WCHA picks: Jan. 13-14

No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (14-3-3, 10-2-2 WCHA) at Nebraska-Omaha (10-8-4, 7-4-3 WCHA)

Tyler: The CenturyLink Center is a big building that’s going to be packed and wild this weekend to greet the nation’s No. 1 team. So was Western Michigan’s barn but the Bulldogs went in and pushed the Mustnags around in UMD sweep last weekend. UNO’s top line of Terry Broadhurst/Brock Montpetit/Matt White hasn’t had a whole lot of time to mesh and didn’t put any goals on the board as a line in their two games together against Quinnipiac two weeks ago. The Mavericks have become too unproductive up front and will have a tough time keeping up with UMD. UMD sweep

Brian: The Bulldogs take over five minutes more in penalties than Nebraska-Omaha which is significant in that UMD’s penalty kill is ranked 40th in the nation while UNO’s power play is 13th. But the Mavs will have to make any man advantage opportunities count since Minnesota-Duluth opponents are only averaging 1.3 even strength goals per game while the Mavericks themselves average just 1.8 per game at even strength. In the end the nation’s top-ranked scoring offense (4.10 goals per game) is too much and UMD sweeps.

No. 5 Minnesota (15-7-1, 11-3-0 WCHA) at No. 17 North Dakota (11-8-2, 7-7-0 WCHA)

Tyler:  The Gophers have played rather sluggish since Christmas, with home losses to Northeastern, and then Notre Dame last weekend. What a great time to have a rivalry game on the schedule to wake Minnesota up. UND isn’t head-and-shoulders above the Gophers in the physical play department as evidenced by the first two games between these teams in November. UND is banged up but slowly getting healthier but nothing will slow the team down this weekend. This one’s going to be fun to watch as always and I don’t see either team letting the other grab a big edge all weekend. Split

Brian: Minnesota holds a 5-3-2 edge over the series’ last 10 games but North Dakota is 6-3-1 vs. the Gophers in the most recent 10 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The last time Minnesota traveled to Grand Forks holding a double-digit lead in the rankings, No. 17 UND swept the seventh-ranked Gophers (5-3, 7-3) on Jan. 9-10, 2009. Neither team has swept a four-game season series since Minnesota managed the feat in 1991-92 (4-2, 8-2 in Mpls.; 10-1, 5-3 in GF) and it won’t happen this year either. North Dakota, winners of seven of its past nine (7-1-1) games, sweeps the series.

St. Cloud State (8-10-4, 5-6-3 WCHA) at No. 8 Colorado College (12-7-1, 9-5-0 WCHA)

Tyler: he Huskies lost two forwards (Cam Reid and Mitch MacMillan) over the break and even though the departure of Reid, one of SCSU’s top two wingers, will have more of an immediate effect, the loss of two forwards will drastically harm SCSU’s depth at forward. The Huskies have 12 healthy forwards and are still awaiting the return of forward and biggest offensive threat, Drew LeBlanc. CC, on the other hand, is very deep at forward and the Tigers will sweep.

Brian: I look for plenty of offensive action in this series as each team allows over 31 shots on goal per game in conference play and neither team’s penalty kill unit cracks the nation’s top 40 this week.  But while the Tigers have a 44-31-6 cushion in the overall series and the Huskies are just 2-7-1 on the road this season, St. Cloud State is 11-12-2 (.480) in 25 games at the World Arena. I’ll call it a split here.

Bemidji State (11-9-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) at No. 16 Denver (11-8-3, 6-5-3 WCHA)

Tyler:  Think the loss to Alabama-Huntsville didn’t wake Denver up? The Pioneers will get a huge boost this weekend should Jason Zucker be in town. DU sweep.

Brian: Bemidji State’s conference-leading penalty kill has been outstanding of late having allowed only one goal since Dec. 2 Like North Dakota, the Beavers are 7-1-1 in their last nine games including a 2-1 win over Denver at the Sanford Center on Dec. 10. The Pioneers are 3-1 since that loss but the one, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Alabama Huntsville, was a big one and dropped DU from the top 15 for the first time in nearly six years. Jason Zucker’s return should provide Denver a lift and the Pioneers have never lost to BSU at home. They’ve burned me enough this year, but here goes nothing: DU sweep.

Wisconsin (9-9-2, 4-8-2 WCHA) at Minnesota State (6-15-1, 2-11-1 WCHA)

Tyler: Only one WCHA win for MSU at the Verizon Wireless Center this season and No. 2 will be this weekend. The Mavericks are weak offensively, but they face a bad goaltending duo in Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel. That’s enough to keep the Mavericks in this series and they come away with a split.

Brian: The Badgers are getting healthy again with the recent return of junior forward Derek Lee and this weekend’s expected return of fellow junior forward, and assistant captain, Ryan Little. UW swept a hot R.I.T. team last weekend while MSU split with St. Lawrence and came home with its sixth on-goal loss of the season. Wisconsin leads the series 22-14-4 and has won four straight over Minnesota State. The Badgers are winless on the road this season (0-5-1) and are eager to end that streak. I think it will. Split.

Alaska Anchorage (6-10-2, 3-10-1 WCHA) at Michigan Tech (9-11-1, 6-7-1 WCHA)

Tyler: The Seawolves lost their top scorer in Mickey Spencer, who left the team this week although the reasons for his departure or where he’s headed are yet to be determined. The good news is that the Seawolves are getting five players back from injuries this weekend. And with Spencer gone, UAA really doesn’t lose much. He had just 10 points on a team that struggled offensively in which six other players have eight or more points and six of Spencer’s points came in the first weekend of the season. I’m not selling hope for UAA. I’m just saying Spencer’s leaving isn’t a huge blow to the Seawolves. If anything, it will inspire his former teammates. Tech is still the better team in this one but the Seawolves skate away with a win. Split

Brian: The Seawolves return from a 33-day break only to make the never-easy trip to Houghton to face a Michigan Tech team without the services of their leading goal scorer. The teams are 4-4-2 in the last 10 meetings, but UAA holds a 9-5-6 advantage in the past 20 meetings between the teams. Since beating Minnesota in overtime on Dec. 9, the Huskies have lost four straight while the Seawolves are 1-3-0 over the same span. I think the long layoff and the loss of a relatively significant offensive threat will work against Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech sweeps here.