Oct. 14-15 picks

No. 14 Minnesota (2-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: This one is a battle of youth and Minnesota’s freshman class is more talented. Six of the seven freshmen who played against Sacred Heart last weekend scored at least a point. Mind you, that was a bad Sacred Heart squad. Both teams have a leader offensively — Jake Hansen for the Gophers and Jack Connolly for the Bulldogs (advantage UMD). This is also a great chance for JT Brown to prove he’ll be a star on regional TV. Minnesota has the edge in goal with All-WCHA goalie Kent Patterson, who shut out Sacred Heart twice in the sweep. Meanwhile, UMD’s goaltending has been very suspect, allowing eight goals on 32 shots against Notre Dame. Those numbers make you cringe regardless of the opponent’s national rank. Split

Brian: The Bulldogs are coming off of an emotional, hard-fought split with then-top-ranked Notre Dame at home as they witnessed the raising of their 2011 national championship banner. While the Gophers’ home opponent, Sacred Heart, wasn’t nearly as formidable, Minnesota swept the series convincingly 9-0 and 6-0, firing 92 shots in the process. UMD has won six of the last 10 meetings but the teams split last season’s series (1-1-2). Both teams bring young squads to the table after significant offseason losses, which I think favors UMD at home on Friday. But I look for the Gophers freshmen to settle in and Kent Patterson to come up big on Saturday to earn Minnesota a split.


No. 18 Wisconsin (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at Michigan Tech (2-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: Don’t let that 2-0 record fool you, Michigan Tech has a long way to go. Remember when the Huskies started last season with five straight wins. Those wins came against teams that took a few weeks just to win a game and last week’s opponent, American International, is traditionally one of the worst teams in the country. Wisconsin, meanwhile, looked a long way removed from its title game appearance two seasons ago, in a home split against Northern Michigan last week. I think Tech, on its home ice, can squeeze out a victory this weekend. Split.

Brian: Michigan Tech is coming off of a season-opening sweep (4-3, 3-1) of American International, its first sweep of the same team since taking two from Northern Michigan Dec. 19-20, 2008. This marks the second consecutive year the Huskies have begun 2-0-0 after they opened last season with wins over Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State. Freshman forward Blake Pietila’s three-point weekend (2-1–3) earned him WCHA Rookie of the Week honors.

Wisconsin’s freshmen goaltenders, Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel, got their feet wet in last weekend’s home split with Northern Michigan but they, and their fellow freshmen, will have their mettle tested on the road for the first time in Houghton. The Badgers carry an 11-game winning streak over the Huskies into the weekend. The streak ends here, but the Badgers will bring two points back to Madison.


Bemidji State (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at No. 7 Colorado College (0-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: The Beavers have already proven they aren’t afraid to go into anyone’s barn. A split at No. 2 Miami was a great way to start the season but it wasn’t as David/Goliath as you might think. Miami lost a lot in the offseason, was overrated to begin the season and won’t be a top-five team this year. I think CC is a tougher opponent for Bemidji State even though the Tigers are just opening their season tonight. CC has the firepower Miami doesn’t, and is a lot better defensively. Doctors cleared William Rapuzzi to play earlier this week, giving the Beavers one more talented forward to worry about if he does. CC Sweep.

Brian: While Colorado College was cruising to a 5-0 exhibition win over the United States Under-18 Team last Saturday, Bemidji State was coming up just short of a road sweep of then-No. 2 Miami. CC and BSU met just twice in 2010-11 with the Beavers earning three points with a 5-5 tie and a 2-1 win in Bemidji. The Tigers lead the all-time series 3-2-1 but are 3-1 against Bemidji State at World Arena. The Beavers demonstrated grit on the road last weekend but a bit of it vanishes into thin air this weekend as the Tigers sweep this series.


Massachusetts-Lowell (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) at Minnesota-State (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: The Mavericks scored 11 goals in last season’s series at Lowell. They probably won’t score that many this weekend but MSU’s goaltending is solid enough to hold UML down while the offense gets a comfortable lead. MSU sweep.

Brian: Minnesota State plays its first home games of the season after heading east last weekend and earning a split with RPI (1-0, 1-4) in which goaltenders Austin Lee and Phil Cook combined to make 70 saves. UMass-Lowell, on the other hand, is opening its season against the Mavericks, although the River Hawks did tie New Brunswick 3-3 in an exhibition last Saturday. The two teams met in Lowell last season with the Mavericks sweeping and, despite the change in time zones, I expect the same result this time around.


St. Cloud State (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at Northern Michigan (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA)

Tyler: The Huskies have too many question marks to predict a sweep and the Wildcats were very close to leaving Madison with a sweep last weekend. This one will be a challenge for SCSU, but I think the Huskies earn a split on the U.P.

