Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Ferris State make up the league’s final four teams for the second straight year.
Luckily, for your sake, I didn’t try something dumb like think of a David Bowie lyric to go with each series this weekend. OK, I tried for like 20 minutes but quit and just decided to listen to the albums Low and Aladdin Sane instead while making my picks.
I also wasted time reviewing dark and light uniforms for each of the 10 WCHA teams earlier today, if you’d like to read the fruits of that.
Anyway, there are some really interesting series this week, but I think by far the one that most will be focused on is in Houghton, where Minnesota State battles Michigan Tech for a shot at first place.
It’s still early enough in league play that I’m still not sure which teams are going to for sure miss the playoffs, or which ones will for sure have home ice — but we’re close. Maybe some smoke will have cleared by the time we’re done here?
Alabama Huntsville at Ferris State
Shane: My gut tells me this is going to be a Bulldogs sweep, but it’s hard to argue with the trends. And a big trend is that Ferris State has pretty much split or gotten two points out of every series it’s played so far this season. The Chargers also won a game the last time they went to Big Rapids. So … Bulldogs 4-1, Chargers 2-1
Jack: Part of me wanted to pick a Chargers sweep just to be contrary, but I, like you, think the power of the split is too strong in Big Rapids. Chargers 3-1, Bulldogs 5-2
Minnesota State at Michigan Tech
Shane: Here’s another trend: The Mavericks are on a nine-game unbeaten streak against the Huskies. Considering how close those teams have been and continue to be in the WCHA standings, that’s pretty crazy. Both teams are playing decent hockey right now, and I think Tech snaps the streak, only to have MSU maintain its lead in the league standings. Huskies 4-2, Mavericks 3-2
Jack: You get to see a pretty good series this weekend, Shane, although I don’t envy the snowy drive ahead of you. And as you said, both teams have been decent, but neither have been dominant recently. This feels like a split. Mavericks 4-2, Huskies 5-3
Alaska at Northern Michigan
Shane: The Wildcats, I think, are going to be the most dangerous team in the WCHA playoffs come March, no matter where they play, considering their goaltending, their defensive commitment and a talented top line. With the Nanooks on a long road trip right now, I think Northern Michigan will be too tough at home. Wildcats 2-1, 1-0
Jack: I noticed lots of hating on Northern Michigan for their style of play. And while their defensive style isn’t the most fun to watch, especially on the wide-open big ice they play on in Marquette, you can’t knock a team for doing what they do best: Getting an early lead then defending the fort. A win is, after all, a win (unless you’re NMU and you’d prefer a scoreless tie). Either way, they’ll get at least two points this weekend, weather by tie or by split. I think three is more likely and since we can’t pick ties, I’ll say a sweep. Wildcats 1-0, 1-0
Arizona State at Bemidji State
Shane: The Sun Devils are getting quite the college hockey education in their first year with trips to Alaska, the U.P. and Madison, just to name a few stops. This weekend, they’re in Bemidji, where I suspect they’ll go home with a nice team picture in front of Paul and Babe and a couple of losses to the suddenly high-scoring Beavers. Beavers 5-2, 4-1
Jack: Saturday’s forecast calls for a high of nine below (not including windchill), so I suspect we’ll see a lot of ski masks and scarves in that tourist trap photo from the Sun Devils. I think the Beavers will likely win this one, but this seems like a trap series for them: They’re coming off a great week in Alaska, but that long trip is rough on most teams. The Beavers are using their conference-mandated bye week (the WCHA builds in bye weeks the week after teams take that long Alaska trip) to get this series in. And the Sun Devils are already 3-1-0 in the other four games they’ve played against WCHA teams. So the Beavers will need to be careful. I think a BSU sweep is most likely but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Devils take one. Sun Devils 4-3, Beavers 6-2
Alaska Anchorage at Lake Superior State (Saturday-Sunday)
Shane: All of the U.P. teams are at home this weekend. There should be some sort of decree made by WCHA commissioner Billy Robertson, shouldn’t there? The Lakers look like a confident team right now, scoring a big split against Bowling Green last week. The Seawolves, on the other hand, are back to struggling a bit. Can they regain the magic they found the last time they were in the U.P.? Maybe one night. Seawolves 3-2, Lakers 3-1
Jack: Here’s a another situation where I don’t know what to make of either of these teams. UAA had more than a month to prep for Bemidji State, and the Beavers overwhelmed them offensively. Lake State, meanwhile, has played basically .500 hockey in the past two months (they are 6-6-4 since the start of November). I think they’re starting to find something. I sense a sweep. Lakers 4-2, 3-2
Bowling Green at Miami (Saturday only)
Shane: The Falcons will step out of WCHA play to take on their in-state rival. This is a good chance to improve the league’s nonconference record, as the RedHawks are not the same as they’ve been in previous years. Falcons 3-2
Jack: If only this single-game start of a home-and-home were on a Tuesday or Thursday… that way I could make a crazy scoring prediction and just use the excuse of #HockeyMACtion. Alas, I don’t think #MACtion counts on weekends, only on weekdays… regardless, I think the Falcons will win here and move a step closer towards winning the (unofficial) Ohio state championship. Falcons 4-2
