Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Ferris State make up the league’s final four teams for the second straight year.
Three things I think I learned about the WCHA this weekend …
1. Blue(ger) period
Minnesota State senior forward Teddy Blueger put on quite a performance in the first period of the Mavericks’ 6-2 victory over Alaska Anchorage. Blueger had a hand in all five goals MSU scored in the first 20 (actually 15) minutes of the game, scoring once and assisting on the others. Good work by Matt Hodson of the WCHA to research the feat. According to league tweets, Blueger tied a WCHA record with four assists in a single period, becoming the ninth player in league history to do it and the first since Wisconsin’s Joe Pavelski on Jan. 14, 2006. Blueger’s five points in a period since Colorado College’s Scott Schneider had a record six on Feb. 21, 1987. Blueger, MSU’s top center had seven points going into the game and now leads the team with 12.
2. Top of the heap
As we near the halfway point of the season, there’s starting to be some separation in the league standings. And at the top, it’s really no surprise, as the favorites are right there. Minnesota State swept visiting Alaska Anchorage, and Michigan Tech swept at Alaska to sit atop the standings with 16 points each (although MSU has two games in hand). Bowling Green, which swept Northern Michigan (and also has two games in hand on Tech), is just two points back and will host Minnesota State next weekend in a marquee matchup. Ferris State isn’t far behind, four points in back of the Mavericks and Huskies and two behind the Falcons after getting a tough road split at Lake Superior State.
3. Righting the ship
Bemidji State was quite the closer at Alabama Huntsville, scoring three third-period goals in each game of the Wednesday-Friday series and winning 4-1 each night. Each game was tied 1-1 in the third period. Graeme McCormack had a goal in each game, and junior goalie Reid Mimmack improved to 3-0-1 since getting his first chance to play on Nov. 14 when he helped the Beavers snap a seven-game winless streak. Bemidji State is 3-1-1 since then, climbing out of the league basement and into sixth place, one point behind fifth-place Northern
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
What are we thankful for? Overtime games and ties, apparently. There were plenty of those last week in a league that seems to filled with parity but not necessarily a lot of goals. Perhaps that will change this weekend. Perhaps we should pick all ties and see if we come out any better. Since Bemidji State and Alabama Huntsville are playing a Wednesday-Friday series, we have to go to the picks a bit early.
Here we go …
Bemidji State at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: These are two teams looking hard for wins. The two teams have combined for just one win in the month of November, and it will be interesting to see how a week somewhat disruptive to the normal schedule affects them. Chargers 3-1, Beavers 2-1
Jack: The league already hates our deadlines, it seems, and now they continue that trend with this weird Wednesday/Friday series. (Long story short but we print early today.) But because the internet has no deadlines, we get a chance to analyze said series right here. The Beavers have struggled at home so maybe this road trip will be good for them. I think the Chargers may be more used to the weird schedule, but what do I know? I think this is a split. Chargers 2-1, Beavers 3-2
Northern Michigan at Bowling Green
Shane: The Falcons got their six-game homestand off to a good start with a sweep over Huntsville last week, while the Wildcats tied Minnesota State twice at home where they have yet to be beaten. Now Northern goes on the road. I like the home team here. Falcons 3-2, 3-1
Jack: The Falcons are also unbeaten at home, where they have only played five games prior to this weekend. I think that trend continues, but because they’re playing NMU, one or both of these games will likely go to overtime. Falcons 3-2, 3-2
Ferris State at Lake Superior State
Shane: We’re starting to learn not to take this year’s Lakers team lightly, and I won’t even against this improved Bulldogs team. I do worry about Lake State’s record at home, where it has won just once, but they’ll get one this weekend. Bulldogs 4-2, Lakers 3-2
Jack: The Lakers do seem to be better way from the Soo than they are there, but I think that 3-point weekend against the Beavers in Bemidji gave them some momentum. I think they’ll get one here too. Lakers 4-2, Bulldogs 4-3
Alaska Anchorage at Minnesota State
Shane: After a strong start, the Seawolves have slipped a bit and now begin a tough stretch in the Lower 48, where wins have been rare. The Mavericks have not been as dominant at home as they have been the last two years and want that to change. It will this weekend. Mavericks 4-2, 3-1
Jack: The Seawolves didn’t play as well last weekend against Penn State as I was thinking they would. Meanwhile, MSU has also had three consecutive two-point weekends (two ties last weekend followed two splits). I think the Seawolves can steal one here. Mavericks 4-2, Seawolves 3-2
Michigan Tech at Alaska
Shane: The Huskies head to Alaska for a one-weekend trip, while the Nanooks are thrilled to be playing just their fifth and sixth home games of the year. Sounds like a split to me. Nanooks 4-3, Huskies 5-2
Jack: I’m agreed on the idea of a split. I’d agree to just about anything after last weekend’s tie-stravaganza. Nanooks 2-1, Huskies 4-2
Last week: Shane 4-1-7, Jack 3-2-7. Overall: Shane 37-28-17, Jack 36-29-17
There were 12 games involving WCHA teams this past weekend. Nine of them went to overtime. And seven ended in ties. By this reporter’s count there’s been 26 total overtime games involving WCHA teams (13 were in conference games, and nine of those ended in ties… I think…. math is hard).
