WCHA picks: Feb. 1

No. 10 Denver at Minnesota-Duluth

Joe:  The Pioneers’ first visit to the “new” Amsoil Arena will be a tough one against a still-inconsistent UMD squad that has improved over the course of the season. I expect Denver to bounce back following a bye week with a superior defensive effort to earn a road split.

Tyler: Paul Phillips said Tuesday that Denver is the healthiest it’s been all season after a full weekend off to get some players back from illness and injury and that’s what that offense needs. The Pioneers showed in the first five games after Christmas they were ready to rebound heading into the second half but all of those games were at home. Denver is 0-4-2 away from Magness Arena since Nov. 16. A lot is at stake for both teams in the WCHA standings as both try to break back into the top half. I’m going with a split.

Michigan Tech at No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha

Joe: The Mavericks picked up two quality wins against Bemidji State, which plays tough defense at home. Senior goalie John Faulkner is two wins away from tying Dan Ellis for the school career wins record (53). He doesn’t get it this weekend because the Huskies have had a week to heal and prepare. Split.

Tyler: Pheonix Copley has been one of the better stories in the league since late December, allowing eight goals in six games with three shutouts but those victories were against below-average offenses. The freshman has a lot to prove this weekend, going against the No. 2 Mavericks offense (3.65 goals per game) on the road. UNO, led by Ryan Walters, will overwhelm the Huskies. UNO sweep.

No. 12 St. Cloud State at Bemidji State

Joe: On paper, this is a road sweep for the surging Huskies. But my instincts tell me BSU must get a win sometime, right? The Beavers put together two solid home games and could not beat Omaha. Bemidji State’s struggles continue. SCSU sweeps.

Tyler: St. Cloud State has sure had its share of games against sub-.500 teams in which they become disengaged, unplugged and then lose. It happened in Duluth and Anchorage earlier this season and it happened at home against RPI and Northern Michigan. BSU plays a physical, slow-it-down style that can harness and frustrate the best offensive teams. I believe SCSU comes away with the sweep, only because it has to have learned from its earlier stumbles against the aforementioned teams and because Ryan Faragher’s play of late gives the Huskies the edge in a low-scoring game.

No. 19 Wisconsin at No. 7 North Dakota

Joe: The absence of Derek Lee (concussion) weakens an already poor Badgers offense. If North Dakota can string together a full 120 minutes it will cruise. It may not. But the offensive will produce enough to bust through against the UW defense. North Dakota sweeps.

Tyler: UND played uninspired and without much of a purpose in the 3-1 loss to St. Cloud State last Friday. Don’t expect to see that anymore from that team this season. The injury to the Badgers’ Lee – one of Wisconsin’s top playmakers – will no doubt hurt the Badgers without his presence and could create depth issues, but they’ve struggled offensively regardless. The Wisconsin ‘D’ wins many games and it will steal one this weekend. Split

Colorado College at Alaska-Anchorage

Joe:  Inconsistent UAA plays like world-beaters one game and then gets blasted the next. There is no reason to think this pattern will not continue against a Tigers squad that is better on defense, but has plenty of room to grow. CC gets three points.

Tyler: The Tigers defense’s struggles have been well-documented but if the offense continues to score at the rate it is, the Seawolves (with the third-lowest scoring offense in the nation at 1.91 goals per game) won’t be able to keep up.  CC sweep

No. 1 Minnesota, No. 15 Minnesota State are idle.