Well here we are at the season’s most league game intensive weekend thus far. CC’s non-conference date at RPI and Minnesota State’s open weekend is all that stands in the way of a full WCHA schedule. There are some interesting match-ups out there this weekend and, without further ado, we take our best shot picking the outcomes.
No. 2 Denver (3-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) at Michigan Tech (4-2-0, 2-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: The Pioneers just have too much talent up front with guys like Jason Zucker (3-5–8) and Drew Shore (3-4–7). Plus, Adam Murray is off to a good start in place of Sam Brittain (2.64 GAA, .917 SV%). Denver sweep.
Brian: Denver has struggled with slow starts so far (three first-period goals in four games) and was shut out by an injury-depleted Minnesota State squad last Friday before squeaking out a 4-2 win. The Huskies, on the other hand, trail only Minnesota (11) and SCSU (8) in first-period scoring with seven goals. Michigan Tech won only once after Oct. 15 last season but it was a 3-2 win at Denver on Friday, Feb. 18. If MTU can jump on Denver early, especially on Friday, and can goad the league’s most penalized team (19.8 PIM/G for DU) into some ill-timed infractions, the Huskies have a chance to steal a game. Although Murray’s been good, he might be due for a hiccup in Houghton. Split.
No. 8 Minnesota (5-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) at Alaska-Anchorage (3-2-1, 0-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: Will Chris Kamal or Rob Gunderson be able to stop this vaunted Minnesota offensive attack? What about the power play? The Seawolves defense has played well defensively to this point to win games but the offense went to sleep last week in Omaha. Plus, Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson is hot right now. He let in five goals Sunday against Vermont but many of those scorers were left unmarked and he stopped a lot of pucks that should’ve went in. Minnesota sweeps.
Brian: The trip to Alaska is grueling, but Gophers coach Don Lucia has a knack for having his teams ready to play in Anchorage as his 13-3-2 record in nine trips will attest. After scoring 17 goals in getting off to a 3-0-1 start, the Seawolves managed just two goals in Omaha last week and won’t be able to match the Gophers goal for goal. I’m going chalk up Minnesota’s loss to Vermont on Sunday as a learning experience and the Gophers come home with a sweep.
Bemidji State (3-3-0, 2-2-0 WCHA) at No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth (2-3-1, 0-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: Look for a pair of high-scoring games. Both teams have good offense but spotty-at-best goaltending, right now. Split
Brian: UMD holds a 19-10-1 advantage overall in the series but the Beavers are 8-4-1 in the last baker’s dozen and 4-3 in Duluth over the last six years. The last time these two teams met, the Beavers knocked the eventual NCAA champion Bulldogs out of the WCHA Final Five in OT 3-2 making it the fourth consecutive the two teams could not decide in regulation. While the national title means UMD has nothing to prove from that loss, I’m sure the Bulldogs have lingering memories to erase. I think they’ll do just that, they just won’t do it twice. Splitsville.
St. Cloud State (2-3-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) at No. 12 North Dakota (2-3-1, 0-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: This week is huge for two teams trying to make a statement. For SCSU, it’s about proving its legitimacy to be in the conversation to finish in the top half of the league. I like the Huskies to win a game this weekend because their PP is hot after last weekend and the UND kill is near the bottom of the country. The Fighting Sioux, meanwhile, will try to erase the sting of last week’s losses in Madison. A sweep either way would really deliver the message but I’m calling a split.
Brian: After a 7-5 win and 3-3 tie with New Hampshire at home last weekend, Drew LeBlanc (2g, 8a) leads the Huskies to Grand Forks needing five points to reach 100 for his career. But SCSU would be wise to focus its efforts on not approaching the century mark in shots allowed this weekend. The Huskies gave up 80 shots on goal to New Hampshire last week while UND fired 42 shots in Saturday’s 5-4 loss at Wisconsin on an incredible 83 shot attempts. North Dakota is 5-0-1 in its last six meetings with St. Cloud State and the return home will suit the Sioux just fine as they rebound with a sweep.
Nebraska-Omaha (3-3-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) at Wisconsin (3-3-0, 2-2-0 WCHA)
Tyler: Alex Hudson should’ve shaken off the rust by now after his return from a four-game suspension, so expect him to have a breakout weekend. The Badgers offense scored 10 goals against North Dakota but UNO goalie John Faulkner seemed to find a rhythm against Alaska-Anchorage and Wisconsin’s freshmen goalies allowed goals on a little more than 10 percent of the shots they faced. But, it’s the Kohl Center and you have to factor in the setting sometimes. Split
Brian: Wisconsin’s youth, its goaltenders in particular, have grown up in a hurry and are paying dividends for Mike Eaves. But you have to wonder a bit about a team that allows 83 attempted shots to just 23 of its own in one game as the Badgers did against North Dakota on Saturday. After a shaky start, the Mavericks bounced back with a pair of solid wins over Alaska-Anchorage at home last weekend and Alex Hudson should be more of a factor with a couple of games behind him. No back-to-back sweeps for the Badgers as UNO leaves Madison with a split.
No. 3 Colorado College (2-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) at Rensselaer (1-4-0, 0-0-0 ECAC)
Tyler: Come Friday evening, no team in the nation will be more rested, prepared and amped to play as Colorado College. The Tigers haven’t played since Oct.14-15 and played only exhibitions before that. RPI is 1-4 coming off three straight losses and their only win was at home to Minnesota State. CC Sweep.
Brian: The Tigers hosted the Engineers last October as CC beat RPI 2-1 before settling for a 2-2 tie the following night. But these Tigers are a different animal a year later and are expected to finish at or near the top of the WCHA standings. A unique schedule has CC with only a sweep of a pesky Bemidji State squad under its belt but the Engineers have been shut out in three of their four losses. Take it to the bank, the Tigers will sweep.