Aside from causing just about every beat reporter in the WCHA to want to toss their computers to the ice in frustration at least once over the weekend, the ties also further muddled up the standings. There hasn’t been one dominant team this season, but now we have two teams (Michigan Tech and Minnesota State) tied for first with 12 points, and two other teams (Bowling Green and Ferris State) tied for third with 10.
It raised the question: Does the WCHA (or even the NCAA?) need to go to 3-on-3 overtime? The NCHC started that this season. As my colleague Shane Frederick suggested, maybe the WCHA can award a point for getting to overtime and an extra point to whomever wins the 3-on-3. (Then a shootout, if necessary.)
Look, we all hate shootouts, but making games worth an extra point would give teams an extra incentive to get that extra goal. And it could also create more separation in the standings, which have always been extremely close during the three years of the newly-reformatted league.
Not sure it will ever happen, but it’s worth discussing after a weekend like this.
Going Bowling (Green)
The only WCHA series that didn’t have at least one tie still went to overtime (and both games were decided by just one goal). Bowling Green beat Alabama Huntsville 3-2 in overtime on Friday night before surviving a pair of UAH comeback attempts Saturday for a 4-3 victory.
It was the first conference sweep for the Falcons this season, and it extended their three-game win streak to move them into a tie for third place with Ferris State.
It also further cemented BG’s reputation as a solid defensive team. Goaltender Chris Nell leads the league with a 1.48 goals against and a .949 save percentage (both of which put him in the top 10 nationally). And the Falcons’ team defense has given up just 26 goals in 13 games (which is also top-10 quality).
Tech’s cardiac kids
Michigan Tech, visiting Michigan State for the first time since 1986, made their trip downstate worth it. On both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Tech rallied to score the game-tying goal with less than two minutes to play.
On Saturday, Mark Auk’s first goal of the season sent the game to overtime while Tyler Heinonen’s game winner with 41 seconds to play gave the Huskies their first win over the Spartans in East Lansing since 1981.
On Sunday afternoon, the Huskies trailed 4-2 with less than four minutes to go in regulation. Heinonen scored again to cut the lead to one before Malcolm Gould scored with the extra attacker to tie the game.
It was the first nonconference test for the Huskies, and although it was against an MSU program that’s been down in the 2010s, Tech is proving they’re a force to be reckoned with, from a competition standpoint as well as a recruiting standpoint, in their home state.
Shane here … These predictions are anything but easy. I called a couple of splits correctly last weekend but picked the wrong teams on the wrong days. Loss, loss. So it goes. Jack and I could have gone the easy route and simply picked sweeps and splits, but we don’t play that way. Go big or go home, right? So I’ll take my worst-ever 1-9 record from last week and just be glad that I’m still in an overall tie with Mr. Hittinger.
Nothing gets easier this week. On to the picks!
