WCHA picks: Oct. 21-23

Michigan Tech (4-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) at Bemidji State (1-3-0, 0-2-0 WCHA)

Tyler:  The Beavers are battle tested after splitting with then-No. 2 Miami before losing a couple tight games at then-No. 7 Colorado College. Tech had to sweat out a couple of close ones against one of the worst teams in the land, American International, a couple weeks ago. BSU sweeps the home opener.

Brian: Bemidji State opens the home portion of its schedule hosting the league’s feel-good story. That is, of course, if you’re not a Wisconsin fan. MTU has thrived so far playing offensively-challenged teams at home while the Beavers have played solid road hockey against a pair of NCAA tournament-caliber teams. BSU will take full advantage of the home ice and take a pair of tight, low-scoring games.

Minnesota State (1-3-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) at No. 3 Denver (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: The Jason Zucker/Drew Shore/Luke Salazar will just be too much for a punchless banged up Minnesota State team. DU sweep.

Brian: Stealing a game inDenver would be a gargantuan task for the Mavericks under normal circumstances. But with Michael Dorr, Tyler Elbrecht, J.P. Burkemper, Max Gaede, Danny Heath and Eriah Hayes all staying home this weekend, that ain’t happening. Pioneers sweep.

Alaska-Anchorage (3-0-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) at Nebraska-Omaha (1-3-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: The Mavericks haven’t gotten the offense they need from its top line (Broadhurst/Montpetit/White) since the season opener but the possible return of Alex Hudson might add some punch. Hudson’s addition would be nice because UNO hasn’t gotten much from outside the top line. John Faulkner’s struggles will probably lead to another start for freshman Ryan Massa this weekend. I expect a breakout weekend from the UNO offense, which is a must in order to get a win this weekend because the UAA offense has proven to be a dynamic one so far, getting points from guys up and down the roster. Split

Brian: Although these teams met once already this season–with UAA wining 3-0 in last weekend’s Brice Alaska Gold Rush tournament in Fairbanks–Mavericks coach Dean Blais said neither team learned much about the other which would help them this weekend. With no penalties called in the game there weren’t any opportunities for special teams scouting for either team. The return of Alex Hudson could give UNO a boost but the Seawolves have been playing very well so far. UAA earns a split in its first-ever trip to Omaha.

No. 5 North Dakota (2-1-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) at Wisconsin (1-3-0, 0-2-0 WCHA)

Tyler: The problem with Wisconsin this season has been the Badgers’ inability to score, especially in the first period. The Sioux will jump on the Badgers early and if UND get a two-goal lead, Wisconsin won’t have the punch to catch up. UND’s goaltending situation will continue to solidify and the Sioux will leave Madison with a sweep.

Brian: Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves is hoping some line juggling perks up the Badgers’ struggling offense against the Sioux this week. Freshman winger Joseph LaBate, for instance, was inserted onto UW’s top line with center Mark Zengerle and RW Tyler Barnes. North Dakota has won five of the last six meetings in Madison and swept last season’s series 1-0 and 4-2. The line of Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, and Brock Nelson is the best Wisconsin’s rookie goaltenders Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel have seen so far in their young careers and a lot more will be known about them by Saturday night. The Badgers find a way to grind out their first conference win and earn a split.

No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth (1-3-0, 0-2-0 WCHA) at Providence (2-0-0, 2-0-0 HE)

Tyler: The Friars have scored 11 times in two games and that’s not a good sign for UMD goalies Kenny Reiter and Aaron Crandall, who share an .820 save percentage. Was there too much pressure on the Bulldogs, who began their national title defense with four games in front of the home fans. Maybe a road trip could do some good for UMD. Split.

Brian: The Nate Leaman era at Providence got off to an impressive start with a pair of conference victories over Boston University (5-3) and Massachusetts (6-4). The Bulldogs, after an impressive season-opening win over then top-ranked Notre Dame, have lost three straight. The bad news is the Bulldogs must now right the ship on the road. The good news is they don’t have to face Kent Patterson until, possibly, the postseason. The Bulldogs know how to get pucks to the net and will be rewarded for it this weekend with a road sweep.

New Hampshire (0-3-0, 0-3-0 HE) at St. Cloud State (1-3-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: UNH has been outscored 14-1 in its first three games but the Huskies first need to get a lead early, play 60 minutes and hang on to the lead. The Huskies can’t sleep on Wildcats goaltender Matt Di Girolamo, who had one of the best save percentages in the country last season (.923) but UNH lost its top three scorers in the offseason. Huskies win.

Brian: The Huskies return to the friendly confines of the National Hockey Center for the first time this season after trips to Alaska and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jared Festler’s six points (3-3–6) and Drew LeBlanc’s five (1-4–5) lead the way for SCSU but others need to step up and bury their chances. Junior captain Ben Hanowski comes to mind as only one of his team leading 12 shots have found the net thus far. While scoring has been an issue for UNH, it’s not for lack of trying as the Wildcats are averaging 34 shots per game so expect Mike Lee to see a lot of rubber this weekend. Lee weathers the storm and the Huskies take two at home.

Vermont (0-0-0, 0-0-0 HE) at No. 8 Minnesota (4-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA)

Tyler: Rob Madore might be the best goaltender the Gophers will face in the first three weeks of the season, but his counterpart, Kent Patterson, is the best goaltender in the WCHA right now. Plus, Vermont hasn’t played a real game yet and won’t be ready for the much more prepared Gophers, entering their third weekend of play. Minnesota sweep.

Brian: The Gophers have never lost to or tied the Catamounts in their history. Of course Vermont can say the same of Minnesota. Amazingly, these two programs have never met before but the Catamounts have played in Minnesota as recently as 2010 when they were defeated 3-2 by Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament at Xcel Energy Center. I expect Minnesota’s first impression to be the strongest as the Gophers will sweep this rare Friday and Sunday series due to homecoming festivities.