WCHA Picks: Jan. 7

No. 5 Notre Dame (12-6-3, 8-3-3-0 CCHA) at No. 3 Minnesota (15-6-1, 11-3-0 WCHA) Saturday only

BrianThe Irish have proven to be notoriously slow starters thus far this season having allowed the game’s first goal in 12 of 21 games and fallen behind by two in half of those contests. Opponents have outscored Notre Dame 23-14 in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Conversely, Minnesota has jumped out in front in 17 of its 22  games and maintains a 28-12 edge over its opponents in first-period scoring. If the Irish fall behind early, they would be wise to take advantage of Minnesota’s weakest period, the second, and draw even with or ahead of the Gophers at the second intermission. While that’s obvious in any case, it is especially critical against Minnesota which is 8-0-0 with a lead after two but just 7-6-1 when trailing or tied. The Gophers thrive on opponents needing to open things up in the final period to the tune of a 36-12 scoring advantage in the third. After a disappointing loss to Northeastern last weekend the Gophers will be seeking redemption and the return of Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau will provide a much-needed shot in the arm. Minnesota wins.

Tyler: The barn won’t necessarily be rocking since Minnesota students are still on break, but there will be a different energy in the building when Bjugstad and Rau take the ice for their first game back since World Juniors. The Irish also have a player returning from Team USA by the name of TJ Tynan, who is tied with Bjugstad for points per game at 1.35. That’s 11th-best in the nation. The Gophers are going to use a strong first period, as Brian pointed out, and defeat the Irish.


Clarkson (9-9-4, 3-4-2 ECAC) at No. 19 North Dakota (10-8-2, 7-7-0 WCHA) Saturday only at Winnipeg.

BrianNorth Dakota enters its final non-conference game having gone 6-1-1 in its past eight games including a win and a tie against the ECAC’s Harvard Crimson. Clarkson, on the other hand has lost three in a row and is 2-5-1 on its current nine-game road trip which concludes in Winnipeg. North Dakota’s freshman class including Connor Gaarder, Nick Matson, and Brendan O’Donnell among others, were responsible for 16 of UND’s 30 points last weekend. With injuries mounting, they may have more asked of them as the season progresses beginning with Saturday in Canada. Bottom line? North Dakota is better, hotter, and more proximate to Winnipeg. UND fans travel well, especially within driving distance, and a North Dakota win should keep any post-game “international incidents” to a minimum.

Tyler:  UND is going against one of the nation’s best in Clarkson goaltender Paul Karpowich who leads the nation in save percentage (.938) and is tied for second in saves (5). While Clarkson is 2-5-1 in its last six games, Karpowich isn’t slumping. His save percentage is still .928 over that time with two shutouts. The Golden Knights also play sound special teams with a 52.9-percent success rate between their power play and penalty kill. But what will these numbers amount to this weekend, this being the first game against a WCHA opponent this season aside from a 4-4 tie at Alaska-Anchorage in the season’s first game. It’ll be more of a hostile environment in Winnipeg than it was in Anchorage. If Clarkson isn’t intimidated, it has a chance because of all the injuries to UND’s key players. I think Karpowich keeps this a low-scoring game and you have to wonder if the UND freshman are going to be as good as they were against Harvard last weekend. Clarkson win.