Last week: Shane 7-3-0, Jack 5-5-0. Overall: Shane 73-43-23, Jack 64-52-23
1. What a trip!
If the old mantra, “Win at Home, Split on the Road,” is one that Tom Serratore adheres to, then he and Bemidji State have to be thrilled with what happened in Alaska over the last two weekends. The Beavers swept Alaska Anchorage on Friday and Saturday, which, combined with a win and tie against Alaska a week earlier, means they are coming home with seven points for the league race. Bemidji State scored 18 goals in the four games (10 different goal scorers), including 11 against the Seawolves. Although they have played two more league games than most other teams, the Beavers are right back in the thick of the WCHA race, moving into fourth place in the standings, a point ahead of Ferris State and Northern Michigan, and sit two points behind third-place Michigan Tech.
2. Doing the splits
Minnesota State and Bowling Green each split their series, allowing the Mavericks to maintain their slim, two-point lead over the Falcons atop the standings. After Friday night, those teams were in a tie for first place, after MSU was beaten at home by Northern Michigan and Bowling Green won at Lake Superior State. The tables turned on Saturday, though, as the Mavericks bounced back, and the Lakers won 1-0 in overtime. Both the Mavericks and the Falcons might be glad to be done with those teams for the year and hope they don’t have to face them in the playoffs. MSU went 1-1-2 against Northern this season with each team scoring seven goals; this, despite a 151-63 shot advantage by the Mavericks. Bowling Green also went 1-1-2 against the Lakers, outscoring them 5-4.
3. Rare wins
Alabama Huntsville’s 3-1 victory over Alaska on Saturday was just its second win since Halloween and first league win since that night. Matt Larose stopped 28 shots and had a shutout going until less than 2 minute remained in the game, and Josh Kestner scored twice as the Chargers bounced back from a disappointing loss on Friday in which they led 2-0 and 3-2 only to lose 6-3. Friday’s win was important for the Nanooks, however, as it was just their second win since Nov. 13. Both teams are trying to avoid missing the WCHA playoffs come the end of the season. Alaska is now tied with Alaska Anchorage for eighth place with 12 points, while the Huntsville is four points behind in 10th.
Shane here … Seems like we’re just about back to normal in terms of the college hockey schedule. Sure, Michigan Tech is in sunny Arizona for Arizona State’s tournament, but eight other WCHA teams are in action against each other, including two teams which have been off for the last three weekends. Yes, all you folks in Mankato and Anchorage. Time to stop binge watching “Making of a Murderer.” College hockey is back. Let’s get to the picks!
