It’s possible that little will be decided for the WCHA playoffs until Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage wrap up their series — and the league’s regular season schedule — this Saturday night.
With all but Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan involved in WCHA play this weekend, here are the three things I think I learned from around the league.
Saturday was a must win for Minnesota State, no matter what the Mavericks say
No goal this season may have been more important for the Mavericks up until this point than the one scored by senior captain Johnny McInnis in overtime on Saturday to give the Mavs a 1-0 overtime victory over Bowling Green in Mankato.
MSU currently sits two points back of second-place BGSU and four points back of first-place Ferris State with the Bulldogs hosting the Falcons this weekend in Big Rapids, Mich.
“I can’t say it was a must win at this time of the year,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said to Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press after Saturday’s OT win, “but it was an incredibly important win.”
Even a tie for the Mavericks with BGSU on Saturday would have left the WCHA’s preseason favorites in a giant hole — anywhere from seven to nine points back of first place — once they return to league play Nov. 22-23 at Bowling Green.
If anything, Saturday’s win was a huge moral boost for MSU, which would have had just one win in four home games to start league play if not for McInnis’ goal.
“We needed something to go right for us,” McInnis said to Free Press. “We needed to get some of our swagger back, maybe.”
The Mavs are at the University of Minnesota this weekend.
To beat Ferris State or Bemidji State, you’ll have to light the lamp … a lot
The only offense that has been hotter than Bemidji State up to this point in WCHA play has been Ferris State and the Bulldogs unloaded on the Beavers this weekend, scoring 10 goals to take over first place in the league with a sweep.
Bemidji was held to just a modest seven.
The Bulldogs are averaging 3.89 goals per game this season and 4.50 goals per league game. The Beavers average 2.90 goals per game overall, but have scored an average of 3.50 in their six WCHA contests.
Both teams meet potent offenses again this weekend with Ferris hosting BGSU (third in the league, averaging 3.10 goals per game overall) and Bemidji hosting Alaska-Anchorage (sixth in the league, averaging 2.75 goals per game overall).
Northern Michigan has its go-to goal scorer
Northern Michigan University lacked a go-to goal scorer last season and there was a big question mark whether or not the Wildcats had one on the roster this season.
That question mark has been erased by senior forward Stephan Vigier in the first 10 games, who now leads the WCHA in not just goals, but points with 10 goals and two assists.
Vigier scored twice on Saturday in NMU’s come-from-behind win at Western Michigan and he notched the game-tying goal with 2:47 to play at WMU on Sunday.
He’s scored goals in nine of the Wildcats’ 10 games thus far, including the last eight in a row.
Matt: I was robbed of perfection a week ago by Lake Superior State’s tie with Wisconsin on Friday, plus the Bemidji State’s win over Minnesota State that night as well. Don’t expect a repeat this week, let alone the rest of the season.
Shane: Well done, Matt. Let’s go to Vegas! I think if last week’s results proved anything it’s that there won’t be any easy picks going forward in this league. While the opponents are often unfamiliar to fans throughout this revamped league, the hockey’s still good, certainly competitive.
Here’s this week’s picks with the Lakers finally getting into WCHA play.
Bemidji State at Ferris State
Matt: Maybe the one media member who cast a first-place vote in the preseason poll for the Beavers knew something the rest of us didn’t. BSU has another tough test this week traveling to the team picked to finish second. Unlike Minnesota State, the Bulldogs have lived up to their billing thus far. Just so I don’t jinx the Beavers, I’ll take Ferris in a sweep. Bulldogs 4-3, 3-2.
Shane: After watching the Beavers last weekend, they’re not going to make life easy on anyone this season. They have a nice combination of goaltending; a disciplined, defensive system; and veteran players. The Bulldogs have been good, but the schedule’s been soft to start. I see a split. Beavers 3-2, Bulldogs 4-2
Alaska at Lake Superior State
Matt: The Lakers begin life in the WCHA against a familiar foe, while Alaska meets another former CCHA rival from the U.P. Both teams may have been underrated in the preseason. This should a good series in Sault Ste. Marie and could rival the one in Mankato. Lakers 3-2, Nanooks 2-1.
Shane: This should be a good series. It’s the Nanooks’ first trip out of Alaska this season, and it’s a chance to see what the Lakers are made of after getting knocked back to Earth last weekend at Wisconsin. It’s been awhile since Alaska has won in the Sault, but I think it gets one this time around. Lakers 4-1, Nanooks 5-4
Bowling Green at Minnesota State
Matt: I’m jealous Shane gets to watch this series in person while I watch online. It’s the first of two meetings between the Falcons and Mavericks this month, who play each other again two weeks from now in Ohio. Two losses by the Mavericks would be devastating, but I don’t see that happening. Falcons 5-3, Mavericks 4-2.
