Michigan Tech (9-8-1, 6-7-1 WCHA) at Northern Michigan (8-7-3, 5-6-3-2 CCHA)
Tyler: Both teams are better in this year’s matchup than when the teams met last season. The Wildcats are in the PairWise Rankings top 16 (where teams typically need to be to make the regional tournaments). The Huskies are in a week-in, week-out fight to keep their collective head above water so if Tech plays with the urgency it needs, it will play in its favor. Pick: Tech gets another big road win.
Brian: Each team enters this one-night-only engagement on Friday in Marquette having earned splits on the road against ranked teams (Minnesota for MTU and Lake Superior State for NMU). The current Upper Peninsula and future WCHA rivals face each other for the first time in nearly a calendar year with both sporting identical .528 winning percentages. Although the Wildcats have a 63-48-13 advantage overall in the series, the Huskies are 4-2-2 in the last eight including 1-1-1 last season. Ultimately, Tech’s split impresses me more than Northern Michigan’s so I’m picking the Huskies.
No. 14 Denver (7-6-3, 5-4-3 WCHA) at St. Cloud State (6-8-4, 4-5-3 WCHA)
Tyler: Bob Motzko said the Huskies had a awful week of practice before his team only got one point out of a home series with BSU. He added the Dec. 9-10 bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. If the Huskies react well and return from the bye rejuvenated, they could sweep Denver, although a split is more likely. Juho Olkinuora has been a great fill-in for Sam Brittain and Adam Murray. Despite the loss of Beau Bennett for a couple months, the Pioneers are one of the most balanced teams when it comes to point producers with Jason Zucker and the Shore brothers. Split
Brian: DU coach George Gwozdecky faces two more branches of his coaching tree this weekend in SCSU coach Bob Motzko (associate head coach at Denver from 1993-94) and his assistant Mike Gibbons (DU assistant from 1990-94). Last week’s loss of Beau Bennett for 6-8 weeks due to a wrist injury is huge for Denver. The Pioneers are 1-3-2 without Bennett and average only 1.8 goals per game with him in the lineup as opposed to 4.4 without him. The Pioneers hold a 38-32-4 edge in the all-time series including 18-12-2 at St. Cloud’s National Hockey Center. Don’t be surprised to see a 3-2 score this weekend as SCSU has won two of the last three meetings between the schools, each of which ended 3-2. I’m calling it a split.
Alabama-Huntsville (1-17-1) at Bemidji State (7-9-2, 5-7-2 WCHA)
Tyler: I don’t think this is any kind of a trap game like it was for Nebraska-Omaha a couple weeks ago. UNO was lulled to sleep by the three-figure attendance in Nashville that weekend. The Beavers will not have have a letdown this weekend. BSU sweep
Brian: Until last week’s surprising announcement of a reprieve for Alabama-Huntsville’s off again, on again D-I hockey program, this was to be the final games between these two long-time rivals. Moving forward, BSU and UAH will likely find room on each other’s schedules for as many years as the Chargers survive. Having played its most recent “home” games in Nashville against Nebraska-Omaha, UAH last played in Alabama on Nov. 5 so the Bemidji State series marks the end of a six-week road grind for the Chargers. BSU senior defenseman Brad Hunt will miss playing against UAH as his 18 points in 15 games versus the Chargers will attest. Unless UAH goalie Clarke Saunders steals one on his own, I look for Hunt to get his last licks in and for the Beavers to sweep.
No. 7 Colorado College (9-5-0, 7-5-0 WCHA) at Minnesota State (5-12-1, 5-7-2 WCHA)
Tyler: I’ll take CC’s nation-best offense (4.21 goals per game) to score a lot this weekend on Minnesota State, which has the fourth-worst goals against average (3.72) in the country. MSU might squeak out a tie this weekend but in regards to the picks, CC sweep
Brian: The Mavericks are coming off consecutive solid series’ performances in dropping a pair of tight games at Minnesota and handily sweeping Alabama-Huntsville in Mankato, outscoring the Chargers 13-3. Since sweeping Wisconsin Nov.18-19, the Tigers are 2-3 in their last five after splitting at home last weekend with Alaska-Anchorage. The nation’s fourth (MSU-3.72 goals per game) and ninth (CC-3.36) worst scoring defenses square off this weekend in Mankato as does Minnesota State’s surging power play (11 goals in last five games) against the Tigers’ penalty kill which is the WCHA’s fourth worst (77.9%, five shorthanded goals allowed). But CC’s nation-leading 4.21 goals per game can’t be overlooked either. The teams split both series last year and my trust issues with CC this season have led me to choose a split here as well.