Bowling Green at Lake Superior State
Shane: These two teams played to a pair of ties earlier this season in Bowling Green, and, with the way things went throughout the league over the first half of the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see another stalemate or two. Both of these teams closed out the first half playing solid hockey, so I’m going with a split. Falcons 4-1, Lakers 2-1
Jack: I’d forgotten completely about BG and Lake State’s pair of ties. Maybe that’s just how ubiquitous they (ties) have become in this league. The Lakers are 5-3-2 in their last three games, so don’t expect a pushover here. I think a split is also likely. Lakers 3-2, Falcons 4-2
Northern Michigan at Minnesota State
Shane: Here are two more teams that tied twice in their first go-round. The Wildcats have kept things close with everyone, scoring 47 goals and giving up 47. NMU appeared to play well at the GLI, and the Mavericks might be a little rusty after the long layoff. But MSU is also healthy finally, and I think their depth will come through in a pair of close games. Mavericks 3-2, 2-1
Jack: The Wildcats are the overtime kings of college hockey. They lead the NCAA in the stats, and they tied the Mavs earlier this year. It seems like they’ve turned a corner, so I’ll call a split here. Wildcats 2-1, Mavericks 3-2
Alaska at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: After seeing them play a few weeks ago and seeing their results after that, especially against No. 1 North Dakota, I think the Chargers are better than their record indicates. At the same time, I think the Nanooks should be better than their record. But they’ve been reeling with one win in their last 11 games. Here’s something I haven’t done very often: I’m calling a Huntsville sweep. Chargers 3-2, 3-1
Jack: Be careful, Shane: The last time I called a Huntsville split it went didn’t happen (and I also got scolded on Twitter for jinxing them). I think they’ll get at least three points here, because the Nanooks just aren’t the team they were last season, but Alaska has enough firepower, I think, to earn the split. Chargers 3-2, Nanooks 4-1
Bemidji State at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: The Beavers started the second half on a good note securing three points in Fairbanks. They’re staying in Alaska where life on the road can be tough. If they get two more points, that would be a highly successful road trip. The Seawolves might be rusty, too, after the long break. Beavers 4-1, Seawolves 3-2
Jack: This is the first time the Beavers have done the two-week Alaska trip, and so far it doesn’t look like the jetlag or any other assorted travel woes have hit them. Of course, nobody knows what they’ll be like this weekend after their eighth straight day in the Last Frontier. I think they have it in them for at least two more points. Beavers 3-1, Seawolves 4-3
Michigan Tech in Desert Hockey Classic
Shane: Division I college hockey is back in Arizona (I haven’t forgotten you, Northern Arizona), and the Huskies get to be part of its return, playing in Arizona State’s tournament. They will play Connecticut and either Yale or the host team (I’m guessing it will be the former) and have a really good chance of coming out of there with a trophy. Tech 5, UConn 2; Tech 3, Yale 1
Jack: How many Tech fans immediately bought tickets when they found out about this tournament? I’m curious to see what’s the turnout is like… guessing it becomes a “destination” trip in no time. As for the hockey: The Huskies have to be the favorite here, right? I think they win too. It would be fun to see them play the Sun Devils in the finals, however Tech 6, UConn 3; Tech 4, Arizona State 1
Last week: Shane 11-3-1, Jack 8-6-1. Overall: Shane 66-40-23, Jack 59-47-23
1. Beavers steal three points
Bemidji State and Alaska played the lone conference series this weekend. Both teams were too close to the WCHA cellar for comfort, and both teams needed the points this weekend to lift themselves out of it — BSU came into the weekend in eighth place (10 points) while Alaska was just a point behind in ninth (and out of playoff position).
The Beavers ended up getting the upper hand, earning three points and putting some separation themselves and the Nanooks in two entertaining games. And because it’s the WCHA, both games went to overtime. Myles Fitzgerald scored two goals on Saturday, including the game-winner with 7.1 seconds left in OT, as BSU won 6-5. On Sunday, Leo Fitzgerald scored BSU’s lone goal in the third period to get the tie.
The three points pulled BSU up to sixth place with 13 league points; they will stay in Alaska this week for a series against Alaska Anchorage. The Nanooks, meanwhile, are still in ninth place and have three straight road series — at Huntsville, at Northern Michigan and at Wisconsin.
2. The streak ends
Bowling Green went 1-2-0 this week, losing to 1-0 Western Michigan on Wednesday in Toledo before splitting with Clarkson on their home rink Saturday and Sunday. The Falcons outscored the Knights 6-3 on Saturday, but Sunday’s 3-2 loss snapped the Falcons’ 14-game unbeaten streak at BGSU Ice Arena. That was an impressive feat. Now the Falcons have seven more home games in the regular season, if they can keep up their strong play at home it should give them a big push, both in the Pairwise and the WCHA standings.
3. WCHA decent in holiday tournaments
WCHA teams participated in three different holiday tournaments, with various results.
Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan both played in the Great Lakes Invitational. The Huskies took second and the Wildcats took third. The Huskies beat Michigan State in overtime in the semifinals but lost to Michigan 4-2 in the finals. The Wolverines scored four unanswered goals to top the Huskies. The Wildcats also lost to Michigan and beat Michigan State in overtime. In all, the GLI was something of a wash for the conference’s overall record vs. the Big Ten — the league is now 8-6-3 against B1G teams — but it showed that both teams were capable of skating with a strong team like Michigan.
