overall picks but I gained on him thanks to picking the correct Michigan Tech win on the correct day last weekend against Minnesota Duluth.
Anyway, onto the pick. I need to go watch my favorite Christmas movie ever (Die Hard, obviously) so luckily there’s only one series this weekend!
Alabama Huntsville (3-13-2) at Nebraska Omaha (10-4-2)
Shane: Omaha has proven to be one of the better teams in the country, so I’d have a hard time predicting an upset this weekend. Certainly, the Chargers goaltenders could give the Mavericks fits, especially Carmine Guerriero, their usual series-opener starter. He’ll keep it close, but that’s about it. Mavericks 2-1, 5-2
Jack: I, like you, also think Omaha is one of the best teams in the country. UAH will have a hard time, but in the spirit of Christmas I’m going to pick a split. The Chargers could use a win like this and maybe they will catch the Mavericks off-guard. Guerriero is going to steal them a win on Saturday night. Yippee-ki-yay. Chargers 2-1, Mavericks 4-2.
Last week: Jack 6-1-2, Shane 5-2-2
Overall: Jack 59-37-8, Shane 61-35-8
1. Tech, Minnesota State tied at the top
No matter what happened this weekend, the WCHA’s top three teams would have been set going into intermission anyway. Michigan Tech and Minnesota State — both of whom played nonconference contests this weekend — are tied at the top of the league table with 20 points, while idle Bowling Green sits in third with 17 points.
Not a huge surprise that these three teams are on top, considering they’re the top three scoring offenses in the league and have had a big leg up on the rest of the league.
League play re-starts in January, and special attention will be paid to which of these three teams pulls away (Bowling Green plays at Tech Jan. 16-17 — what should be a huge series to determine who wins the McNaughton Cup).
2. Beavers trending upwards, Wildcats downwards
Bemidji State took three of four points from Northern Michigan at home last weekend, winning 4-2 Friday and tying 1-1 Saturday. It’s part of a five-game unbeaten streak for the Beavers, who go into the break on a high after losing seven straight games in the month of November. They go into the break in seventh place in the league standings (nine points) but are just thee points behind NMU and Ferris State, who are tied for fourth with 12 points.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, have only won two times in their last eight games and have given up more goals in the past two weeks (15) than they did the entire rest of the season before that. (They have given up 29 total goals this season). On top of that, Mathais Dahlstrom missed his first two games of the season last weekend in Bemidji with an injury. Luckily for NMU, he has the break to heal up but they’ll want to make sure he’s back to his normal self soon.
3. WCHA already better out of conference
At the break, WCHA teams are 25-22-5 in nonconference play this year. That’s already just one game behind last year’s win total of 26. (The league went 26-46-12 overall in nonconference last season.)
A few notable wins this season — both Minnesota State and Michigan Tech have split with Minnesota Duluth, and Bemidji State beat North Dakota — have contributed to that cause, but so have a few lower-profile series (like Alabama Huntsville taking three points from Air Force).
Later in December, league teams will play in some big nonconference tournaments like the Great Lakes Invitational which should surely boost the numbers.
All of these wins aren’t just good for the league’s reputation — which they are — but also the league’s Pairwise. If WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson wants to achieve his goal of having three teams in this year’s tournament, they league is off to a great start against its peers.
The first half of the season is coming to an end, Jack, and I’d say we’ve done fairly well with our picks, especially considering there have been a few surprises in what’s become a pretty darn-good conference. No more wasting time, though, I have shopping to do:
Lake Superior State at Ferris State
Shane: Lake Superior State less than a period an a half from pulling off a stunning upset at North Dakota a week ago but couldn’t close the deal. The Lakers appeared to play UND tough the next night, too, despite another loss, so that could give them some confidence going to Big Rapids against a good team that still has a lot of questions to answer Considering Ferris State’s brutal upcoming schedule (just two home games in their next 12 after this), these games are vital to the Bulldogs to stay in home-ice contention for the second half of the season. They’ll sweep at home. Bulldogs 3-1, 2-1
Jack: The Lakers have definitely shown improvement since struggling to start the season. And that first game in Grand Forks had me bugging out for a good hour until UND rallied for the big win. The Bulldogs, too, haven’t been themselves as of late. I think we may see a pair of close games but I’m just not confident in the Lakers holding on against quality teams. I say sweep too. Bulldogs 4-1, 2-1
Northern Michigan at Bemidji State
