WCHA New Year’s weekend picks (beta version)

After a one-week hiatus, the “ever-popular” picks blog makes its triumphant return today but only in sneak-peek fashion as we only have a pair of Thursday games. As an added bonus, however, we opted to pick Western Michigan and St. Cloud State as a series. No need to thank us.

The rest of our apparently fascinating prognostications for this weekend will arrive tomorrow for your breakfast-reading pleasure.

Western Michigan (9-4-5, 7-4-3 CCHA) at St. Cloud State (7-9-4, 5-6-3 WCHA) — Thursday/Friday

Tyler: The Huskies are without defensive cornerstone Kevin Gravel, and though it’s only for this weekend while he’s at World Juniors, the Broncos come in allowing six goals in the last four games. WMU is unbeaten in five games and swept a ranked Ferris State team.

SCSU has ability to score goals but they’re going against the seventh-best defense in the land in WMU (2.11 goals per game). The Huskies will pull one out but they won’t get the nonconference sweep. Split.

Brian: This series marks the first-ever meetings between the future NCHC combatants. The first period may tell the tale in this matchup as it’s the period the Huskies do the most damage (26 goals scored) and the one in which the Broncos are the stingiest (8 goals allowed) this season.

WMU draws nearly two more penalties per game than its opponents while just the opposite is true for SCSU. Although the St. Cloud State power play is more prolific (18.9 percent) than Western Michigan’s (17.3) the Huskies would be wise to limit the Broncos’ opportunities especially in the absence of Gravel. It feels like a split to me.

Michigan Tech (9-9-1, 6-7-1 WCHA) vs. Michigan State at Great Lakes Invitational — Thursday

Tyler:  The Spartans are licking their chops at Josh Robinson’s .881 save percentage and 4.40 goals against average over the past five games coming in. Michigan State has the seventh-best offense in the nation with 3.44 goals per game so its going to score often and I don’t think Tech has the firepower to get in a shootout with the Spartans. MSU wins.

Brian: Don’t read too much into which team scores first in this one as it could not be any more of a non-indicator. MSU is an identical 5-3-1 whether it scores first or not and Tech is 5-5-0 when scoring first and 4-4-1 when its opponent does.

Keeping the score low and carrying a lead into the third period are critical to Michigan Tech’s chances. I like the Huskies in a one-goal or overtime game but I have my doubts about either of those scenarios coming to fruition. Spartans win.