I finally got a bigger lead on Matthew in our picks race. Last weekend, I went 5-3 (.625), while Matthew went 3-5 (.375). On the year, I am 92-66-22 (.572), while Matthews is 87-71-22 (.544).
The first round brings some brutal matchups, so let’s see how we can do.
Thursday-Saturday, March 13-15
Denver at Nebraska-Omaha
Candace: UNO won three of four in the season series, taking two in overtime, though those games weren’t actually as close as might have been indicated. Denver’s defense has been iffy at times, relying too much on the heroics of Sam Brittain, and if that happens again, this series could be over quickly. Nebraska-Omaha 3-2, Denver 2-1, Nebraska-Omaha 4-2
Matthew: Considering pretty much everyone picked UNO to finish at or near the bottom of the NCHC, the Mavericks did really well to finish third, and I think they’ll do enough to make it through this week and get to their first conference championship weekend in a decade. Denver will be a very tough out, though, especially considering Sam Brittain, a senior, is the best goaltender in the league and will want to end his time with the Pioneers on a good note. UNO 3-2 Thursday, DU 2-0 Friday, UNO 2-1 Saturday
Friday-Sunday, March 14-16
Miami at St. Cloud State
Candace: Miami is the one NCHC team that had the most success against St. Cloud this season. I think that Bob Motzko and the Huskies will be extra on guard, and win in two tight contests. One may go to OT. St. Cloud 2-1, 3-1
Matthew: I mentioned in our Tuesday Morning Quarterback column earlier this week with Jim Connelly that I think Miami has the potential to pull off a big upset here. I’m not picking that to happen, but I think people forget these teams split their four games earlier this season, and with pieces like Blake Coleman on form, I think the Huskies will need to be on high alert this weekend. St. Cloud 3-2 Friday, 3-2 Saturday
Colorado College at North Dakota
Candace: The problem here is that no matter how well CC goalie Josh Thorimbert plays, his team doesn’t score goals, and that will hurt them in the playoffs, especially in North Dakota, where UND swept CC in two tight games in early January. I think that holds true here. North Dakota 3-1, 4-2
Matthew: I’ve liked the way CC has continued to battle and try to make thins work in the home stretch of the season, and they could give North Dakota some problems this weekend in Grand Forks. UND’s the more talented team here though, and I think they’ll come into this weekend a little steamed after letting the Penrose Cup slip away last Saturday on the final night of the regular season. North Dakota 3-1 Friday, 3-0 Saturday
Western Michigan at Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: The Bulldogs won the season series 3-1, but are at home, where they have a losing record. Western has been better on the road, and its one win against the Bulldogs came in the first game in Duluth in the first half of the year, but Western hasn’t been that great in first games in the second half. Western Michigan 2-1, Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, Minnesota-Duluth 2-1
Matthew: Duluth is very much on the PairWise bubble and needs to advance as far as it can in the NCHC playoffs to keep itself in contention for an NCAA tournament spot. The problem for the Bulldogs, though, is that they’ve been a lot better on the road this season than they’ve been at home, and although Western hasn’t been amazing away from Kalamazoo this season, I think the Broncos could take advantage of the issues UMD’s with getting wins on its own ice. WMU 3-2 Friday, UMD 3-1 Saturday, WMU 2-1 Sunday