Ferris State participated in Minnesota’s Mariucci Classic, also taking third place. The Bulldogs lost to Harvard 7-3 in the first game but topped UConn 5-2 in the consolation championship. It was a typically decent performance for the Bulldogs, who are 9-9-4 overall and still have yet to lose two games in a weekend.
Finally, Lake Superior State went 1-1 in ThatVermont’s Catamount Cup. LSSU lost to the hosts 1-0 but turned around and blanked Brown 3-0 in the second game. gave them second place in the tournament. The Lakers, who are 4-3-1 in their last eight games, host Bowling Green this weekend.
Happy holidays, everybody. Welcome to that odd time in the college hockey season full of traditional tournaments, nonconfernece showdowns and, for some, the continuation of a long winter’s nap. It all makes for tough pickin’. The action starts tonight (Tuesday) with the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, which has turned into a fun all-Michigan matchup.
Great Lakes Invitational
Tuesday, Dec. 29
Michigan Tech vs. Michigan State
Jack: The Huskies closed out November with a 6-1-1 record and, aside from a puzzling home sweep at the hands of Alaska Anchorage after that, look to be back to where they were last season. They’ve already come back against the Spartans twice, winning once in overtime and tying in the other game, and I see no reason to think that the Huskies won’t win a third time (probably in OT). Huskies 4, Spartans 3
Shane: The beginning of December was a perplexing stretch for the Huskies, with the two home losses to the Seawolves and the tie at Lake Superior State that put them on a three-game winless skid. But I agree with you, Jack, that this is a pretty good team, one that should get into the title game of the GLI. Huskies 4, Spartans 2
Northern Michigan vs. Michigan
Jack: The Wildcats are about the most average team in college hockey, if one looks at their record: 6-6-6 overall. As head coach Walt Kyle likes to say, not a lot of high high or low lows. They’ve been pretty even. However, they’re making their first GLI appearance since 1998 against a former CCHA rival that is playing very solid hockey. I think Michigan has too much firepower and will win their first matchup since the dissolution of the CCHA in 2013. Wolverines 4, Wildcats 2
Shane: It’s a pretty safe bet that this game will take more than 60 minutes to be decided, considering NMU’s eight overtime games thus far. While average is a good word to describe a 6-6-6 team (or evil!), I think there’s above-average talent on the Wildcats roster. Whether it’s enough to topple the 10th-ranked Wolverines, I’m not so sure. Wolverines 2, Wildcats 1 (likely decided in some sort of official GLI tie-breaking procedure)
Wednesday, Dec. 30
Jack: NMU and MSU also haven’t played since their CCHA days, but this is always a fun rivalry with some shared history. I think NMU will rally for third place. Wildcats 3, Spartans 1
Shane: I’m going with what I said above, only this time giving NMU the nod in tiebreaking fashion. Wildcats 2, Spartans 1
Jack: The matchup most are probably expecting, the Huskies and Wolverines met in the first round of last year’s GLI, with Michigan winning 2-1. U-M is probably the favorite but I’ll take Tech just because. Huskies 4, Wolverines 3
Shane: This should be a great game, and I agree, Jack, that Michigan is the favorite. Although the WCHA could use the boost in nonconference play, I’m going to have to go the other way. Wolverines 3, Huskies 2
Tuesday, Dec. 29
Lake Superior State at Vermont
Jack: I’ll admit it: I don’t follow Hockey East or the ECAC closely enough to know how Lake State will match up to either of their opponents this week. That said, I know all four teams participating are below the .500 mark, which means the Lakers have a good a shot to win as any team. Vermont is 5-12-2 and LSSU is 6-10-4. If the Lakers have another top-notch performance by Gordon Defiel, they could steal a win here. Lakers 2, Catamounts 1
Shane: Last year at this time was Lake Superior State’s highlight of the season when it won the Florida College Classic. Can the Lakers make midseason magic again? I say, Why not? Lakers 3, Catamounts 2
Wednesday, Dec. 30
Lake Superior State vs. Brown
Jack: Brown is just 2-7-3, overall, with one win coming against Colgate at the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast. They’ve scored 2.5 goals-per-game — which is slightly better than LSSU’s scoring rate of 2.0 goals-per game. So I expect a low-scoring one here. Brown 2, Lakers 1
