WCHA Picks: Feb. 22-23

No. 6 North Dakota at No. 10 Denver:

Matthew: In only picking up one point from a possible four last time out against intrastate rival Colorado College, DU missed an opportunity to keep its name on the still fairly large list of WCHA teams that still have a realistic chance of winning the league’s regular season championship. The Pioneers would be more than happy to swap their frustration for wins this weekend against another hated rival in the form of North Dakota, but it’s tough to call anything other than a split here. UND has been the better team lately, but, among the drama that we always seem to get when these two teams come together, I’d be surprised if either club here got more than two points against the other. Split.

Tyler: Watching skilled players playing chippy and physical, then throw in an engaged bi-partisan crowd and you have what makes this rivalry so entertaining. Both teams are coming off bye weeks and playoff positioning is at stake. UND was the more physical team and Juho Olkinuora had to save the Pioneers when UND took three points in December at Grand Forks. Denver’s offense is out of the hibernation mode it was in at that point of the season and needs to apply pressure in the offensive zone to establish a home-ice advantage this weekend.  Split

No. 7 St. Cloud State at Colorado College:

Matthew: SCSU currently sits at the top of the WCHA standings, but with only four points separating first place in the league from sixth, the Huskies need to keep picking up wins. I think they’ll get one this weekend at CC, but, although the Tigers are a lower-echelon team in the WCHA right now, they haven’t been swept at home so far this season, and I don’t see it happening this weekend, either. I’m taking SCSU to get three points in Colorado Springs.

Tyler: What concerns me about the first-place Huskies has been a lack of jump in their step coming off bye weeks. SCSU is 1-3 in the first games of series when it didn’t play the week before and has scored just three goals in the first periods of those four games. This will be another fun series between two teams that are strong offensively and although SCSU has the edge on ‘D’, I think CC can get some pucks past SCSU goalie Ryan Faragher. Split

Minnesota-Duluth at No. 2 Minnesota:

Matthew: Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, I see this weekend being one they and their fans might want to forget in a hurry. It’s possible the Gophers could experience a Hockey City Classic hangover after losing to border rival Wisconsin in Chicago last Sunday, but Minnesota’s a far better team than UMD is right now. Even if the Gophers take a night or two off this weekend, their talent ought to help see them through this series. Minnesota sweeps.

Tyler: The Gophers’ depth and balance are going to wear down the Bulldogs, who have had scoring issues throughout their seven-game winless streak and Minnesota plays good team defense with a solid goalie in Adam Wilcox backing it up. UMD may be able to slow the Gophers down one night to make it competitive but it won’t be enough to prevent a Minnesota sweep.