Alabama Huntsville at Bowling Green
Jack: The Chargers are coming off a bye week after losing two tight games to Michigan Tech. Bowling Green split with the Huskies last weekend in Houghton. I want to say UAH can eek out a win here, but it’s going to be very difficult. Falcons 4-2, 3-2
Shane: Have to agree with you here. The Falcons begin a six-game homestand and have a chance to make some noise in the conference standings after surviving a tough early season schedule with only three of their first 11 games at home. The Chargers are improved and trying to get through their own tough schedule. Falcons 3-1, 2-1
Alaska at Ferris State
Jack: Ferris State just went to Anchorage, Alaska, and are now back at home to take on the other Alaska team. The Nanooks just came from a split at Bemidji State and are still touring the Lower 48. I’m not certain about much, but I think this will be a split. Bulldogs 5-4, Nanooks 4-2
Shane: It’s been Splitsville for the Bulldogs for the last three weeks, same for the Nanooks in the last two. I should stick with that trend, but I’m going with a Ferris State sweep, partially because Alaska is at the end of a long road swing. Bulldogs 4-1, 3-2
Minnesota State at Northern Michigan
Jack: The Wildcats haven’t been able to put together anything consistent this season — they’re 4-3-3 overall and haven’t had any streaks to speak of early in the season. The Mavericks are 6-6 but 5-1 in the WCHA. I don’t think the Wildcats can sweep, but I’d believe just about anything else. Mavericks 3-1, Wildcats 4-3
Shane: I’ll be in Marquette for this one and am expecting to see good series. The Wildcats are unbeaten at home in four games there, while the Mavericks have a winning record, 4-3, on the road. Sounds like a split to me. Wildcats 3-2, Mavericks 4-1
Lake Superior State at Bemidji State
Jack: Two teams on the bottom of the WCHA standings will be looking to get out of the basement. The Beavers recently got their first league win with a 6-3 victory over Alaska. The Lakers are still looking for their first league win and are coming off a sweep at the hands of Arizona State. The Lakers have had some decent results and have kept games close, while the Beavers have struggled to keep up strong starts in the third period. I think the win over the Nanooks was a turning point for BSU and they get the sweep. Beavers 4-3, 5-3
Shane: Each of these teams has just two wins to start the season. The Beavers snapped a seven-game winless streak on Saturday, while the Lakers are in the midst of their own seven-game skid. That will go to eight but end there. Beavers 3-1, Lakers 2-1
Penn State at Alaska Anchorage
Jack: Anchorage is coming off two splits, against Ferris State and Bowling Green. Penn State just swept Sacred Heart. The Nittany Lions are 6-2-2 but they’ve barely left the state of Pennsylvania — their two road trips were to Canisius and Niagara, hardly rough road trips from State College. The long plane ride to Anchorage is a bit more arduous than the bus trip to Western New York (and, fun fact, this Alaska trip is PSU’s only plane ride in 2015, and their only trip of longer than four hours… and the WCHA laughs.) Anyway, the Seawolves are rested (they’ve been home since Oct. 31 and had a bye weekend tucked in there) and I think they get the sweep. Seawolves 4-2, 3-2
Shane: The Seawolves face a tough test with what appears to be a good Nittany Lions team in town. I think Anchorage’s solid start to the season continues but with a series split. Nittany Lions 3-2, Seawolves 4-1
Michigan Tech at Michigan State (Saturday/Sunday)
Jack: The second of two WCHA/B1G matchups this weekend. The Huskies haven’t been to East Lansing since the mid-1980s. The teams didn’t play last season but Tech went 2-0-1 against MSU in 2013-14, including two wins in Houghton and a tie in the Great Lakes Invitational. And although Michigan Tech’s 6-4-0 record doesn’t look that much better than State’s 4-4-1, Tech definitely looks like the stronger of the two programs right now. All this is a roundabout way of saying: Sorry, Sparty, but I think Tech is going to get the sweep. Huskies 4-2, 5-3
Shane: I can’t believe Tech hasn’t played in East Lansing since 1986 — and the Huskies haven’t won there since 1981. That changes this weekend — and in a big way. Huskies 3-2, 4-3
Last week: Shane 1-9-0, Jack 4-6-0. Overall: Shane 33-27-10, Jack 33-27-10
1. Important wins
Two WCHA teams scored important wins on Saturday night — but for different reasons. Minnesota State pulled off an improbable comeback against Minnesota for its first nonconference win of the season. The Mavericks won in the final minute of overtime on a Teddy Blueger goal after scoring twice in the final 3 ½ minutes of regulation to tie the game. If the Mavericks, who are 5-1-0 in league play, want to be a factor when it comes to postseason play, nonconference wins are crucial. Meanwhile Bemidji State won its first conference game of the season, defeating Alaska 6-3 to snap a seven-game winless streak. “We needed this win tonight,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said. “We said it after the game, this was a must-win.”