Shane: This is the conference’s marquee matchup this weekend, and, yes, I’m looking forward to watching these two games. The Falcons have their offense going, even without Ryan Carpenter in the lineup, while the Mavericks have yet to get their forwards on the board consistently this season. Until that happens, I can’t call an MSU sweep. Falcons 2-1, Mavericks 4-2
Alabama-Huntsville at Alaska-Anchorage
Matt: The way the Seawolves battled BGSU on Saturday in Ohio was impressive, even though they lost. I expect that to carry over back home for a pair of wins. Seawolves 2-0, 3-0.
Shane: This is the beginning of a very tough five-week stretch of games for the Chargers, who are still searching for that first win. They had Ferris State on the ropes last weekend at home, but if the Seawolves are the improved team we think they are now, I think they’ll sweep. Seawolves 3-1, 2-1
Michigan State at Michigan Tech
Matt: The Spartans haven’t been to Houghton since 1984, while the Huskies may be feeling just as unfamiliar with John MacInnes Student Ice Arena after playing seven of their first eight games on the road. The fans haven’t forgotten about the Huskies hopefully, or the fact that State has snubbed a trip to the Keweenaw the past 28 seasons. I expect Sparty to be skating into a hornet’s nest. Huskies 4-1, 3-0.
Shane: Should be a fun couple of nights in Houghton. The Huskies certainly are battle-tested with that early season schedule, and they’ve been in just about every game against some very good teams on the road. They win Friday, but I’ll say State rebounds on Saturday. Huskies 3-2, Spartans 2-1
Northern Michigan at Western Michigan
Matt: Kalamazoo has been as giving to the Wildcats as a certain former NMU and WMU president was to both universities’ athletic departments. Northern has lost its last six games at Lawson Ice Arena to what is now a former CCHA rival. Having just gotten back from a grueling trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, I fear that skid will continue. Broncos 2-0, 3-1.
Shane: You certainly know Northern a lot better than I do, but I think it finds a way to pull one out against its former conference foe. Broncos 3-1, Wildcats 3-1
Last week: Matt 10-1-1, Shane: 7-4-0. Overall: Matt 32-18-6, Shane 30-20-6.
What I think I learned this weekend …
1. Don’t discount Bemidji
Bemidji State split at home against the league’s preseason favorite, Minnesota State, winning 4-1 and falling 4-3. The Beavers had the Mavericks on the ropes in the second game, too. Goaltender Andrew Walsh was rock-solid throughout the weekend, especially in the first period of each game, and he got plenty of help from his teammates, who, not surprisingly, have bought into the program’s defensive brand of hockey. Any team will have trouble going into the Sanford Center this season. That team plays too hard, especially in its own end, to get walked over. But the Beavers have a few players who can score, too. Danny Mattson has eight points, and Cory Ward has five goals.
2. Where’s the offense, MSU?
Through six games, Minnesota State is averaging just 2.33 goals per game, which ranks seventh in the league, and the Mavericks’ power play is clicking at just 8.8 percent. This is a surprising, almost shocking, statistic, considering the offensive firepower that was returning this season. The problem seems to be the ability to finish, as the Mavericks have had plenty of scoring chances. To come away without a goal in the first period Friday in Bemidji was so frustrating that the entire momentum of the game changed after the Beavers scored the game’s first goal. The Mavericks were without Matt Leitner (back), one of the nation’s most dangerous power-play men last season, and point man Josh Nelson (lower body). Also, key PP guys Eriah Hayes and Zach Lehrke are also gone. So perhaps we’re seeing some unexpected growing pains. Or perhaps we’re seeing a trend?
3. Ready to bounce back?
Lake Superior State came into the weekend unbeaten and ranked in the top 12. The Lakers looked the part over the first part of the first period at Wisconsin, scoring three quick goals. The Badgers came back and forced an overtime tie in that game and then pounded the Lakers 8-1 on Saturday. Meanwhile, in Huntsville, Ferris State swept Alabama-Huntsville 5-0 and 3-2. In the second game, the Chargers had leads of 1-0 and 2-1. But neither of those leads lasted long. The Bulldogs came back to tie the game in 76 seconds and 19 seconds respectively. Three minutes after FSU made it 2-2, Justin Buzzeo scored his second goal of the game for the winner — just 3:24 remained in the game. All of this makes me very curious to see how Lake Superior State and Alabama-Huntsville bounce back from two different kinds of heartbreak. The Lakers will try to get back on track when they open WCHA play at home against Alaska, while the winless Chargers go to Alaska-Anchorage, which was swept at Bowling Green over the weekend.