Shane: There probably won’t be many goals scored in that whole event, one of the plagues on the WCHA and college hockey, in general this season. I’ll stand by my statement above: Midseason Magic for Lake State. Lakers 1, Bears 0
Western Michigan at Bowling Green
Jack: The single game on Wednesday, Dec. 30, is the back-end of a home-and-home that started Oct. 13 with a 4-1 WMU win. Since then, the teams have gone in opposite directions: BGSU is still unbeaten at home and is No. 12 in the country while WMU is 6-10-1 and has struggled against the NCHC’s top teams. And although this isn’t technically a home game for Bowling Green, it’s at the Huntington Center in nearby Toledo, Ohio. I expect the Falcons to keep rolling. Falcons 5, Broncos 2
Shane: I attended an NCAA regional at the Huntington Center a couple of years ago. Nice arena. Hopefully there will be more people at this game than there were to see Minnesota State, Miami, St. Cloud State and Notre Dame in 2013. Anyway, the Falcons have gone nine games in a row without a loss. Make it 10 after this one. Falcons 4, Broncos 1
Alabama Huntsville at North Dakota
Jack: Talk about a rude awakening for the New Year. UAH greets 2016 with a nonconference series at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Jan. 1-2. This won’t be easy for the Chargers. However, while I don’t think they’ll win, don’t be surprised if a performances by Carmine Guerriero or Matt Larose keeps them in one or both games far longer than F’n Hawks fans will expect. Fighting Hawks 4-1, 5-2
Shane: I watched the Chargers play in Mankato a few weeks ago, and they play hard. Good goaltending and no quit can cause fits for any opponent. But they’re going into a hornet’s nest (hey, Hornets, that would have been a better name than Fighting Hawks, am I right?) this week against the country’s second-ranked team and one that’s been rolling most of the season. Fighting Hawks 5-0, 4-1
Friday Jan. 1
Ferris State vs. Harvard
Jack: Ferris State has lost consecutive games this season just once. That might be in jeopardy. Harvard has given up just 1.5 goals a game and can score some goals, too, with Jimmy Veasy and Alexander Kerfoot both in the top 10 nationally for scoring. Crimson 3, Bulldogs 1
Shane: As a USCHO rankings voter, I’ve liked Harvard since the beginning of the season, and expect the Crimson to win this one, especially with all of that skill on Mariucci Arena’s giant sheet of ice. However, Ferris State will give them a fight to the finish. Crimson 4, Bulldogs 3
Saturday, Jan. 2
Jack: I think Minnesota beats UConn (the Gophers aren’t great, but they’re at home for this one), but the Bulldogs will once again avoid being swept this season by beating UConn for third place. Bulldogs 2, Huskies 0
Shane: I’m with you on Minnesota beating UConn in the first game. However, I’m not sure what the rules are for our own wins and losses when it comes to counting the result if Ferris State does play the Gophers. I guess we just have to go with a W or an L, no matter what. Bulldogs 3, Huskies 2
Bemidji State at Alaska
Jack: The lone WCHA series this weekend finds the Beavers doing their first-ever extended Alaska swing. I assume the Saturday-Sunday (Jan. 2-3) series makes things easier on BSU’s holiday traveling, but either way it may take them some time to adjust. I think this can be a split, considering the two teams split in Bemidji in November. Nanooks 3-2, Beavers 5-3
Shane: This will be the first weekend of dark jerseys at home, the WCHA’s new mandate to — what? — boost fan interest? I’m not sure I’m a fan of this, but it doesn’t really change things for me. The Beavers are beginning their long Alaska trip to play both teams there, while the Nanooks are at home for one weekend before a long road swing that won’t bring them back to their own rink for games until February. I think both teams would be pleased with a split here. Beavers 3-2, Nanooks 3-2
Clarkson at Bowling Green
Jack: There are so many games this weekend we almost forgot about this series! This is a rematch of last year’s series in New York, when Bowling Green tied and beat the Golden Knights. Clarkson seems to be an improved team this year but I can’t see BG losing this weekend. Their home streak continues. Falcons 4-2, 3-2
Shane: The Falcons have an interesting schedule from the holidays into January with the Wednesday game against Western Michigan, this series and then another nonconference game against Miami (after first traveling to Lake Superior State). Bowling Green simply doesn’t lose at home, it seems, and I’m not ready to predict that they’re about to now. Falcons 4-3, 4-1
Last Week: Shane 1-1-0, Jack 1-1-0;. Overall: Shane 55-37-22, Jack 51-41-22.