2. Marquee matchup
The only two ranked teams in the conference squared off in Houghton over the weekend, and it appeared to be a good one with host Michigan Tech and visiting Bowling Green splitting the series. On Friday, Jamie Phillips got the 22-save shutout for the Huskies, who won 2-0 against another tough goalie, Chris Nell, who stopped 39 of 41 shots. Matt Roy got the winner with 3:16 to play in the third period. On Saturday, the Falcons turned the tables, winning 3-2 despite getting outshot 32-25. Tommy Burke got the win in goal, and Mark Cooper scored the game winner early in the third. It was the first time Bowling Green scored more than two goals in seven games.
3. Solid Seawolves
On Friday night, Ferris State won its eighth straight game against Alaska Anchorage, winning 3-2 in overtime on Kyle Schempp’s goal. That’s a good win for the Bulldogs because, the next night, the Seawolves proved their hot start to the season was no fluke and snapped their losing streak against Ferris State in impressive fashion. Matt Anholt and Tad Kozun each scored a pair of goals, and goalie Olivier Mantha earned his second career shutout, stopping 25 shots in a 5-0 victory. At 6-3-1 overall, Anchorage has the second-best winning percentage in the league (.650).
As we get to the “it’s early, but not too early” portion of college hockey’s schedule, the WCHA, as predicted, seems to have three teams separating themselves from the pack. Minnesota State and Michigan Tech are currently tied for first in the league. Bowling Green is the highest-ranked team in the league (15th) but is in seventh in the league standings. (That’s mostly because the Falcons have played just four league games.)
The rest of the league is shaping up to be, again, a somewhat unpredictable dogfight. For example, did anyone think Alabama Huntsville would have one of the top scoring offenses in the league through the first month of the season? Or that Bemidji State would have the most trouble putting the puck into the net (they’ve scored a league-low 14 goals in seven games)?
Anyway, it looks like another fun slate of games this week. Shane is three ahead of me in our pick ‘em race — mostly because he picked all six winners last weekend — so hopefully I can catch up this week.
Enjoy the games!
Bowling Green at Michigan Tech
Shane: The WCHA’s two ranked teams square off in Houghton in what should be a marquee matchup in college hockey between two of the three favorites to win the league (Minnesota State being the other). Both teams are off to decent starts but would like to be doing better. I’d call a split, but I’m worried about the Falcons’ offense with just eight goals in their last 10 games. Huskies 3-1, 4-2
Jack: I think these should both be close games, Shane, and I am also worried about BGSU’s offense. But I think the Falcons deserve to be in the conversation as one of the top teams in the league and the country and will find a way to rise to the occasion and earn a split. Falcons 4-2, Huskies 3-1
Alaska at Bemidji State
Shane: The Beavers had a good start at home this year with a win over Minnesota Duluth and a tie with North Dakota. Then they played Minnesota State tough, only to get swept. After a one-goal weekend and a week off, they’re back home to face a Nanooks team starting a long road trip. I expect this to be a physical, low-scoring series with each team earning a tough two points. Beavers 2-1, Nanooks 2-1
Jack: The Beavers six-game winless streak reminds me a lot of their eight-game winless streak last season. They went 2-8 during the month of November 2014, with their only wins being on Nov. 1 and Nov. 29 — literally bookending an eight game losing streak. They played very well in all eight of those losses, however, and that’s been the case this time around for BSU. Solid play, but scoring has been somewhat difficult. The Nanooks have been okay this season, but haven’t won away from Fairbanks. Something is going to give (although two ties wouldn’t surprise me the way they have). I think a split is likely. Nanooks 3-2, Beavers 3-2
Ferris State at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: Ferris State is coming off a split against Minnesota State in which it finally beat the Mavericks in WCHA play. The Bulldogs will now try to protect a similar streak against an improved and offensive-minded Seawolves team, against which it has won seven straight over the last two seasons. I think Anchorage ends it but Ferris gets two points. Seawolves 4-2, Bulldogs 4-3