All right, Matt, it’s for real now. The WCHA schedule began last week with two league series. This weekend there are four conference matchups and a couple of intriguing nonconference series, but I see more sweeps than splits.
Alaska Anchorage at Bowling Green
Shane: The Seawolves and their new attitude under coach Matt Thomas go out of state for the first time this season. UAA has won just four games outside of Alaska the last two seasons, including one last year. Bowing Green is coming off a Tuesday game at Ohio State, and I’m curious about how much time that gives them to prepare for Friday. Seawolves 3-2, Falcons 4-1
Matt: The Falcons have really impressed me the past few weeks while Ryan Carpenter is on the shelf. Bryce Williamson and Ben Murphy have really stepped up, as has Dan DeSalvo. I like BGSU to defend its home ice. Falcons 2-1, 4-2
Ferris State at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: I picked the Bulldogs to finish second in the conference, and, since we’re barely past Halloween, I’m going to stand by my prediction that they’re pretty good. The Chargers showed last weekend that they still have quite a ways to go as they build from those tough independent years. Bulldogs 5-1, 2-1
Matt: I thought the Chargers could pull off a win last weekend in their season opener at home against a big rival in Bemidji State. They didn’t, leaving me little confidence they can steal a win from Ferris State. Bulldogs 2-1, 3-0
Minnesota State at Bemidji State
Shane: The Mavericks have won 10 of the last 12 meetings with their old/new rivals, the Beavers, and while I think Bemidji State at home won’t make it very easy on MSU, I think Minnesota State sweeps. Too much depth up front for the defensive-minded Beavers to stop. Mavericks 3-1, 5-2
Matt: The Beavers showed last weekend in Huntsville they’re a step above the bottom rung of the WCHA, but I’m not sure they’re at the Maverick’s level. I still expect them to give MSU a run for its money. I see this series as being much closer. Mavericks 3-2, 4-2
Northern Michigan at Alaska
Shane: The Wildcats haven’t won on the road yet this season, and they’re going to a place where they’ve won just once in their last six tries. The Nanooks might be comfortable, too, not having left the state yet. Both teams are giving up a few goals, but Alaska is scoring more than a goal per game more. I think there might be a tie in here, but the Nanooks are getting at least three points. Nanooks 3-2, 4-3
Matt: Alaska may score more than a goal per game, but its also taking 22.5 penalty minutes per game and the Nanooks’ penalty kill is ninth in the league, killing 80.6 percent. Meanwhile, NMU’s power play ranks third, converting 19.5 percent of the time. That’s a recipe for NMU to steal a win in Fairbanks — a trip NMU has made three of the last four years. Nanooks 4-1, Wildcats 3-1
Michigan Tech at Michigan
Shane: The Huskies’ brutal early season schedule continues. Holy buckets. They have just one win but have played everybody tough. Michigan looks like it’s back to form, but I think Mel Pearson steals one from his old boss, Red Berenson, just as he did a year ago. Huskies 2-1, Wolverines 5-2
Matt: Kudos to the Huskies for stacking their schedule and not shying away from tough competition. Too bad all these games are on the road where Tech has yet to win. Tech was stellar at home Saturday against NMU, but dreadful Friday in Marquette. The only exception to this is Pheonix Copley, who was great both place. He’ll keep the series close. Wolverines 2-1, 3-2
Lake Superior State at Wisconsin
Shane: This is suddenly a huge test for the undefeated Lakers. Who would have imagined less than a month ago that this series would pit No. 12 (Lake Superior) against No. 13 (Wisconsin)? The Lakers have the goaltending, but the Badgers are going to be an angry bunch at home after that lost weekend in Boston two weeks ago. Badgers 4-1, 5-2
Matt: You’re right Shane, this is a huge test for the Lakers, as long as the Wisconsin team that opened the season shows up, and not the one that got routed in Boston. I guess we’ll found out whether last weekend was a fluke, or the sweep of NMU was the fluke. I’m thinking Boston was the fluke. Badgers 4-1, 3-1
Last week: Matt 4-2-1, Shane 2-4-1. Overall: Shane 23-16-6, Matt 22-17-6.
The WCHA dropped the puck on conference play this weekend at Alabama-Huntsville and in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Alaska also hosted Mercyhurst in its final nonconference series of the weekend.
With Bowling Green still to play Tuesday at Ohio State, here’s what I think I learned this weekend in the WCHA.
1. Home is where the wins are
After starting the year 6-11-3 in nonconference play, WCHA teams have combined to go 12-7-3 since then to improve to 18-18-6 following the Nanooks win and tie at home against Mercyhurst.
That turnaround can be credited to WCHA teams playing nonconference opponents on home ice, where they are 12-4-3. On the road in nonconference play, the WCHA is 4-12-3 and on neutral ice, they’re 2-2-0.
