WCHA picks Dec. 30-31

Michigan Tech (9-10-1, 6-7-1 WCHA) vs. Boston College (12-7-0, 9-4-0 HE) at Great Lakes Invitational — Friday

Brian: Third-ranked Boston College ruined what should have been the most intriguing matchup of the weekend by losing to Michigan and robbing us of the first head-to-head meeting between Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson and his long-time mentor, Red Berenson of the Wolverines. After coach Jerry York placed much of the blame for BC’s loss on hangover from the long layoff, my guess is the Eagles bounce back strong and wrestle the consolation title from the Huskies.

Bowling Green (6-11-3, 1-11-2 CCHA) at Bemidji State (9-9-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) — Friday/Saturday

Tyler: While the Nov. 20 1-0 win over North Dakota was a wake-up call for the Sioux, it served as a building block for BSU’s current stretch in which they’re unbeaten in six of seven games. The hot streak continues this season, whether the Beavers go with Dan Bakala or Andrew Walsh. The Beavers sweep their future WCHA opponent.

Brian: These are two teams headed in much different directions before the break. The Beavers are 5-1-1 in their last seven while the Falcons are winless in their last eight (0-6-2). BSU holds a decided edge in special teams having not allowed a power-play goal in 22 consecutive attempts spanning six games. BGSU, on the other hand, is only scoring at an 11.5 percent rate with the man advantage. The teams have never met in their long histories and Bemidji State takes a 2-0 all-time series lead.

Air Force (9-4-2, 8-2-1 AHA)/Union (9-3-5, 3-3-2 ECAC) at Colorado College (11-5-0, 9-5-0 WCHA) — Friday/Saturday

Tyler: I don’t see either team skating into Colorado Springs, where the Tigers are 6-1, and getting a win. It will be fun to see who wins the battle between the CC’s nation-best offense (4.19 goals per game) and Union’s second-best defense (1.88 goals allowed per game). I’ll take the Tigers. Both games.

Brian: The Tigers are 58-7-2 all time against the Falcons including 9-0 at the World Arena. Although Air Force is 6-2-0 in its last eight, I’m not impressed by sweeps of Sacred Heart, Connecticut, and American International. CC wins.

Saturday matches the nation’s No. 1 offense in Colorado College (4.19 goals per game) vs. the nation’s second-stingiest defense in Union (1.88 goals allowed per game). CC has never lost to Union (3-0-0) but the last meeting was over seven years ago so that’s not much of an indicator. While Jaden Schwartz remains north of the border captaining Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, Scott Winkler returns after representing his country (Norway) in international play earlier in the month. CC wins.

Harvard (4-3-3, 4-3-3 ECAC) at North Dakota (9-8-1, 7-7-0 WCHA) — Friday/Saturday

Tyler: I’ll take North Dakota to score a lot of goals against Harvard’s 51st-ranked defense that has allowed 3.40 goals per game. UND sweep.

Brian: The Crimson’s special teams units are polar opposites in terms of efficiency. Harvard’s power play leads the nation at 32.1 percent while its penalty kill ranks 57th out of 58 Division I teams at 68.6 percent. I look for North Dakota’s power play unit, particularly Brock Nelson who leads the nation in power-play goals with nine, to take full advantage of Harvard’s glaring weakness. Winners of five of its last six (5-1-0), UND sweeps Harvard at home.

Quinnipiac (11-6-3, 3-4-3 ECAC) at Nebraska-Omaha (9-8-3, 7-4-3 WCHA) — Friday/Saturday

Tyler: UNO’s defense has kept the Mavericks afloat but distractions are making it a challenge for UNO to keep its head above water; Alex Hudson’s and Zach Mausolf’s removal of the team, the addition of Joe Krause, the goalie carousel and Dean Blais gone for three weeks coaching Team USA. Yet, the Mavericks sit in fourth place in the WCHA. Split

Brian: The Bobcats swept the Mavericks in Connecticut last season (4-3, 3-2) and travel to Omaha toting a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) and the nation’s fourth best penalty kill (76 of 85, 89.4 percent). That PK should be a good test for UNO’s 11th ranked power play (23.17 percent). The Mavericks are missing head coach Dean Blais and freshman forward Josh Archibald who are with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. Assistant Mike Hastings will lead UNO this weekend to a split with Quinnipiac.

Minnesota (14-5-1, 11-3-0 WCHA) hosts Mariucci Classic — Friday/Saturday

Tyler: The fact that Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau are linemates at Minnesota is great when they display their chemistry for Team USA. It’s the opposite for the Gophers right now, because without the duo that combines for 49 of Minnesota’s 219 recorded points this season, the Gophers lines may be a little too jumbled for comfort. Minnesota should have no problem with Niagra of the Atlantic Hockey Association, but Saturday’s championship could pose a potential trap game for the Gophers. Northeastern will be favored over Princeton in the other Friday game and has the defense to slow down a Gophers offense that is without its big guns. UM beats Niagra, loses to Northeastern.

Brian: The absence of Team USA members Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau won’t be felt as much on Friday when the Gophers emerge from their Friday funk (1-4-0 in last five Friday games) to beat Niagara. But I think they’ll be missed on Saturday when Minnesota faces, I believe, Northeastern in the title game.

By then the Huskies will have won seven straight including a road win at Michigan immediately followed by a sweep at Notre Dame. While Minnesota’s sixth-ranked power play (24.74 percent) vs. Northeastern’s 40th rated penalty kill would seem heavily favorable to the Gophers, two key components of that unit are playing in Alberta this weekend. Minnesota did win three of four at home against Minnesota State and Michigan Tech, all four games were a grind and that was with Rau and Bjugstad in the lineup. Minnesota last won the Mariucci Classic in 2008 with a win over Northeastern but the tables are turned this year as the Huskies down the Gophers in the title game.

Union (9-3-5, 3-3-2 ECAC) at Denver (8-7-3, 6-5-3 WCHA) — Friday

Tyler:  Union’s defense and Jason Zucker’s absence from Denver’s top line gives Union the edge in this one. Union wins

Brian:  Things just don’t stack up well for Denver in this one the way I see it. The Pioneers are without Jason Zucker (he is captaining Team USA in the World Junior Championships) but, more importantly, Beau Bennett remains out with a wrist injury. Denver is just 2-4-2 and averaging almost 3 goals per game fewer (4.40 as opposed to 1.75) without Bennett in the lineup. That doesn’t bode well when facing the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense. The Dutchmen dominate the special teams match-ups and, although the Pioneers are playing at home, Union is playing at a 7-1-3 clip (.773) on the road this season. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m picking Union.

Denver (8-7-3, 6-5-3 WCHA) at Air Force (9-4-2, 8-2-1 AHA) — Saturday

Tyler:  Denver bounces back with a win on the road Saturday. Denver wins

Brian:  Although the Falcons are undefeated (6-0-1) at home this season, their opponents at Cadet Ice Arena are a combined 25-46-14 (.376) this season. The Pioneers lead the all-time series at 30-3 and have won nine of the last 10 meetings with Air Force. There are many indications that the Falcons are poised to pick up a rare win against Denver, but a gut feeling says it won’t happen. Denver wins.

If you’re looking for our St. Cloud State vs. Western Michigan picks, we did those yesterday. Click HERE for that.