As we get to the “it’s early, but not too early” portion of college hockey’s schedule, the WCHA, as predicted, seems to have three teams separating themselves from the pack. Minnesota State and Michigan Tech are currently tied for first in the league. Bowling Green is the highest-ranked team in the league (15th) but is in seventh in the league standings. (That’s mostly because the Falcons have played just four league games.)
The rest of the league is shaping up to be, again, a somewhat unpredictable dogfight. For example, did anyone think Alabama Huntsville would have one of the top scoring offenses in the league through the first month of the season? Or that Bemidji State would have the most trouble putting the puck into the net (they’ve scored a league-low 14 goals in seven games)?
Anyway, it looks like another fun slate of games this week. Shane is three ahead of me in our pick ’em race — mostly because he picked all six winners last weekend — so hopefully I can catch up this week.
Enjoy the games!
Bowling Green at Michigan Tech
Shane: The WCHA’s two ranked teams square off in Houghton in what should be a marquee matchup in college hockey between two of the three favorites to win the league (Minnesota State being the other). Both teams are off to decent starts but would like to be doing better. I’d call a split, but I’m worried about the Falcons’ offense with just eight goals in their last 10 games. Huskies 3-1, 4-2
Jack: I think these should both be close games, Shane, and I am also worried about BGSU’s offense. But I think the Falcons deserve to be in the conversation as one of the top teams in the league and the country and will find a way to rise to the occasion and earn a split. Falcons 4-2, Huskies 3-1
Alaska at Bemidji State
Shane: The Beavers had a good start at home this year with a win over Minnesota Duluth and a tie with North Dakota. Then they played Minnesota State tough, only to get swept. After a one-goal weekend and a week off, they’re back home to face a Nanooks team starting a long road trip. I expect this to be a physical, low-scoring series with each team earning a tough two points. Beavers 2-1, Nanooks 2-1
Jack: The Beavers six-game winless streak reminds me a lot of their eight-game winless streak last season. They went 2-8 during the month of November 2014, with their only wins being on Nov. 1 and Nov. 29 — literally bookending an eight game losing streak. They played very well in all eight of those losses, however, and that’s been the case this time around for BSU. Solid play, but scoring has been somewhat difficult. The Nanooks have been okay this season, but haven’t won away from Fairbanks. Something is going to give (although two ties wouldn’t surprise me the way they have). I think a split is likely. Nanooks 3-2, Beavers 3-2
Ferris State at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: Ferris State is coming off a split against Minnesota State in which it finally beat the Mavericks in WCHA play. The Bulldogs will now try to protect a similar streak against an improved and offensive-minded Seawolves team, against which it has won seven straight over the last two seasons. I think Anchorage ends it but Ferris gets two points. Seawolves 4-2, Bulldogs 4-3
Jack: Some of these streaks give you a great idea of how short of a time it’s been since the old CCHA and old WCHA combined to form the current iteration of the league — and how new some of these rivalries are. The only time the Seawolves beat the Bulldogs was wayy back in 1986 in a tournament in Anchorage. The teams met once more in the 1980s before resuming the series when Ferris joined the WCHA in 2013. UAA hasn’t won anything since then, but they look like they could be a sleeper pick this year. I think they get all four points and finally beat the Bulldogs. Seawolves 4-3, 2-1
Arizona State at Lake Superior State
Shane: The Lakers will step out of conference play and show college hockey’s newest team one of the sport’s storied outposts. Yes, Sun Devils, Lake State won three national titles. This year’s team has been up and down early, perhaps on the cusp of making a little run. If it does, it starts this weekend. Lakers 4-2, 4-1
Jack: I’m sure the Sun Devils fanbase will need to get used to following their team to places like Sault Ste Marie, Bemidji and Grand Forks. It’s a little different than following them to Tucson, Los Angeles and Boulder like they do for other sports, huh guys? (Arizona State’s SID and I had a jovial Twitter back-and-forth about that a few weeks ago, and they seem to be enjoying discovering new places). Anyway, The Sun Devils have defeated just one Division I team in Alaska, and that now seems like a bit of a fluke when you see ASU’s other scores. The Lakers seem to be playing better and I think they earn the sweep. Lakers 3-2, 3-1
Minnesota at/vs. Minnesota State
Shane: It’s a home-and-home series between the Mavericks and the Gophers, two teams that, if you look closely have had somewhat parallel starts to the season. Lost a lot in the offseason. Started slowly. Lost games. Got shut out a few times. Started to turn the corner. If they truly mirror each other that much, then they’ll split. Home teams win. Mavericks 4-3, Gophers 3-2
Jack: I don’t know about you, Shane, but I’m still much higher on the Mavericks this season than I am on the Gophers. None of Minnesota’s wins have been super-impressive, but the Mavericks have some nice wins against some teams that should be in the top half of their league. I think a split is very likely but I also think if either team can sweep, it’s MSU. Mavericks 5-3, 3-2
Last week: Shane 6-0-2, Jack 3-3-2. Overall: Shane 32-18-10, Jack 29-21-10