In 2013-14, WCHA teams are scheduled to play a total of 26 nonconference games at home, 42 on the road and 13 on neutral ice.
Bemidji State leads the league with five nonconference home games, followed by Alaska (4) and Bowling Green (3). The rest of the league’s seven teams have two each.
If the trend continues — with seven nonconference home games, 23 road games and nine neutral ice games remaining — the WCHA will finish around 32-41-9, not taking into account quality of opponents.
No wonder commissioner Bruce McLeod and others in the WCHA would are pressuring league members to schedule more home games and not take easy payouts to play on the road with no return trip.
2. The WCHA schedule makers got it right last weekend
A new era in the WCHA kicked off with two old, heated rivalries in Northern Michigan/Michigan Tech and Alabama-Huntsville/Bemidji State.
The Wildcats and Huskies split the first two games of their four-game series with NMU winning 2-0 before a sellout crowd of 4,260 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette and Tech earning its first win of the season in its first home game of the season, 4-1, in front of a near-sellout crowd of 3,944 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.
The Chargers didn’t get as big of crowds in Huntsville or any wins, falling 6-1 and 1-0 to the Beavers, but a more stable and consistent home slate this season should help the program boost attendance. Ferris State heads south this week.
The only rivalry missing this weekend was Nanooks vs. Seawolves, but maybe the world just isn’t ready yet for that much chirping in a week.
3. Tech goalie Pheonix Copley is too hard on himself
Making back-to-back starts for the first time this season after splitting weekends with sophomore Jamie Phillips, Copley stopped 14 shots to earn his first win of the season on Saturday.
Despite getting the win Saturday, the sophomore from North Pole, Alaska, was hard on himself.
“Obviously the goal, it’s one you’d like back,” said Copley, who stopped 31 shots the night before in a 2-0 loss at NMU. “It was kind of off angle, not the best shot.”
The goal Copley gave up was a short-range rocket by NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier, who bounced the puck off the left post and past the Tech goalkeeper.
Vigier happens to also be tied with Alaska’s Cody Kunyk and Nolan Huysmans for the league-high in goals with five, so I think Copley can brush that goal off. Not many goalies in college hockey would have gotten that one, but it’s also nice to see the sophomore set the bar so high.
After three weekends of nonconference play in the WCHA, the 2013-14 conference slate begins for Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.
Alaska hosts one more nonconference series while Bowling Green plays Tuesday night.
Alaska-Anchorage, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Minnesota State are all off this weekend, though the Lakers have a Tuesday home exhibition against Laurentian.
Here are the picks.
Bemidji State at Alabama-Huntsville
Matt: I was unaware how heated this rivalry was until the unofficial UAHHockey.com Twitter account (@UAHHockey) started chirping back and forth with the official Bemdji State University Twitter account (@bemidjistate). This will be fun. Chargers 3-2, Beavers 2-1.
Shane: I really thought Bemiidji State and Minnesota State would be a big rivalry because of their long history and the fact that they continued to play nonconference games after going D1. But these were the best teams in the CHA for several years and that fact remains fresh in the teams’ and fans’ minds. I agree it will be fun, and I agree on a split. Chargers 2-1, Beavers 3-1
Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan (home and home)
Matt: The Wildcats host the Huskies on Friday in Marquette before the two sides play again 24 hours later in Houghton. This has been a tame series in recent years, partially because Tech has been in rebuilding mode. The Huskies’ 8-2 butt kicking of the ‘Cats last year may have lit a spark in the NMU locker room. Now we’ll see if a four-game series ignites it further. Wildcats 4-3, Huskies 4-2.
Shane: Good for the WCHA to schedule a pair of rivalry series to kick off the conference schedule. It will be interesting to see how this one develops now that these teams are back in the same league for the first time since 1997. They’ll split, but I think each wins at the other’s barn. Huskies 5-2, Wildcats 3-2
Mercyhurt at Alaska
Matt: With wins over Denver and Air Force, plus a tie with Western Michigan, the Nanooks are off to a solid start at 2-1-1. Mercyhurt is 1-4-0 to start the year and the last time the Lakers were in Fairbanks two years ago, they got hammered by both the Nanooks and Seawolves. Nanooks 5-1, 3-1.