Happy holidays everyone. Just one series to worry about this week, so let’s get right to it …
Colorado College at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: It’s a matchup between the bottom two teams in the NCHC and WCHA. Each has just three wins. The Chargers are on a 10-game winless streak, but I thought they showed some promise at times last weekend in Mankato against Minnesota State. The have good goaltending, a legit first line and coach Mike Corbett has them playing hard. They’ve probably deserved better on this tough stretch. The Tigers started the season with 13 losses in a row, and they give up a lot of goals. I think Huntsville does its conference proud this weekend. Chargers 3-1, 4-2
Jack: Today Brad Schlossman Tweeted out a fun fact: CC is 3-38-2 on the road since 2013-14. That’s bad. Heck, even Huntsville has a better record since then. The Chargers are 7-40-4 in that same span. (They’ve been 6-25-3 at home since then, too). UAH has just one win at home this season and is winless since Halloween, but they’ve been playing pretty good hockey despite not getting the victories. I agree that Huntsville gets the sweep here and gives the WCHA a boost against the NCHC. (And if they needed any more motivation: rival Bemidji State is the only other WCHA team to beat an NCHC team this season. I’m sure the Chargers don’t want the Beavers to have any good things to themselves.) Chargers 3-2, 4-3
Last Week: Shane 7-1-2, Jack 6-2-2;. Overall: Shane 54-36-22, Jack 50-40-22.
Three things I think I learned this weekend:
1. Maverick, Falcons keep rolling
Minnesota State and Bowling Green sit 1-2 atop the WCHA standings, separated by just two points. Both teams scored sweeps over the weekend with the Mavericks beating Alabama Huntsville twice at home, and Bowling Green getting two at Bemidji State. Each team extended its unbeaten streak to nine games. Minnesota State is 5-0-4 in that stretch, and Bowling Green is 7-0-2 at the same time. Impressive that the Falcons were able to keep things going after doing most of their damage during a six-game homestand.
2. Tech back on track
After getting swept at home by Alaska Anchorage a week ago and tying at Lake Superior State on Friday night, Michigan Tech exploded for four goals in the first period on Saturday against the Lakers, winning 6-2. That result came despite the Huskies getting outshot 37-20. Alex Petan had two goals and an assist in the game and a four-point series. Michigan Tech is three points behind Minnesota State but has played two more games. The Huskies will play in the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit and then the Desert Hockey Classic in Glendale, Arizona, before getting back into league play Jan. 15-16 with a showdown against the Mavericks.
3. Wildcats win in OT
Northern Michigan played its seventh overtime game of the season on Saturday night and got an extra-period victory for the first time, beating Ferris State 3-2 in Marquette. Dominik Shine scored the game-winner to get the series split. The Bulldogs won 4-2 on Friday. The Wildcats, who have six ties, including four in conference play, put themselves in a good spot to compete for home ice over the second half of the season. They are two points behind fourth-place Ferris, although the Bulldogs have played two more league games. They’re also two points ahead of Alaska Anchorage and Lake Superior State, both of which have played two fewer conference games than Northern.
Jack here …
The semester is winding down for most of the schools in the WCHA. As such, just about every team will play a couple games this weekend before shutting down until after Christmas (save Alabama Huntsville, which plays a nonconference series next weekend).
All that means is one final week of league action which, once again, promises to be a doozy. We have two instate rivalry series (Alaska’s Governor’s Cup, plus Tech heading to Lake Superior State), one former CCHA grudge match (Ferris and Northern Michigan) and two series in Minnesota (Bowling Green visiting Bemidji and Alabama Huntsville visiting Minnesota State).
Neither Shane nor I did a great job making picks last week — I got three games right and Shane just two — but maybe we’ll do better this week. I’m gaining on him in the overall picks race (the winner buying the other a beverage of some sort … or something). So let’s see what happens this week.
