The teams are both ranked in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll for the first time since 2008.
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
Ferris State at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday
From the warmth and comfort of my couch this weekend, here’s what I think I learned channel surfing from game to game on WCHA TV while Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was buried in ice and snow.
Minnesota State is alive and well
After winning just four of their first 11 games of 2013-14, it appeared as if Minnesota State was going to crack under the pressure of being ranked nationally in the preseason and picked by almost everyone to win the new-look WCHA.
Since starting 4-7, however, the Mavericks have won five straight games with back-to-back home sweeps of Alaska-Anchorage and Northern Michigan to move into second place in the WCHA.
Freshman netminder Cole Huggins has been a big part of the run and appears to be the Mavs’ go-to-goaltender now after making back-to-back starts. He leads the league with a 1.80 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
Meanwhile, the return of senior forward Zach Lehrke continues to spark the MSU offense. He tallied another goal and assist against NMU to extend his point streak to six in six games.
The question now is whether or not MSU can catch red-hot Ferris State, which is unbeaten in its last 13 games with no signs of slowing down. This should be an interesting race between both teams in the second half.
If you’re not happy for Huntsville, you’re a Grinch
With NMU and MSU heading to intermission Saturday, I made a quick switch over to Alabama-Huntsville at Bowling Green to see the final minute of overtime.
I was glad I did.
After UAH withstood what I thought for sure was a game-winning attack by BGSU, the Chargers caught the Falcons in transition for one final rush that ended with sophomore defenseman Frank Misuraca scoring on BGSU goaltender Tomas Sholl with 3.4 seconds left in overtime.
The sports fan in me took over at that point, and I let out a quick joyous shout, scaring my dog.
While I found it entertaining when the Detroit Lions went winless in 2008, the start of UAH’s first season in the WCHA has been a bit heart wrenching.
The program went through so much just to get into the WCHA, but going winless in its first season in the league would have been seen as a major setback.
Instead, the program now has something to build on and a glimmer of hope heading into the holidays.
Based on the support I’ve seen on Twitter, it seems I wasn’t the only one to let out a little cheer for UAH on Saturday night.
Understandably, BGSU fans probably weren’t thrilled the win came at the expense of their team, which has now lost four of its last five games. They get a pass for not feeling good about UAH’s win right now.
Two intermissions are enough in college hockey
I had the chance to sit next to WCHA Supervisor of Officials Greg Shepherd early this season in the press box when Northern Michigan hosted Michigan Tech, and it was a great experience.
While the fans voiced their frustration over the Wildcats not shooting the puck on the power play, Shepherd had a reaction for every missed call by his referees or linesmen.
At one point in the game, there was a long pause in the action while his crew had one long conversation with NMU coach Walt Kyle, and another with Tech’s Mel Pearson. At that moment in the game, Shepherd was right along with the fans, asking the guys in stripes to cut the conversation and drop the puck already.
That moment has come to mind the past two weekends while WCHA officials sorted out scrums involving NMU.
The first came during the second period on Nov. 30 in Marquette with the Wildcats hosting Ferris State. NMU’s Reed Seckel made a high open-ice hit that the Bulldogs’ Andy Huff took exception to. Huff hit Seckel from behind after the whistle and the two went at it, taking each other to the ground.
Seckel and Huff both received five minute majors for fighting while Seckel received two additional minors for roughing from WCHA referees. From the time Seckel and Ruff were put in the penalty box — they were later escorted off the ice — to the time the puck was dropped and play resumed, eight minutes had passed.
That was nothing compared to Saturday’s 11-minute delay while the WCHA’s Chris Perrault and Brad Shepherd sorted out 11 penalties by five players stemming from a third-period scrum in front of the Northern net.
For NMU, Stephan Vigier received a pair of minors for roughing and Wade Epp got a minor for roughing and major for facemasking. For MSU, Matt Leiter got two minors for instigating and one for roughing, while Zach Palmquist and Brett Stern each got double minors for roughing.
Later in the period, NMU was called for too many men on the ice when a player was let out of the penalty box early. After another delay to chat things over, the penalty was wiped out.
As a spectator and editor trying to sneak something in the Sunday paper before the presses rolled, I was pretty annoyed by the delays and I can’t imagine Greg Shepherd was too thrilled either.
The WCHA needs to do something to cut down on these delays. No one goes to hockey games to watch refs hold conferences by the glass and argue with coaches.
Eight and 11-minute delays are ridiculous, especially when an intermission lasts 15 minutes.
Shane continues to be the hot hand when it comes to picking games in the WCHA, while I barely finish above .500. We have all 10 teams in league play this weekend, which shouldn’t be an oddity, but it somehow is.