Shane: These are the final nonconference games for the Nanooks, who are also at home. Mercyhurst might be road weary after playing in a tournament at Minnesota, then home against Ferris State then at Merrimack. Now a trip to Fairbanks? Their frequent-flyer miles will be rewarded with a pair of losses. Nanooks 3-2, 6-2
Bowling Green at Ohio State
Matt: It’s Part II of what was an exciting Tuesday night game a week ago, with BGSU scoring four unanswered goals in the second and third periods to rally for a 4-3 win over the Buckeyes in Bowling Green. Now the series shifts to Columbus, where the 0-3 Buckeyes have been stewing since. I like a confident Falcons team. BGSU 3-1
Shane: Ohio State plays a home-and-home with Robert Morris this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how it comes out of that series. But I still think the Buckeyes are a mess, while the Falcons are showing off their depth without Ryan Carpenter. Falcons 4-3
Last week: Shane, 11-5-2; Matt 8-8-2. Overall: Shane 21-12-5; Matt, 18-15-5.
Three things I think I learned this weekend …
Turning into a trend?
Lake Superior State improved to 4-0 to start the season, sweeping Union 6-5 in overtime and 3-2 on the road over the weekend. The Lakers are one of just four 4-0 teams and six unbeaten teams remaining in the country.
Stephen Perfetto scored the overtime winner on Friday. He had three assists earlier in the game and ended up with a four-point night. He also had an assist on Saturday.
Across the continent, Alaska-Anchorage came back to earth a bit with a 6-2 loss to Western Michigan on the first day of the Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks, Alaska. But this is a new Seawolves team. the next night it defeated WCHA defector Denver 3-2 in overtime thanks to a Matt Bailey goal. The win snapped a 10-game winless streak against the Pioneers.
Alaska, meanwhile won its second straight Goal Rush with a win over Denver and a tie against its old CCHA foe Western Michigan. A shootout victory gave the Nanooks the tournament title.
Old guys rule
Every coach will tell you that his seniors are going to lead the way. Glancing at the the early season scoring list, look which players sit at the top.
Six of the top eight scorers in the WCHA are seniors (the other two are juniors), with Bryce Williamson, a forward for Bowling Green, leading the way with four goals and seven points. He had two goals and two assists in a win and tie against Colgate. Ferris State senior Garrett Thompson and junior Justin Buzzeo also have seven points apiece.
Anchorage’s Bailey has four goals (and six points), as does Alaska’s Cody Kunyk. The top-scoring defensemen are seniors: Northern Michigan’s C.J. Ludwig and Lake Superior’s Zach Sternberg each have five points.
Minnesota State’s Johnny McInnis had a three-assist weekend in the Mavericks’ sweep of Connecticut.
Appreciate the candor
With league games beginning next week, coaches will start to tighten their lips when it comes to officiating, under the threat of fines.
Out of conference, well, enjoy the honesty.
Minnesota State’s Mike Hastings went off on the eastern officials last week at Providence, and Sunday, Michigan Tech’s Mel Pearson spoke his mind after his team received 85 minutes worth of penalties in a 7-3 loss at Notre Dame.
“I was really disappointed in the refereeing today,” Pearson said in Michigan Tech’s press release. “I feel bad for the players, the fans, everyone.
“We had a lot of guys play well, and I thought we were the better team when it was five-on-five and we’d tied the score. But when your top guys are killing penalties all night, it’s tough to get anything going offensively.”
At Northern Michigan on Saturday, Nebraska Omaha’s Dean Blais, whose team is no longer in the WCHA, expressed frustration with penalties after his team lost to the Wildcats at Marquette.
It’s week two, and for six of the WCHA teams, they get to open their home schedule. Should be fun in those barns this weekend. It’s also been fun trying to figure out this new league, getting to know different programs and players. It will take some time, that’s for sure. So with one weekend to go by, here’s a stab at this week’s games:
Lake Superior at No. 16 Union
Shane: The Lakers had a solid start at home last weekend and now make the long trip east, which wasn’t very kind to WCHA teams last week (just ask Mike Hastings!). A split would keep their spirits high. Lakers 3-1, Dutchmen 4-1
Matt: LSSU head coach Jim Roque had a reputation for getting fined in the CCHA for his comments about officials. He won’t wait for a postgame press conference like Minnesota State’s Hastings to voice his displeasure with the men in stripes. Kevin Murdock will steal a game from Union, probably Friday. Lakers 2-1, Dutchmen 2-1
Colgate at Bowling Green
Shane: The Falcons are riding high after that comeback victory over Ohio State, and they’re scoring goals, too. Will that keep the home crowd coming? If so, I see a Bowling Green sweep. Falcons 4-2, 5-3
Matt: The road wasn’t kind to the WCHA last week, but home ice sure was, especially for BGSU in that third-period comeback against the Buckeyes. It appears the Falcons are surviving just fine without Ryan Carpenter, but five games in nine days can be taxing. Falcons 4-1, Colgate 3-2
St. Lawrence at Ferris State
Shane: The big challenge will be slowing down the Saints’ Greg Carey, who led the nation in goals (28) and was fourth in points last season (51). It’s Ferris’ home opener, though, so they’ll split. Bulldogs 4-3, Saints 5-2
Matt: If anyone in the WCHA can slow down Carey on back-to-back nights, its the Bulldogs C.J. Motte. I’m sure Carey will get a goal or two, but not enough to beat Ferris State. Bulldogs 3-1, 2-1.
