Nov. 30-Dec.1 WCHA picks

No. 13 Nebraska Omaha at No. 3 Minnesota

Joe: Gophers freshman goalie Adam Wilcox, who leads the league’s top scoring defense (1.77 goals) gets a serious test when he faces the Mavs’ WCHA’s second-ranked offense (3.75 goals). Neither team has a clear advantage with Minnesota and Nebraska Omaha at Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in net special teams.  UNO has the second-best defense (2.08) as well, paced by senior goalie John Faulkner (league-best 7-0-1, .203 goals against, .913 saves). With Faulkner in net at least one game, I predict a split.

Tyler: UNO hasn’t faced an opponent as good as the Gophers since its loss to Notre Dame in the first weekend. Minnesota hasn’t faced a team as good as the Mavericks all year. A true test for each team, I think it comes down to goaltending. As good as Faulkner’s goals against numbers are, he’s faced 30 or more shots just twice this season, which says he may not be getting tested enough and he’s stopping only 91.3 percent of the shots he sees. Wilcox has been on fire lately for the Gophers although UNO will challenge him more than Wisconsin or Vermont did. Still, Wilcox wins the goaltending battle this weekend and I think the Gophers will expose Faulkner, who hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a game all season. Gophers sweep

No. 7 North Dakota at No. 18 Colorado College

Joe: A struggling Tigers defense with the league’s second-to-last penalty kill (66.7 percent) faces a deep and offensively talented North Dakota squad with the fourth-best offense (3.33 goals) and fifth-rated scoring defense (2.67) in league play. UND has the edge with junior goalie Clarke Saunders (WCHA-best .934 saves percentage, 2.09 goals allowed). CC has a puncher’s chance with a potent power play (36.8 percent) and balanced scoring. With the Tigers at home, especially if UND fails to play a complete 60 minutes, I predict a split.

Tyler: With the reasons Joe stated (CC’s defensive issues, penalty kill, UND’s depth), North Dakota has the edge in this matchup. The Tigers have been a great offensive team so far but they face, arguably, one of the league’s best goaltenders so far in Saunders. CC hasn’t proved it can stop other top attacks and UND is a good offensive team. CC seems to have lost its home-ice advantage, lately, too. The Tigers have allowed 16 goals in their last three home games, going 0-2-1. UND sweep

Wisconsin at No. 5 Denver

Joe: Even the likely return of junior Mark Zengerle (broken finger) and freshmen Nic Kerdiles (NCAA suspension) and Morgan Zulinick (injury) will not cure all the ills of the league’s worst scoring offense (1.80 goals). If all three are available, perhaps on Saturday, the Badgers will be more competitive. Denver sweeps thanks to the WCHA’s best offense (4.17 goals), a good defense and solid goaltending from a team motivated to rebound from last weekend’s home losses.

Tyler: With every valuable piece that is returning for Wisconsin this weekend, it’s still going to be an uphill climb for the Badgers. When it played a competitive series at Minnesota a few weeks ago, Wisconsin relied on great goaltending, defense and penalty kill to keep it close. They have to do it against one of the best attacks in the country on the road. The Pioneers were shut down by a sturdy Yale defense last week. I’m taking a chance. The Badgers ‘D’ helps the team escape with an upset win while the returning players and the one making his debut will provide a spark. Split.

No. 14 St. Cloud State at Alaska-Anchorage

Joe:  On paper this looks like a mismatch, especially with SCSU senior Ben Hanowski back, but the Seawolves do relatively well against SCSU with a  recent record of 5-14-2 against the Huskies. UAA is due for a league win and plays pretty salty at home. Since this series is played in Alaska, I predict a split.

Tyler: The Seawolves are a different team at home than the one that logs thousands of miles on the road and they’ve done alright on their own ice this season (1-1-2 at home) and have won three of their last five games against the Huskies. But last Saturday when SCSU won 5-1 at UMD, it seemed to get its bearings back after a bye week coach Bob Motzko thought may have influenced a 2-1 loss the night before. SCSU sweep

Minnesota-Duluth at Michigan Tech

Joe: Coming off the bye week, expect the host Huskies to have to shake off a little rust which may cost them against a 10th-place Bulldogs squad that has improved and features players like Mike Seidel (team-high eight goals) and freshman Tony Cameranesi (12 points, seven assists) who can deliver big goals. Split.

Tyler: If UMD can draw penalties – and only seven teams in the country have drawn more than the Bulldogs (59 power plays) – the Bulldogs’ man advantage (eighth, 23.7 percent) can score against nation’s seventh-worst penalty kill: Michigan Tech (76.2 percent). I’m still going to count on one win at home for the Huskies. They’re due on home ice. Split.

Bemidji State at Minnesota State

Joe: The stats suggest a very even match-up, but recent results show the host Mavericks are playing better hockey than BSU right now with a road sweep at Wisconsin and a home win against Minnesota. I predict two close games that result in a series split.

Tyler: Stephon Williams was a big reason the Mavericks left Wisconsin with a sweep last weekend, making some pretty ridiculous saves to earn WCHA Rookie of the Week honors. He got goal support last weekend and he’ll need it again. The Mavericks have won all five games in which they scored four or more goals. They’re 0-5-2 when they score three or less and depending on which Mathieu Dugas shows up for BSU, four goals might be tough to come by. He stopped 70 of 74 shots in his first two starts of the season earlier this month but allowed four goals on 27 shots to Alaska-Anchorage, the second-weakest offensive team in league play (2.3 goals per game). Calling a split.