Brian: SCSU coach Bob Motzko returns to the scene of his first win at the helm of the Huskies, a 3-2 OT win over NMU on Oct. 15, 2005, to split Motzko’s debut series. After a season-opening 4-1 win over Alaska in the Kendall Hockey Classic at Anchorage, the Huskies coughed up a 2-0 third-period lead and lost 4-3 in overtime to Alaska-Anchorage. Similarly, the Wildcats left Madison with split after a pair of 3-2 contests after blowing 2-0 leads in each game. The Huskies lead the all-time series 21-15-1 but are just 6-12 at Marquette. It all boils down to a hard-earned split for each.


No. 17 Maine (1-1-0, 1-1-0 Hockey East) at No. 6 North Dakota (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: UND players haven’t forgotten about last season’s embarrassing losses at Maine, and maybe the 7-3/4-2 losses built enough clichéd character and help set the clichéd foundation for a great season-long run. The Sioux are a long way from January form but what hurt UND last year at Maine were the penalties. If the Sioux keep the penalties to a minimum, UND sweeps.

Brian: North Dakota’s road to last season’s Frozen Four came with a giant pothole early on when the Sioux traveled to Orono ranked No. 2 in the nation and were swept handily by the 12th-ranked Black Bears 7-3 and 4-2. Fast forward to this weekend where the teams meet again separated in the polls by nearly an identical margin. Each team enters the series 1-1 as Maine split home games with Merrimack (2-1 L) and Northeastern (6-3 W) while the Sioux nipped Air Force 4-3 and fell to Boston College 6-2 in their annual Icebreaker Tournament at The Ralph. Call it revenge, call it payback, or call it retribution, if you will, but I’ll call it a Fighting Sioux sweep.


No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) vs. Alaska-Anchorage (1-0-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) @ Fairbanks

Tyler: Not a WCHA game, but a good preview. Jordan Kwas looked to be a key player coming into the season and he has three points in two games and Mickey Spencer went nuts last weekend with four goals and two assists. But UNO’s offense is better and will be too much for UAA goaltending, which allowed seven goals on 40 shots. Mavericks goalie John Faulkner is the X-factor. If he shuts Spencer and Co. down, UNO wins.

Brian: The fourth-ever meeting (1-1-1) between UNO and UAA on Friday will be the first outside of Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena; but won’t be in Nebraska. That will have to wait until Oct. 21-22 when the Seawolves make their first trip to Omaha to open each school’s conference schedules. Friday’s matchup at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, on the other hand, opens the Brice Alaska Gold Rush tournament where I expect UAA to regain the upper hand in the series, if only for a week that is.


No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at Alaska (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA)

Tyler: I believe the better of the two hockey teams in Alaska is Anchorage and UNO should beat the Nanooks. UNO wins.

Brian: The former CCHA rivals meet for the first time since the Mavericks beat the Nanooks 5-3 on Dec. 12, 2009, in UNO’s last visit to Fairbanks as a CCHA team. UNO’s history with Alaska (49 games) is the longest of any Mavericks opponent and 28 of those games have either been decided by one goal (17) or ended in a tie (11). I expect another close game but Nebraska-Omaha comes out on top in this one.


Mercyhurst (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) at Alaska-Anchorage (1-0-1, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: UAA faces a lesser goaltender in Mercyhurst’s Max Strang, Saturday. UAA scores five in a win against the Lakers.

Brian: Alaksa-Anchorage is undefeated (4-0-0) in four previous engagements with the Lakers including a 5-3 win in last year’s Kendall Hockey Classic. Mercyhurst was swept by Nebraska-Omaha and Robert Morris in last week’s Maverick Stampede in Omaha. I don’t see it getting any better for the Lakers in this one as the Seawolves will extend their unbeaten streak over Mercyhurst to five.


No. 3 Denver (0-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at No. 1 Boston College (2-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) and No. 8 Boston University (1-0-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East)

Tyler: Anyone who watched the BC/UND game won’t dispute the Eagles’ No. 1 rank. That offense will be too tough for a young Pioneers team and a backup goalie, but Denver is ranked third for a reason — its offensive firepower. Saturday will be a great matchup between the Pioneers offense and a Terriers defense that allowed 2.6 goals per game last year and BU goalie Kieran Millan, who saved 92 percent of the shots he faced last season. BC beats DU. DU beats BU.

Brian: What a way to open the season for Denver as the Pioneers head east to Boston where a baptism of fire awaits George Gwozdecky’s freshmen in the form of two highly ranked opponents. A year ago Denver was swept at home by Boston College (6-2, 3-0) in a series in which the Pioneers were 0-for-17 on the power play. The teams have split six games all time in Chestnut Hill, Mass., but the Eagles have won four of the last five meetings between the schools. Make it five of six as the Pioneers fall in their opener.

Denver and Boston University meet on Saturday for the first time since Jan. 3, 2009, when the Terriers defeated the Pioneers 4-1 for the Denver Cup championship. Denver is 4-6 in its last 10 meetings with BU but the Pioneers are 0-7-2 all time against the Terriers in Boston. The Boston curse is snapped on Saturday with a Denver win.