Nebraska Omaha at Northern Michigan
Shane: The Wildcats are going to get an angry Omaha team that split at home against Bentley. Playing at home for the first time, though, Northern will get its first win of the season and split. Mavericks 3-1, Wildcats 4-3
Matt: The shorthanded Wildcats seemed to find a better forward rotation Saturday at Wisconsin by compressing four lines into three. That should work Friday, but by the third period on Saturday, there will be some forwards out of gas in the third period. Wildcats 2-1, Mavericks 2-0.
No. 3 Minnesota at Bemidji State
Shane: The Sanford Center will be rocking with the Gophers in town. But this is a really tough matchup for the offensively challenged Beavers, who are 1-14-1 all-time vs. Minnesota, including 0-4-1 in Bemidji. Gophers 5-1, 5-2
Matt: If the Gophers are anywhere as good as the Badgers looked last weekend in Madison, the Beavers are in for a long weekend … and there is an epic Big Ten battle on the horizon. Gophers 4-0, 3-1
UConn at No. 18 Minnesota State
Shane: The Mavericks got knocked down a few pegs last week in Providence, scoring just one goal and parading to the penalty box. They’re back home and a little banged up, but they seem ready to rebound. Mavericks 4-1, 4-2
Matt: I’m sure two losses caught a few people in Mankato off guard last week, but it sounds like Providence is the real deal. UConn, on the other hand, is still building up its program and playing its first hockey of the season Friday and Saturday. Mavericks 3-1, 2-0
Michigan Tech at No. 4. Notre Dame (Friday-Sunday)
Shane: The Huskies have a brutal start to their season, playing seven of their first eight games on the road. This weekend is no picnic at South Bend, unless they get to go to the USC game on Saturday night. Irish 4-1, 3-2
Matt: Kudos to the Huskies for scheduling tough competition. Too bad it’s all on the road this season. Fans in Houghton shouldn’t be discouraged if Tech is still winless after the weekend. Irish 5-2, 4-3
Brice Alaska Goal Rush
No. 12 Denver/Western Michigan at Alaska
Shane: The Nanooks will open their home schedule at with the Alaska Goal Rush (got it right that time!), and it’s a pretty tough field with some familiar foes that are now in the NCHC. Alaska will split at home this weekend. Nanooks 2, Pioneers 1; Broncos 3, Nanooks 2
Matt: I don’t think the Nanooks are going to be able to take advantage of a travel-weary Denver team like it did last Friday against Air Force, scoring six goals on 17 shots. Western Michigan, however, returns to the former CCHA city of Fairbanks after going scoreless at Notre Dame. Even more troublesome for Western are the five goals Frank Slubowski gave up to the Irish. Pioneers 4, Nanooks 3; Nanooks 2, Broncos 1
Western Michigan/No. 12 Denver vs. Alaska Anchorage
Shane: We got ripped last weekend for disrespecting the Seawolves. Do folks forget they won just four games last year? Last weekend was a nice start to the season. Western hasn’t scored a goal yet; Denver hasn’t allowed one. Seawolves 4, Broncos 1; Pioneers 3, Seawolves 1
Matt: Shane and I definitely under estimated the Nanooks and Seawolves a week ago, but it’s not like anyone was calling us out for those picks before the games. The two teams combined to go 3-1 on the weekend, but face programs this weekend more accustomed to the trip to Alaska. UAA splits. Seawolves 2, Broncos 1; Pioneers 3, Seawolves 2
Shane’s record: 10-7-3 (last week 10-7-3)
Matt’s record: 10-7-3 (last week 10-7-3)
Every team in the WCHA now has two games under its belt after two weekends of hockey, with both games still to be played Tuesday night by Ferris State at Mercyhurst and Bowling Green against Ohio State at the BGSU Ice Arena.
Minus those two games, here are three things I think I learned from the first full weekend of action in the WCHA.
1. Don’t count out the Seawolves this season
Alaska-Anchorage knocked off the defending Atlantic Hockey champions from Air Force and the 2012-13 NCAA Division I national runners-up in Quinnipiac to start 2-0-0 in its first season under coach Matt Thomas.
The wins also gave the Seawolves their third-straight Kendall Hockey Classic title and first 2-0 start to a season since 1996-97.