Here’s our best guesses. All games are Friday and Saturday.
Alabama-Huntsville at Bowling Green
Matt: The Falcons struggled in November, but most of those troubles came on the road. BSGU is 5-1-1 at home this year and 4-0-1 all time at home against the Chargers, who are still winless on the year. Falcons 2-0, 3-1
Shane: Talk about curing what ails you. Bowling Green’s playing at home and against Huntsville. The Chargers are going to steal a win sometime, but I’m not bold enough to predict when. Falcons 5-1, 2-1
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech
Matt: Shane likes to call Ferris State goaltender C.J. Motte, “my guy” and in a way, he has been early on. I picked him as my preseason All-WCHA goaltender and he’s making me look real good right now. However, if I had to fill out a midseason All-WCHA ballot (not a bad idea), it would be hard to keep Tech’s Pheonix Copley off the ballot. Last week I picked the Huskies to get swept in Alaska. This week I sat they sweep at home, hoping for a better result on my end. Huskies 2-1, 3-2.
Shane: These two teams have played the toughest schedules of anyone in the league – maybe even the country. All but one of their seven combined nonconference opponents are currently ranked. Bemidji’s also played Ferris and Lake Superior, while Tech played LSSU and went on that long Alaska trip. This will be a battle. Beavers 3-2, Huskies 2-1.
Ferris State at Lake Superior State
Matt: Alright Bulldogs fans, I guess I’ll hop on your so-called bandwagon, but don’t blame me for jinxing your team with this pick. The Bulldogs eventually will lose, but until they or Motte do, I’m picking sweeps. Bulldogs 4-1, 2-1
Shane: Even when we haven’t picked Ferris State we’ve been on their bandwagon. Ferris State is getting plenty of praise from the Wellens-Frederick Media Machine. But the question isn’t: Is FSU the best team in the league? It’s: Are these teams the best two teams in the league? Lakers 2-1, Bulldogs 4-2
Northern Michigan at Minnesota State
Matt: The loss of senior defenseman C.J. Ludwig is devastating for NMU. He was the team’s best defenseman, the quarterback of the penalty power play and a key member of the penalty kill. There is no replacing Ludwig. That said, I think his understudy Brock Maschmeyer is going to surprise people at the blue line. Wildcats 2-1, Mavericks 4-1
Shane: This is the beginning of a tough stretch of road games for Northern Michigan, and it could define its season. Losing Ludwig is indeed a killer. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are healthier, at home and playing closer to their potential than they were a month ago. Mavericks 3-2, 4-2.
Alaska at Alaska-Anchorage
Matt: The first weekend of WCHA play, the league pitted some of the fiercest rivals together with Bemidji State at Alabama-Huntsville and Northern Michigan playing Michigan Tech. Why wasn’t this series part of rivalry weekend? This may be the best of the three. Seawolves 4-3, Nanooks 4-2.
Shane: Both of these teams are desperate for wins right now, and, as if they need any more motivation, this is the first time these rivals are squaring off as WCHA opponents. Hopefully, there will be a good crowd at the Sully this weekend. Seawolves 3-1, Nanooks 4-3
What I think I learned about the WCHA this weekend …
Zach Lehrke, the missing cog?
Minnesota State senior forward Zach Lehrke has six points in four games since coming out of retirement to rejoin Minnesota State. His five assists all have come on power-play goals. Consider this: In 10 games without Lehrke around, the Mavericks’ power play had scored just four goals and was clicking at a feeble 9 percent. In the last four games, Minnesota State has nine power-play goals, including a 5-for-6 performance on Saturday against Alaska-Anchorage. The power play is now over 19 percent. And, oh by the way, the preseason favorite is heating up a bit, winning three WCHA games in a row and four of its last five conference games.
Michigan Tech came out of its 11-day Alaska trip in good shape, sweeping Alaska on Friday and Saturday. The wins were the first two road victories for the Huskies this season. They were 0-7-2 away from Houghton before that, including a loss and tie at Alaska-Anchorage the previous weekend. Taking five of eight points on that grind of a trip? Probably couldn’t ask for much more than that, considering the road record. And that’s been a tough road, with games at Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame and Michigan. Now Michigan Tech goes home for back-to-back conference series, hosting Bemidji State and Bowling Green. The Huskies are 4-1-0 at home. Look out for Tech.
After getting swept at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green has just one win in its last seven games. Four of the Falcons’ five losses in that stretch have been one-goal games – all five if you consider the empty-net goal in Ferris State’s 4-2 victory over them. Bowling Green has played four overtime games in that stretch (six already for the season), going 1-2-1 in those games. Meanwhile, Lake Superior won two games in a row for the first time since Oct. 18-19 when it swept Union.