Paula's picks: Nov. 18, 2011

There’s nothing quite like calling the score of a single game on a single night correctly, as when I said Notre Dame would beat Western Michigan 3-2 Tuesday — and the Fighting Irish did just that.
It was a fluke. Surely, you know this.

Paula’s picks

Last week, including Tuesday: 7-4-2 (.615)
Season to date: 48-30-10 (.602)
Any week that I’m still above .500 is a very good week, indeed.

This week

Notre Dame’s in sole possession of first place — for now. Since the Fighting Irish play out of conference while some league rivals high in the standings are playing two CCHA games, that is likely to change.
There are four conference series this week, along with a single nonconference game between Boston College and Notre Dame and a Lake State-Canisius series. Western Michigan has the bye. All league series are Friday-Saturday. All start times are 7:35 p.m. local unless otherwise noted.
BGSU at Miami The Falcons return to CCHA action after successfully defending the realm, having swept Canisius twice at home last weekend and outscoreing the Griffs 7-2 in the process. Friday’s 4-1 win put a stop to BG’s five-game losing streak. Now the Falcons would like to see some conference success as a reward for how hard they’re working. That’s a challenge, since BG travels to Miami for two — and the RedHawks have, seemingly, awakened. Last week, the RedHawks followed their sweep of Alaska with a five-point weekend against visiting Michigan, beating the Wolverines 2-1 Friday and tying 3-3 Saturday plus earning the extra shootout point. Senior Cody Reichard (2.33 GAA, .906 SV%) has started six straight games for the RedHawks, the result of what coach Enrico Blasi says is a gut feeling. Miami swept the four-game series with BGSU last season, outscoring the Falcons 15-5. For more on the fortunes of the Falcons and RedHawks, check out my column from this week. Saturday’s game is a 7:05 p.m. start. Picks: Miami 3-1, 4-1
FSU at UAF The Bulldogs, just four points out of first place, have a chance to catch league-leading Notre Dame this week since the Irish are playing out of conference. The Nanooks, 18 points out of first place, do not — but, boy, wouldn’t Alaska love a win? The Nanooks are still looking for their first conference win of the season after suffering a road sweep at the hands of the Irish last weekend, the Saturday 3-2 loss coming in overtime after UAF led ND 2-1 late into the third. Friday’s 5-4 win was equally frustrating; the Nanooks led 4-3 after the first period and UAF’s four goals in that contest were more than they’d scored in their previous three games. The Bulldogs extended their unbeaten streak to four with a win plus a tie against Lake Superior State at home last weekend. Five different FSU players scored in Friday’s 5-1 win, and the Bulldogs are now averaging over three goals per game. Last year, FSU went 3-1-0 against UAF, with the sole Alaska win coming in OT … but the Nanooks have swept the Bulldogs in five of the last six series in Fairbanks. Picks: FSU 4-2, UAF 2-1
MSU at NMU Last weekend, Michigan State stunned everyone except for Michigan State when the Spartans swept Western Michigan in Kalamazoo — and I’m not so certain that the Spartans weren’t a little surprised, too. MSU has been working hard to retool its overall game, striving for an up-tempo style that has sometimes left the defense a little pinched … but not in the Spartans’ last four games, in which they’ve outscored opponents 18-8, limiting opponents to two goals per game. The line of Greg Wolfe (4-8–12), Lee Reimer (5-9–14) and Mike Merrifield (6-3–9) leads MSU in scoring and combined for three goals and five assists against the Broncos. They’re facing a Northern Michigan team looking for its first win since Oct. 21, a seven-game stretch (0-4-3) in which the Wildcats have averaged 1.71 goals per game. NMU is undefeated (3-0-3) at home this season, though, and the Wildcats have beaten the Spartans in eight of their last 10 games. The teams are separated by one point in the standings. Given the way this season has gone, I want to toss a coin on this one. Picks: MSU 3-2, NMU 4-3
OSU at UM This clash of Big Ten programs should provide some good hockey, as the Buckeyes continue to improve this season and the Wolverines return home very stung from Oxford — and this series is a week before their football teams meet in Ann Arbor. (If you don’t think these hockey teams dislike each other even more for that reason football-specific reason, you haven’t been paying attention.) Of course, by “good hockey” I mean really intense games with some creative chanting from the Yost faithful. Last weekend, Ohio State swept Northern Michigan at home in two 4-1 games, bringing their current unbeaten streak to seven (6-0-1). OSU hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in their last five games and the Buckeyes’ penalty kill is effective 90.2 percent of the time for seventh in the country. The Wolverines return home after earning one little point in Oxford, losing to and tying Miami, 2-1 and 3-3. The four-goal output for the weekend was an uncharacteristic slump for the UM offense, still the fourth-best in the nation (4.17 goals per game) even after the relatively low-scoring series. Michigan was 3-1-0 against Ohio State last season, the solo OSU win coming in overtime in Columbus. Picks: UM 5-3, 4-2
BC at ND The Fighting Irish and Eagles meet annually, but this year their contest will officially dedicate the new Compton Family Ice Arena, even though the Irish have played four games in their new home, winning all four contests. This will be ND’s fourth game in eight days; the Irish swept Alaska at home last weekend before beating visiting Western Michigan Tuesday night, extending their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2). The Eagles had mixed results against Hockey East opponents last weekend, beating Northeastern 2-1 Friday before losing 5-0 to Boston University Sunday. Junior Chris Kreider (8-8–16) leads a BC offense that is seventh in the nation (3.75 goals per game) while his classmate, Parker Milner (2.33 GAA, .908 SV%) has played every game for the Eagles. This is the 31st meeting between the teams, a series that Boston College leads 16-12-2. The teams met in South Bend Oct. 23, 2010, a game that ND won 2-1. I know it’s irrational, but I won’t call against the Irish in this series. Pick: ND 2-1
LSSU at Canisius The Lakers travel to Buffalo to play Canisius, and my good friend Chris Lerch tells me that LSSU is the highest-ranking team to play the Golden Griffins ever in their home rink, which is really Buffalo State’s home ice rink, but who’s counting? The Lakers took two points from Ferris State last weekend to hang on very briefly to first place in the CCHA. Sophomore Kevin Kapalka (2.24 GAA, .918 SV%) continues to be the backbone of the LSSU squad. Last weekend, he made 62 saves against the Bulldogs, a season high for a two-game set in 2011-12. The Golden Griffins dropped two road games to Bowling Green last weekend and tied Niagara Tuesday night, scoring one goal in each contest. Sophomore Kyle Gibbons (3-3–6) and junior Torrey Lindsay (3-2–5) lead Canisius in scoring, and the Griffs are averaging 1.44 goals per game, 56th in the nation. Last year, the Lakers swept the Golden Griffins 5-4 and 5-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, Oct. 16-17, 2010. This is a Saturday-Sunday matinee series. The first game begins at 12:35 p.m., the second at 3:05 p.m. Picks: LSSU 3-1, 4-1

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