WCHA Picks: Feb. 3-4

Bemidji State (12-12-2, 6-10-2 WCHA) at Nebraska-Omaha (15-10-2, 11-9-0 WCHA)

Tyler: UNO’s goaltending is highly questionable with Ryan Massa questionable after he suffered a concussion against Minnesota State, Jan. 21. He’s been the one guy to emerge from UNO’s goaltending situation with stability. He allowed three goals on 110 shots in his last three games but without him, there’s a shaky John Faulkner and you don’t know what to expect from Dayn Belfour. The thing is, BSU doesn’t have the firepower to take advantage in a series like this and UNO is good at home with a 7-3-2 home record. UNO sweep

Brian: The Mavericks hold a slim 5-4-1 edge over the Beavers all time at home but BSU has only lost once in the series’ last eight matchups (5-1-2) including four straight wins in Omaha. Nebraska-Omaha tied (3-3) and beat (5-1) BSU in a November series at Sanford Center and UNO’s win snapped a seven-game winless streak against Bemidji State. The Mavs are clinging to the sixth and final home playoff spot and will improve their position this week with a sweep while North Dakota sits idle.

No. 11 Colorado College (14-9-1, 11-7-0 WCHA) at/vs. No. 13 Denver (15-8-3, 10-5-3 WCHA) – Home-and-home

TylerFirst place is more than likely out of the question at this point of the season for both teams but these rivals are going to duke it out for playoff positioning near the top of the league. Denver is a point ahead of CC for third place in the WCHA standings. This series has been played so tight with 10 games decided by a goal or less since the 2008-09 season, when this year’s seniors were freshmen. Four of those games went into overtime and three of them ended in a tie. Sam Brittain’s return to the Denver lineup gives the Pioneers a boost but it takes a lot for either team to really grab an edge in this series. Split

Brian: This is by far the WCHA’s biggest series of the weekend as the conference’s third and fourth place teams, and Colorado rivals, complete their annual season battle for the Gold Pan Trophy. CC has won 11 of the last 23 in the series (11-6-6) but each team has won its last three home games against the other including a pair of one-goal games earlier in the year. I see a split in a couple of hard-fought contests.

No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (17-5-4, 11-4-3 WCHA) at Alaska-Anchorage (6-16-2, 3-16-1 WCHA)

Tyler: UMD has managed to stay No. 1 after sweating out two one-goal games against Alabama-Huntsville and taking just one point at home against Michigan Tech, but this is it. By now, UMD should have it figured out. JT Brown needs to pick it up for UMD. He has only two points in the past four games. These games are huge for the Bulldogs to make up the five-point difference between them and Minnesota with the Gophers off this weekend. UMD sweep

Brian: The Bulldogs are poised to return to form after going 2-2-1 in their last five games since the end of their 17-game unbeaten streak. Speaking of streaks, the Seawolves have lost their last seven games coming into the series. The teams split their last series in Anchorage nearly two years ago and the overall series is even in the last 12 games (5-5-2). But UMD gets back on track with a sweep.

Michigan Tech (12-12-2, 9-7-2 WCHA) at Minnesota State (9-18-1, 5-14-1 WCHA)

Tyler: MSU is playing good hockey lately and winning games, not just because of Phil Cook’s improved play but also because the Mavericks are scoring big third-period goals lately in tight spots to give themselves a chance to win or send it to overtime. MSU has lost just one game by more than one goal since Christmas (4-0 against Wisconsin) with a couple of heartbreakers in there, too. Tech is a very beatable team for the Mavericks but we all saw what the Huskies did last week when they proved they can win in whatever city they play in. Split

BrianThe Mavericks are playing their best hockey of the season thanks in no small part to the re-emergence of goaltender Phil Cook who is 4-2-0 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.82 goals against average in his last six starts. This series will be a huge test for Michigan Tech as to how well it can follow up its emotionally-charged series in Duluth last weekend. I think the games will be played close to the vest but I’m going to say MTU takes two.

St. Cloud State (10-14-4, 7-10-3 WCHA) at Wisconsin (12-12-2, 7-11-2 WCHA)

Tyler: It seems like Wisconsin can only win at home this season and they’ve done it against weak teams or teams that were struggling at the time. Injuries have been more than just a bug this season for the Huskies. Though they got goaltender Mike Lee back for the Minnesota series, they lost two centers to injury. Jordy Christian suffered a career-ending knee injury against North Dakota and winger Travis Novak is out for a few weeks with an ankle he injured against Minnesota. The Badgers will take advantage of a limping SCSU team in the Kohl Center, the building they’ve had success in this season. WISC sweep

Brian: The Huskies are being held together up front with duct tape and paper clips leaving Ben Hanowski to carry a heavy load recently. Mike Lee’s return was a boost last weekend and Ryan Faragher has been outstanding. But you can only ask so much of your goalies for so long. The Badgers earned one of their three road points earlier this season in St. Cloud with a 3-3 tie a night after SCSU blew them out 7-2. But Wisconsin is a much different team at home (11-4-1) while St. Cloud State has struggled on the road this year (3-9-1) and has won just one of its last 14 games (1-9-4) at the Kohl Center. SCSU’s brutal second-half schedule deals another blow as the Badgers sweep at home.