I’ve never been a big fan of the slow, unbalanced rollout of the WCHA schedule. I’d love to see everybody begin league play together and then have the schedulers do their best to keep games in hand to a minimum as the season progresses. Yes, this comes from the it-was-my-understanding-there’d-be-no-math department, but I think everybody wants to know where teams actually stand in the standings.
This week, the three teams yet to play a conference series — Alaska, Alaska Anchorage and Bemidji State — finally get to play for points, and there are definitely some intriguing matchups in league play this weekend. Out of league play, too, actually.
All right, Jack, I’m off my soapbox now. Let’s pick:
Minnesota State at Bowling Green
Shane: On paper, this is the best series of the weekend. These are two very good teams who met five times last year, with each of their regular-season meetings being decided by one goal and three of those going into overtime. No one should be surprised if that happens again. I’m thinking split here. Falcons 2-1. Mavericks 3-2
Jack: The Falcons and the Mavs are the best scoring offenses in the WCHA right now, with 21 goals each in six games. I don’t have any reason to pick against a split. It may be a high-scoring weekend. Mavericks 5-4, Falcons 5-3
Alaska at Bemidji State
Shane: I’m intrigued by this series, too. The Nanooks are off to a hot start but are in the midst of a road trip now. The Beavers, meanwhile, held their own with that killer early-season schedule. Getting one win in four games against North Dakota and Minnesota is nothing to sneeze at. Should be a good series split for you to cover, Jack. Beavers 3-1. Nanooks 4-1
Jack: The Beavers played really well against the Gophers last weekend — especially Saturday – and I think Tom Serratore was disappointed his team couldn’t pick up at least one win. Regardless, they looked much better skating on the big ice than they have in years past, which is encouraging. As for the Nanooks, it will be interesting to see how they perform after this extended road trip — they’ve been in Michigan last Thursday and will be driving 750 miles to Minnesota. I have a hard time picking against a split. Beavers 4-1. Nanooks 3-2
Lake Superior at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: Damon Whitten, what have you walked into? This has been a brutal schedule for the new coach, and, yes, I’m going to keep saying that until the Lakers finally get a breather. Playing Tech on the first weekend of practice, trips to Robert Morris and Notre Dame, home against Northern, now a trip to Anchorage. Sounds like punishment. The Seawolves, meanwhile, return home where they play pretty good hockey. Seawolves 3-2, 3-0
Jack: Just about the only bright spot for the Lakers is that when they’ve scored, they’ve been able to spread it up and down the lineup, which is encouraging for a team that before the season was basically viewed as “Alex GHlobke and Co.” The question is if they can put more goals on the board and get some wins. I don’t think that happens this weekend. Seawolves 5-2, 3-2
Michigan at Michigan Tech
Shane: On to nonconference play, and everybody’s excited in Houghton and the return of the Wolverines after more than 30 years. Plus, the Stanley Cup, the MacNaughton Cup and other trophies are going to be in town. It’s a hockey smorgasbord! Dare we say that the Huskies should be favored in this series? Can Mel Pearson turn the tables on his old mentor, Red Berenson? He will one night, for sure. Huskies 4-2. Wolverines 5-3
Jack: It’s definitely going to be an insane atmosphere this weekend in the Keweenaw. But when I talked to Mel Pearson the other day he was a bit concerned simply because this is a heck of a lot of distractions for a home opener. Will the Huskies be able to overcome it and win? I think they may stumble Friday then rally for a big win Saturday. Wolverines 4-3 (OT), Huskies 6-3.
Ferris State at Michigan State
Shane: Another series where the WCHA team should be favored over the Big Ten team. Ferris State has to be a little bitter after dropping those two games at home to Michigan Tech last weekend. Now, the Bulldogs will go down the road to face their old CCHA foe. They’ve beaten Sparty four times in a row. I see that streak going to six. Bulldogs 3-1, 2-1
Jack: Much like Minnesota, the Wolverines and Spartans should be given some credit for continuing to play their in-state rivals and not big-timing them after bolting for the Big Ten. The Bulldogs have won nine of the past 11 meetings against MSU and two straight at Munn. But Ferris has lost three straight (at St. Lawrence and home against Michigan Tech). I think that streak ends with a sweep. Bulldogs 4-2, 4-3
Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan (nonconference)
Shane: With scheduling in the new WCHA (At what point do we stop calling it new? Probably now.), the Chargers and the Wildcats opted to keep this nonconference series on the schedule this year. They play each other just one weekend in league play. The Chargers will be kicking themselves in January if they steal a win or two this weekend and get no points out of it. The rest of the league will be annoyed, too. Considering NMU’s start, I don’t see that happening, though.Wildcats 4-1, 4-1
Jack: This is an odd bit of scheduling for sure. The Chargers have been playing better and they might be in both of these games with their goaltenders but I also can’t see them stealing a win.Wildcats 2-1, 4-2