Ferris State at Northern Michigan
Jack: Neither the Bulldogs nor the Wildcats have been able to put together a consistent win streak. They also haven’t lost very much. With a pair of .500 teams facing off in Marquette, there’s no way this series isn’t a split (or at the very least, two ties). Bulldogs 4-3; Wildcats 4-3
Shane: Between Ferris State’s splits and Northern Michigan’s overtime games, there’s no way these two teams don’t win one game apiece with at least one game being decided in OT. I’m copying Jack’s picks here, but there’s no way those teams will combine for 14 goals this weekend. Bulldogs 3-1, Wildcats 2-1
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State
Jack: The Huskies losing both games against Alaska Anchorage at home was the shocker of the month. Tech will be angry headed to Sault Ste. Marie, where Lake Superior State hasn’t played well. I think LSSU will keep it close but I’m picking a Tech sweep. Huskies 3-1, 2-1
Shane: I’m still stunned that Tech was swept at home last weekend, and there’s no doubt they’ll be spittin’ nails by the time they make their way across the U.P. The Lakers have been on a nice little roll here but might be a little road weary after coming home from Alaska (as, perhaps, the Huskies were last week). Huskies 4-2, 3-2
Alabama Huntsville at Minnesota State
Jack: The Chargers can’t seem to catch a break — they were seven seconds away from going to overtime against Northern Michigan but gave up a penalty shot and lost 4-3. They would eventually tie on Saturday night, but they seem to be looking for a bounce or two. Not sure the Mavericks will surrender one this weekend. Mavericks 4-2, 5-3
Shane: Alabama Huntsville has played everybody pretty closely, and I know the Mavericks are aware of that as they get ready to close out 2015. The Chargers haven’t beaten MSU since 2001-02, a 16-game winless streak. I don’t see that changing this weekend. Mavericks 5-1, 3-1
Bowling Green at Bemidji State
Jack: Bowling Green has never played well in Bemidji. The Beavers are 3-0-1 against the Falcons all-time at the Sanford Center (the teams only recently started playing one another, when BG joined the WCHA). But BG has lost just once in its last 10 games. The Beavers are playing well lately, so I think this is a split. Beavers 4-3, Falcons 3-2
Shane: The Falcons are on a seven-game unbeaten streak with the last six of those games taking place at home. Now they go on the road to play a much-improved Beavers team in what should be a very entertaining series for you to watch, Jack. I, too, will call a split. Beavers 3-2, Falcons 2-1
Alaska at Alaska Anchorage
Jack: Round one of the Governor’s Cup definitely sees the Seawolves looking like the stronger team right now. Aside from a lost weekend in Mankato — MSU outscored UAA 8-2 — the Seawolves have been pretty consistent. I think they’ll sweep this weekend. Seawolves 6-4, 3-1
Shane: The Seawolves have to be feeling good after those two wins in Houghton, while the Nanooks really seem to be struggling right now. You know what they say about rivalries, though: Throw out the records. That includes records over the last few weeks. Split. Nanooks 4-3, Seawolves 3-2
Last Week: Jack 3-4-3; Shane 2-5-3. Overall: Jack 44-38-20; Shane 47-35-20.
Alaska Anchorage limped into Houghton, Mich., last weekend.
The Seawolves, losers of three of their past four coming into the series with Michigan Tech, were outscored 8-2 by Minnesota State the previous weekend in Mankato, Minn.
And instead of returning to Anchorage, UAA remained in the Midwest, giving them some extra time to think about it as a team.
As it turns out, that extra time in the Lower 48 did the Seawolves some good.
Alaska Anchorage waltzed into MacInnes Student Ice Arena and took two games from No. 17 Michigan Tech. Both games were 3-2 wins and in both games, UAA trailed at the second intermission and scored two goals in the third period.
Sean McTavish scored two goals and Tad Kozun had the game-winner Friday, while Jarrett Brown, Chase Van Allen and Brad Duwe all scored Saturday. Goaltender Olivier Mantha, who has made 12 straight starts, stopped 62 of 66 shots.
The road sweep was UAA’s first outside of the state of Alaska since 2011, and the wins should rejuvinate the Seawolves, now 8-6-2 overall and 5-4-1 in the league, as they return to Anchorage this weekend for their instate Governor’s Cup grudge match with Alaska.
That anticipated matchup between conference frontrunners Bowling Green and Minnesota State didn’t decide much.
In fact, as is becoming somewhat of a routine for the WCHA this season, the teams skated to a pair of 2-2 draws both Friday and Saturday.
That’s not to say each game wasn’t without drama. In Friday night’s game, the Falcons scored twice in the final five minutes — including Ben Murphy’s wrist-shot with seven seconds remaining.
On Saturday, it was Minnesota State who tied it in the third period, on Zeb Knutson’s power-play goal.
So where does that leave us? Well, Minnesota State began last week tied with Michigan Tech for first in the league. But by the end of the weekend, the Mavericks leapfrogged the Huskies with the two points earned to go into first place, while the Falcons pulled into a tie for second place.
If last weekend was any indication, the rematch series in February is going to go a long way towards who ultimately wins the MacNaughton Cup.