Shane: The luck has flipped a bit for these two teams, with Northern Michigan and the once-red-hot Mathias Dahlström suddenly giving up goals (10 at home last weekend to Bowling Green!) and Bemidji State going unbeaten in its last three games after dropping seven close ones in a row. This should be an entertaining series for you to cover this weekend, Jack, and I think you’ll see a series split. Beavers 3-2, Wildcats 4-2
Jack: I agree that this should be a good series. Dahlström suddenly looks only human as opposed to a puck-stopping robot (he’s all the way up to 1.71 GAA now!) but I have a feeling he should get back on track soon. The Beavers, meanwhile, have been scoring a lot of goals lately — seven in each of the past two weekends — but they’ll be without leading scorer Brendan Harms for at least four weeks. That will be a big blow for them, simply because Harms is such a great playmaker for them. (The Fitzgerald triplets, on the other hand, are just now starting to heat up — watch out.) I agree that this seems like a split, though. Wildcats 3-2, Beavers 5-3
Alabama Huntsville at Alaska
Shane: I was really impressed with what I saw out of Alaska last weekend. The Nanooks would be a home-ice contender if not for the fact that they’re banned for the postseason. After dropping five in a row, Alaska has split its last three series. Alabama Huntsville clearly has improved from last season, and I think it will score some goals this weekend, but I can’t call an upset. Nanooks 4-2, 5-2
Jack: These Alaska trips are never easy on any team, but the Huntsville-to-Fairbanks voyage is the longest in the league. You’re right that these should be entertaining games — they could be high-scoring, since thew Nanooks can give up some goals — but I’ll still call a UAF sweep. Nanooks 5-4, 5-3
Minnesota Duluth at Michigan Tech
Shane: I’ll definitely have this series pulled up on WCHA.tv this weekend while covering the MSU games in Mankato. Should be a great nonconference matchup between the No. 4 Huskies and the No. 9 Bulldogs, as Jack wrote about in this week’s WCHA column. The two teams have lost just three of their last 23 games (that includes all of Tech’s games), so the natural inclination is to call a series split. Huskies 4-2, Bulldogs 4-2
Jack: I’ve said this a lot this year, but Houghton is once again the place to be this weekend. Especially if you like hockey. (If you don’t like hockey, I’m sure Lake Superior is also lovely this time of year.) When I talked to Huskies coach Mel Pearson he said he didn’t see a lot of differences between these teams, and I tend to agree. I’ll also call a split. Bulldogs 3-1, Huskies 5-3
Princeton at Minnesota State
Shane: The No. 3 Mavericks close out the first half of their schedule with a nonconference series against the rebuilding Tigers. If Minnesota State was due to have a hiccup, I think that happened last Friday at home against Alaska when it lost in overtime. That got MSU’s attention, and I think it continues its high-flying scoring act this weekend. Mavericks 5-1, 5-2
Jack: Minnesota State’s scoring offense is No. 3 in the country (behind, somewhat surprisingly, Robert Morris and Michigan). Princeton’s offense is the worst in the country and they’ve given up more than 3.5 goals a game. And to make matters worse for the Tigers, George Parros retired from the NHL last week, depriving them of their most famous NHL alumnus. I can’t see the Tigers tripping up the Mavs this week. Mavericks 6-1, 5-1
Three things I think I learned from the weekend that was in the WCHA:
1. Nanooks are dangerous
Alaska gave No. 2 Minnesota State all it could handle and more over the weekend, splitting a series in Mankato. The Nanooks are good. Tyler Morley and Colton Parayko are legit all-league players. Freshman Austin Vieth is a solid rookie, who scored in OT on Friday. It’s too bad they won’t be able to compete in the postseason due to the NCAA sanctions that came down last month. Minnesota State, I’ll bet, is one team that’s glad it doesn’t face the prospect of Alaska coming back to town (or having to go to Fairbanks) for the playoffs. It was a tough matchup for the Mavericks. Alaska will be in spoiler mode for the second half of the season.
2. Falcons keep flying
Anyone who doubts the potency of Bowling Green anymore isn’t paying attention. The Falcons went on the road to Northern Michigan, which was the best defensive team in the country (allowing a measly 1.17 goals per game going into the weekend) and hung up 10 goals in the two games, five each night. The first game ended in a 5-5 tie, and the second was a 5-0 victory on a Chris Nell shutout. Wildcats goalie Mathias Dahlström appears to have come back to earth a bit, but Bowling Green came at him in waves, with six different players scoring goals in the series.
3. Upset opportunity fizzles
There was some early intrigue in Grand Forks, N.D., on Friday night when Lake Superior State went up 3-0 and 4-1 on No. 1 North Dakota. The Lakers, who were shut out in back-to-back home games a week earlier against Minnesota State, were trying to pull off a shocking upset — or at least continue a three-week trend of being the team that knocks No. 1 off its perch. In the end, order was restored, and UND won 7-4 and 3-1. Can the Lakers, who have lost six of seven, gain some confidence from their experience? They go to Ferris State next weekend. The Lakers are in a four-way tie for sixth place with Alaska as well as Alaska Anchorage and Bemidji State, who tied twice in their series in Anchorage.