Jack: Some of these streaks give you a great idea of how short of a time it’s been since the old CCHA and old WCHA combined to form the current iteration of the league — and how new some of these rivalries are. The only time the Seawolves beat the Bulldogs was wayy back in 1986 in a tournament in Anchorage. The teams met once more in the 1980s before resuming the series when Ferris joined the WCHA in 2013. UAA hasn’t won anything since then, but they look like they could be a sleeper pick this year. I think they get all four points and finally beat the Bulldogs. Seawolves 4-3, 2-1
Arizona State at Lake Superior State
Shane: The Lakers will step out of conference play and show college hockey’s newest team one of the sport’s storied outposts. Yes, Sun Devils, Lake State won three national titles. This year’s team has been up and down early, perhaps on the cusp of making a little run. If it does, it starts this weekend. Lakers 4-2, 4-1
Jack: I’m sure the Sun Devils fanbase will need to get used to following their team to places like Sault Ste Marie, Bemidji and Grand Forks. It’s a little different than following them to Tucson, Los Angeles and Boulder like they do for other sports, huh guys? (Arizona State’s SID and I had a jovial Twitter back-and-forth about that a few weeks ago, and they seem to be enjoying discovering new places). Anyway, The Sun Devils have defeated just one Division I team in Alaska, and that now seems like a bit of a fluke when you see ASU’s other scores. The Lakers seem to be playing better and I think they earn the sweep. Lakers 3-2, 3-1
Minnesota at/vs. Minnesota State
Shane: It’s a home-and-home series between the Mavericks and the Gophers, two teams that, if you look closely have had somewhat parallel starts to the season. Lost a lot in the offseason. Started slowly. Lost games. Got shut out a few times. Started to turn the corner. If they truly mirror each other that much, then they’ll split. Home teams win. Mavericks 4-3, Gophers 3-2
Jack: I don’t know about you, Shane, but I’m still much higher on the Mavericks this season than I am on the Gophers. None of Minnesota’s wins have been super-impressive, but the Mavericks have some nice wins against some teams that should be in the top half of their league. I think a split is very likely but I also think if either team can sweep, it’s MSU. Mavericks 5-3, 3-2
Last week: Shane 6-0-2, Jack 3-3-2. Overall: Shane 32-18-10, Jack 29-21-10
1. Ferris finally beats Minnesota State
C.J. Motte won 66 games in his outstanding Ferris State career. Unfortunately for him, it took until after he graduated for the Bulldogs to beat Minnesota State. On Friday night in Big Rapids, Mich., the Bulldogs beat the Mavericks in a convincing 7-4 victory. Freshman netminder Darren Smith made 34 saves for the Bulldogs in a wild game that saw Ferris score four goals in the third period after leading 3-2 after two. It was the first win for Ferris State over MSU since the Bulldogs joined the WCHA in 2013-14. Before this weekend, the schools had met eight times since FSU joined. All eight were MSU victories. Minnesota State rallied back on Saturday with a 3-2 win to earn the split, but the Bulldogs have been nothing if not consistent this season — all three of their conference series have been splits. They also haven’t left the state of Michigan yet this season. This weekend’s series against a much-improved Alaska Anchorage in Anchorage will tell us much more about this team, I think.
2. Two points the hard way
A pair of 1-1 overtime ties gave Bowling Green and Lake Superior State an unconventional series split. Although both earn the two points, it’s probably a better tie for the Lakers than it is for the Falcons, who came into the season with high expectations but haven’t been outstanding offensively (their defense, though, is best in the WCHA — just 17 goals allowed in nine games). Meanwhile, the Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak and earned their first two conference points.
3. Morley’s milestone
Alaska senior center Tyler Morley scored the first two goals in his team’s 5-2 win over Northern Michigan on Friday night. Those two were all he needed to reach 100 career points. Morley became the latest WCHA player to reach the century mark, and the first to do so this season. The only other active player to have 100 or more career points is Michiagn Tech’s Alex Petan, who reached the mark as a junior last season. Morley would add another assist in Friday’s win and had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 5-2 loss. He’s currently tied with Ferris State’s Gerald Mayhew with 11 points for the WCHA’s scoring lead.