Superior in Alaska
Don’t look now, but Lake Superior State has itself a three-game win streak.
The Lakers, who split with Ferris State the weekend previous, traveled to Alaska last weekend and gutted out a pair of 4-2, 2-0 wins against the host Nanooks. The sweep has the Lakers within striking distance of fourth place in the conference — they’re currently tied for sixth place with a 4-3-3 overall league record and 11 points.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is how they’re achieving their modest success so far. The Lakers are unbeaten on the road in league play (3-0-3) but have just one league win in Sault Ste. Marie.
They host UP rivals Michigan Tech this weekend – will they finally be able to earn some more wins at home?
Shane here … We’re into December. Hard to believe the season is two months old already. So what do we know? Not much more than we did before the season started. Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green are still the league favorites. Travel to Alabama, Alaska and the Upper Peninsula is still a grind for visiting teams. And picking weekend winners still ain’t easy. But we try anyway. As David Letterman used to say, “This is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, please … no wagering.”
Minnesota State at Bowling Green
Shane: This is the series of the week, even if Mike Hastings and Chris Bergeron are trying to keep any hype to a minimum. I’m disappointed I can’t be there to see what should be an excellent series between two of the league’s three best teams. These teams have split each of their three series as league foes with three games going to overtime. There will be at least one OT this weekend — and another split. Falcons 2-1, Mavericks 3-2
Jack: I don’t really have anything else to add to your assessment of this series other than this looks like a split. I wouldn’t be surprised to see two overtime games, either. Mavericks 4-2, Falcons 3-2
Bemidji State at Ferris State
Shane: These two teams are developing a nice little rivalry, having played each other in the first round of the last two WCHA tournaments. Interesting thing about Ferris State: It hasn’t been swept this season but it hasn’t swept anyone either. Bemidji State, meanwhile, are coming off their first sweep of the season, at Alabama Huntsville. This is another long road trip, but history says the travel-weary Beavers get one. Bulldogs 4-1, Beavers 3-1
Jack: The Beavers actually have a pretty decent track record in Big Rapids of late — they’re 3-6-1 overall, but they took three points there last season. Of course, the Bulldogs ended up getting the Beavers back during last year’s WCHA playoffs, which included an epic triple-overtime Ferris State win. Anyway, I agree with you that this feels like a split to me. Beavers 4-2, Bulldogs 4-2
Alaska Anchorage at Michigan Tech
Shane: Interesting travel schedule comparison here. Michigan Tech is at home had to make the long trek from Alaska where it swept a series last weekend. Anchorage, meanwhile, remained in the Midwest after getting swept at Minnesota State a week ago. After considering all of that, I’ll say this: The Huskies are the better team, and they’ll sweep. Huskies 3-1, 5-2
Jack: The Seawolves have struggled after their solid start. They had a six-game homestand in which they won just two games. Now they’re in the midst of a long Midwestern swing in which they have to play two of the league’s best teams. I can’t see the Seawolves getting out of this one with a win. Huskies 4-1, 5-3
Northern Michigan at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: Has any team played more extra minutes than Northern Michigan this season? Six overtime games with five finishing in ties. The Wildcats like to keep things close, that’s for sure. Huntsville, meanwhile, is on a somewhat surprising six-game losing streak, although four of those games were against Tech and Bowling Green. I’m guessing there will be some OT this weekend. Wildcats 2-1, Chargers 2-1
Jack: Huntsville actually played better against Tech and BGSU than they did against a struggling Bemidji State team, which is a bit odd to me. Regardless, the Chargers played well against the Wildcats last year — going 2-1-1 with a sweep in Huntsville. I think they’ll get back on track and at least get a split (although I agree that overtime is most likely). Chargers 2-1, Wildcats 2-1
Lake Superior State at Alaska
Shane: The Lakers, too, have played a lot of extra periods, with three ties in five overtime games. They’re a tough team to figure out, but they’ve scored points in each of their last three conference series. The Nanooks haven’t made their home ice too tough on visitors, losing their last three there. They need to get that back on track if they want to get out a bottom-two spot. Nanooks 3-2, Lakers 2-1
Jack: I have a tough time figuring out both of these teams, but I have a feeling we’re going to be in splitsville again. Such is the nature of the WCHA this season, I guess. Lakers 3-2, Nanooks 3-2
Last week: Shane 8-2-0, Jack 5-5-0. Overall: Shane 45-30-17, Jack 41-34-17