The Seawolves, who only won four games last year, took a 2-0 first-period lead against the Bobcats on Friday en route to a 3-1 victory. On Saturday, UAA rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the final 1:52 to win 4-2.
Senior Jordan Kwas finished with a hat trick on Saturday. He tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period, tied the game again at 2-2 at 18:08 of the third period and sealed the win with an empty netter with one second remaining on the clock.
UAA senior Matt Bailey, who assisted on both of Kwas’ previous two goals, recorded the game-winner with an assist from Kwas with four seconds to play in regulation.
2. Lakers depth doesn’t end in goal
The only other WCHA team to start 2-0 this season, Lake Superior State, picked up six goals from six different players to sweep Robert Morris in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. this weekend by a score of 3-1 each night.
LSSU freshman forward Alex Globke picked up his first collegiate goal on Friday and another freshman forward, Matt Johnson, earned his first collegiate goal on Saturday.
Junior forward Chris Ciotti and senior defenseman Matt Bruneteau also scored Friday, while junior forward Andrew Dommett and junior defenseman Kevin Czuczman scored on Saturday.
LSSU entered the 2013-14 season minus it’s two leading goal scorers from a year ago in seniors Domenic Monardo and Nick McParland, plus the Lakers lost two eight-goal scorers in Kellan Lain and Buddy Robinson.
It’s just one weekend, but head coach Jim Roque should be encouraged that six different guys stepped up over the weekend to fill the void left by Monardo, McParland, Lain and Robinson.
3. The WCHA will be a one-bid league with weekends like this
The WCHA posted a dismal 5-10-3 record over the weekend and combined with Ferris State’s split two weeks ago at Colgate, is 6-11-3 in nonconference play so far.
The WCHA went 4-0 against Atlantic Hockey, 2-3-1 against the ECAC, 0-2-2 against the NCHC, 0-2 against the Big Ten and 0-4 against Hockey East.
That’s not a recipe to get multiple bids to the NCAA tournament.
The WCHA went winless on the road with Northern Michigan (at Wisconsin), Minnesota State (at Providence) and Alabama-Huntsville (at Northeastern) getting swept while Bemidji State (at St. Cloud State), Michigan Tech (at Minnesota-Duluth) and Bowling Green (at Union) finished with a loss and tie.
(Note the WCHA and NCAA don’t recognize shootouts, while the NCHC and Big Ten only do in their conference standings.)
Alaska, who was on neutral ice at UAA’s Kendall Hockey Classic, split its two games, beating Air Force and losing to Quinnipiac.
The only teams to play at home this weekend, UAA and LSSU, both swept.
We’ll see if the league rebounds this weekend with Bowling Green hosting Colgate, Bemidji hosting Minnesota, Ferris hosting St. Lawrence, Minnesota State hosting UConn and Northern hosting Nebraska-Omaha.
The Nanooks also host the Brice Alaska Goal Rush, which includes the Seawolves playing a pair of neutral-ice games against the NCHC’s Western Michigan and Denver.
Michigan Tech is at Notre Dame and LSSU heads to Union.
Ferris State kicked off the WCHA’s 2013-14 regular season a week ago by splitting with the ECAC’s Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y. — a 7-4 win Friday and 1-0 loss Saturday — and will take the weekend off before playing another nonconference game on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the other nine conference members are all in action on Friday and Saturday, with Bowling Green State playing again on Tuesday as well.
Here are the picks.
Kendall Hockey Classic at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage
Air Force vs. Alaska
Matt: Thanks to the government shutdown, the Falcons have found themselves in a constant state of limbo. They’ll be in Anchorage this weekend, but in what kind of shape? The trip to Alaska is tough as it is, it has to be even tougher not knowing until the last minute whether you are going or not. Alaska 2-1.
Shane: I’m with you on the shutdown. That can’t be easy, twisting in the wind like that, wondering if you’re going to play. The Nanooks have a pretty solid group back from the only team, other than Minnesota State, to have a winning record among the teams that make up the new WCHA. Alaska 3-1.
No. 10 Quinnipiac at Alaska-Anchorage
Matt: The Seawolves start their rebuilding against a very tough challenge in Quinnipiac, one that’s probably too much to overcome this early in the season. Quinnipiac 4-1
Shane: Quinnipiac isn’t the same team as last year’s Frozen Four squad, but it’s still an uphill battle for Anchorage. Quinnipiac 4-2.
No. 10 Quinnipiac vs. Alaska
Matt: I tend to think more highly of Alaska than others in the league, but not enough to take them over the 2012-13 national runners up. The Bobcats really impressed me last year in the tournament. Quinnipiac 3-1
Shane: I’m going the other way here. No Eric Hartzell for Qunnipiac. Alaska’s John Keeney will be the better goalie. Alaska 2-1.