Shane here …
It’s the first weekend of November, and Jack and I are all square on our picks. I’d say great minds think alike, but you have to have some luck, too. For example, we both picked a split between Bowling Green and Alaska Anchorage last week but different winners on different days. Two losses for Shane; two wins for Jack. So it goes.
On to this weekend’s picks:
Minnesota State at Ferris State
Shane: Remember how this was going to be college hockey’s next great rivalry in the “new” WCHA? These two teams have played some exciting games, but the Mavericks have won them all, eight straight since the two became league foes. I think the Bulldogs will snap that streak this weekend, but the Mavericks will come home with points. Bulldogs 3-2, Mavericks 4-2
Jack: It’s still crazy to me that Ferris State has never beaten MSU — even CJ Motte couldn’t help them steal a win! So of course the Bulldogs would wait until after he leaves to win one. I agree with you that it happens this weekend. Bulldogs 4-2, Mavericks 5-3
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green
Shane: The Falcons survived a tough early schedule, playing six of their first seven games on the road and going 4-2-1. They’re home for a full weekend now and host a Lakers team that has shown some inconsistencies. Their two wins have been good, but their two losses at home to Huntsville last week were surprising. Falcons 4-1, 5-1
Jack: If the Lakers are going to struggle at home against Huntsville (who is obviously a much0improved team this year… but still), it’s hard to envision them winning one against Bowling Green this season. That said, Lake State has been aboe to put the puck in the net so I’m seeing two high-scoring affairs. Falcons 4-3, 5-4
Michigan Tech at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: The Huskies leave their home state for the first time after starting the season 3-3-0, all in conference play. Tech was really good away from Houghton last season, but the Chargers are riding high, too, after their sweep at Lake State. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tie in here, but I’m going to call a close Tech sweep .Huskies 3-2, 4-2
Jack: I’m feeling pretty good about this Huntsville team, Shane. Yes, Tech is 8-0-0 against them all time but six of those were last year. And I don’t think the Huskies are quite the same dominant team this year as they were last year. I can see a split. Chargers 4-2, Huskies 3-2
Northern Michigan at Alaska
Shane: The Nanooks return home after dropping their first two conference games at Minnesota State and, while the Wildcats are leaving the Upper Peninsula first the first time since a season-opening series a Wisconsin. This feels like a split. Nanooks 3-2, Wildcats 2-1
Jack: I agree this feels like a split. The Wildcats had a scoreless tie before beating Bemidji State last week. The Nanooks were swept in Mankato. Still not sure what to make of either of these teams, so I’ll go with two points apiece. I wouldn’t be surprised by two ties. Wildcats 3-1, Nanooks 4-2
Last week: Shane 5-4-1, Jack 6-3-1. Overall: Shane 26-18-8, Jack 26-18-8
Three things we thought we learned about the WCHA the weekend …
1. Bottom’s up
Yes, I know it’s early, but it surprising to look at the WCHA standings and see Alabama Huntsville and Alaska Anchorage sitting in a tie for third place right now. Huntsville won twice at Lake Superior State — in overtime on Friday and by shutout on Saturday. The sweep was the first on the road for the Chargers since Oct. 16-17, 2009 at Air Force. Anchorage, meanwhile, was shut out on Sunday against a good Bowling Green team – but not before extending an unbeaten streak to five games, its longest since late in the 2011 season. A little early season confidence could be a good thing for these teams.
2. One unbeaten
Minnesota State swept Alaska to go to 4-0-0 in conference play (after an 0-4-0 start in out-of-league play) and is the only WCHA team that doesn’t have a conference loss. Interestingly, the Mavericks swept the two teams that gave them the most fits as season ago, Bemidji State and Alaska, who, combined, went 4-4-1 against MSU last year. The Mavericks looked like last year’s team on Friday, scoring five goals and limiting the Nanooks to just 15 shots on goal. The grinded out a 2-1 win on Saturday.
3. Done with each other
In a quirk of the schedule, Michigan Tech and Ferris State are done playing each other for the season, as they played twice in three weeks. It’s too bad, too, as they split the two series, with three of the games — both this past weekend — being one-goal games. The Huskies won on Malcom Gould’s overtime goal on Friday and the Bulldogs rebounded thanks to goalie Darren Smith’s 36 save performance and Andrew Dorantes’ late-third-period game-winner.
Shane here …
Finally, Jack, we have a weekend in which all the WCHA teams are playing each other. It’s weekends like this that, I think, help the conference, as you have teams and fans all paying attention to what’s happening. It sure has been an interesting start to the season, and picking ain’t easy. My pick of a rare out-of-Alaska win for Anchorage and guessing the right side of a Lake Superior State split at Michigan State moved me a game ahead of you in the overall. Woo-hoo! Let’s see how this week goes.
JACK: I’m still not sure what to make of most of these teams, Shane. It feels like every single one of our our picks so far could have gone either way. That’s how unpredictable it’s been to this point — there’s no one dominant team in the league and I feel like the bottom half of the league is almost as competitive as the top half (at least, so far). This weekend it’s Halloween so I’m sure there will be even more weird results.
Alabama Huntsville at Lake Superior State
SHANE: The Lakers have split the last two weekends and should be feeling good about themselves at home this weekend. The Chargers, meanwhile, are going on the road for the first time this season after getting one point at home against Anchorage. Sometimes those early road trips can be good for teams. Lakers 2-1, Chargers 1-0
JACK: The Lakers have definitely impressed me so far this season. They definitely look like a better team than the one that started last season with eight losses. The Chargers have just played four games and I’m not sure what to make of them. I think a split is likely. Lakers 3-1, Chargers 2-1
Ferris State at Michigan Tech
SHANE: Wait, didn’t these two teams just play each other? They did. Two weeks ago in Big Rapids where they split. I thought the Huskies might get off to a little bit better start, but it’s been a tough schedule to start with three of four WCHA games on the road. I think they get it done at home in a couple of close games. A tie wouldn’t shock me. Huskies 3-2, 4-3
JACK: Shane and I usually agree on things but pick differently for competitions sake. This time, I see no good reason to pick against a Huskies sweep. The Bulldogs are decent and I also think the games will be close, but Jamie Phillips gets it done in the net. Huskies 2-1, 4-2
Bemidji State at Northern Michigan
SHANE: The Beavers will be motivated after dropping a pair of close games to Minnesota State last weekend. But hidden inside the Wildcats’ 2-2-2 record is how dominant they were in their home games, scoring 10 goals in two games and outshooting Tech 46-21 in a 4-1 win on Saturday. Wildcats 4-2, 4-1
JACK: Here’s where I’ll disagree (and label me a homer if you must). Both NMU and BSU have sold power play units (the Beavers are No. 6 in the country on the man advantage and have 7 PP goals). The Wildcats are also solid (6-of-23). I think this series will come down to which team stays out of the box with a split likely. Wildcats 4-1, Beavers 5-2
Alaska at Minnesota State
SHANE: The Mavericks got back on track last weekend with their two wins in Bemidji and now are back home to face another team that has given them fits recently. The Nanooks were the only WCHA team to have a winning record against MSU last season, going 2-1-1. I think Colton Parayko was a big, big reason for that, and he’s not there anymore. Mavericks 3-1, 4-2
JACK: MSU looked solid in Bemidji and won because of strong special teams play — they netted two shorthanded goals and two on the power play. The Nanooks haven’t left Alaska yet so I’m not sure how they’ll far this weekend. I’ll call for an MSU sweep because of that unknown. Mavericks 4-1, 4-2
Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage
SHANE: This is a Saturday-Sunday series, giving each of these teams a little more travel time (at least on the front end of the weekend). The Falcons are coming off an idle weekend, too, so they should be well-rested. It might be a tad early to say that the Seawolves are the surprise team of the league, but they’re off to a good start. That just might continue. Falcons 3-2, Seawolves 3-2
JACK: Was last season’s disappointing season an aberration for Anchorage? After all, they made it to the Final Five in 2013-14. Their 4-1-1 start is promising, but they haven’t exactly been facing a murderer’s row. Their results this weekend against a very good Bowling Green team should tell us a lot. Seawolves 4-3, Falcons 3-2
Last week: Shane 6-2-2, Jack 3-5-2. Overall: Shane 21-14-7, Jack 20-15-7