Air force vs. Alaska-Anchorage
Matt: If it wasn’t for the chaos surrounding the shutdown, I would have taken Air Force over Alaska. I think the Falcons rebound Saturday. Air Force 2-0
Shane: In what is basically the third-place game, I like Air Force as well. Air Force 3-1
Robert Morris at Lake Superior State
Matt: The Lakers and Colonials were once rumored as possible league-mates when the CCHA was eyeing former College Hockey American teams in the East to save itself. I’m not sure those rivalries would have played out very well. LSSU 2-1, RMU 3-1
Shane: I’m still getting to know the former CCHA teams but was surprised to see Lake Superior drop its exhibition game to the U.S. Under-18 team. The Lakers are honoring their 1988 National Championship team this weekend. That might fire them up for one win. I’m with Matt here with a series split. LSSU 2-1, RMU 4-2
Alabama-Huntsville at Northeastern
Matt: This is the Chargers only series before opening WCHA play on Oct. 25-26 against Bemidji State. They’ll have to use the trip to Boston almost as a preseason series to fine tune things. Northeastern 4-1, 3-1
Shane: I’m curious to see what a stable Huntsville team can do, one with a coaching staff in place and recruits who knew they were coming to a program that’s sticking around for a while. It will take coach Mike Corbett some time to get things going, and I also see a Northeastern sweep. Northeastern 5-1, 2-1
No. 11 Minnesota State at No. 14 Providence
Matt: Picked to win the WCHA by the coaches and media, other NCAA tourney hopefuls in the league, like Ferris State, would welcome a Mavericks sweep. That’s tough to do opening weekend on the road. Providence 3-1, MSU 4-3
Shane: The Mavericks swept the Friars in Mankato last season, but Providence was without All-American goalie Jon Gillies. It will be Gillies vs. Stephon Williams, the best goalie from Hockey East vs. the best from the WCHA. They’ll split, with MSU taking the opener and the Friars coming back. MSU 3-1, Providence 2-1
Bemidji State at No. 9 St. Cloud State
Matt: It’s the first series at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center since it’s grand re-opening this fall. That will be a tough environment for the Beavers to win in. SCSU 4-1, 3-1
Shane: Bemidji’s tough schedule opens in a really tough spot. The Huskies will be raising banners, and the crowd will be into it. The Beavers are going to have trouble scoring goals this season. St. Cloud sweeps. SCSU 3-1, 5-1
Michigan Tech at Minnesota Duluth
Matt: Another matchup between former WCHA rivals, which was dominated by the Bulldogs last season. All the Huskies could manage was a tie. Both of Tech’s losses in Duluth were by a goal, however. UMD 3-2, Tech 4-3
Shane: I think Michigan Tech is a top-three team in the WCHA. The Huskies will stun the Bulldogs in the first game, but Duluth will bounce back for the series split. Tech 5-2, UMD 3-2
Bowling Green State at Union
Matt: With Ryan Carpenter reportedly having surgery on a broken hand today, the Falcons are really going to have to rely on Dan DeSalvo offensively. Union 2-0, BGSU 2-1
Shane: That’s a big blow for Bowling Green off the bat, and Union was an NCAA team last season. Union sweeps a pair of close games. Union 2-1, 2-1
Northern Michigan at No. 3 Wisconsin
Matt: The Badgers have struggled in season-opening series against NMU the last two seasons, losing three of the last four all in Wisconsin (NMU swept UW in Green Bay last year). NMU has won three of its last four games in the Kohl Center dating back to January of 2009. NMU 3-2, UW 5-2
Shane: My first thought was to pick a sweep by the Badgers, the nation’s third-ranked team, but Matt’s pulled up some impressive stats. I’ll flip-flop the split, with Wisconsin winning the series opener and Northern pulling off an upset on Saturday. UW 4-2, NMU 2-1
Ohio State at Bowling Green State
Matt: The only win the Falcons could steal from the Buckeyes last year in their final season together in the CCHA was in a shootout, which doesn’t really count. Both teams meet again Oct. 29 in Columbus. OSU 2-1
Shane: I’ll take a Bowling Green bounce-back here. There will be a hangover for Ohio State’s tumultuous offseason. BGSU 3-1
Ferris State at Mercyhurst
Matt: The Bulldogs and Lakers were once league rivals in everything but hockey in Division II’s Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Lakers are participating in the IceBreaker in Minneapolis on Friday and Saturday while the Bulldogs are off. For once, a Bulldogs team will be the well rested ones after a seven hour trip from Big Rapids, Mich. to Erie, Pa. FSU 4-2
Shane: I’ll go with Matt on this one. FSU 4-2