WCHA picks, 12/29-1/3

Happy holidays, everybody. Welcome to that odd time in the college hockey season full of traditional tournaments, nonconfernece showdowns and, for some, the continuation of a long winter’s nap. It all makes for tough pickin’. The action starts tonight (Tuesday) with the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, which has turned into a fun all-Michigan matchup.

Great Lakes Invitational

Tuesday, Dec. 29

Michigan Tech vs. Michigan State

Jack: The Huskies closed out November with a 6-1-1 record and, aside from a puzzling home sweep at the hands of Alaska Anchorage after that, look to be back to where they were last season. They’ve already come back against the Spartans twice, winning once in overtime and tying in the other game, and I see no reason to think that the Huskies won’t win a third time (probably in OT). Huskies 4, Spartans 3

Shane: The beginning of December was a perplexing stretch for the Huskies, with the two home losses to the Seawolves and the tie at Lake Superior State that put them on a three-game winless skid. But I agree with you, Jack, that this is a pretty good team, one that should get into the title game of the GLI. Huskies 4, Spartans 2

Northern Michigan vs. Michigan

Jack: The Wildcats are about the most average team in college hockey, if one looks at their record: 6-6-6 overall. As head coach Walt Kyle likes to say, not a lot of high high or low lows. They’ve been pretty even. However, they’re making their first GLI appearance since 1998 against a former CCHA rival that is playing very solid hockey. I think Michigan has too much firepower and will win their first matchup since the dissolution of the CCHA in 2013. Wolverines 4, Wildcats 2

Shane: It’s a pretty safe bet that this game will take more than 60 minutes to be decided, considering NMU’s eight overtime games thus far. While average is a good word to describe a 6-6-6 team (or evil!), I think there’s above-average talent on the Wildcats roster. Whether it’s enough to topple the 10th-ranked Wolverines, I’m not so sure. Wolverines 2, Wildcats 1 (likely decided in some sort of official GLI tie-breaking procedure)

Wednesday, Dec. 30
Third-Place Game

Jack: NMU and MSU also haven’t played since their CCHA days, but this is always a fun rivalry with some shared history. I think NMU will rally for third place. Wildcats 3, Spartans 1

Shane: I’m going with what I said above, only this time giving NMU the nod in tiebreaking fashion. Wildcats 2, Spartans 1

Championship Game
Jack: The matchup most are probably expecting, the Huskies and Wolverines met in the first round of last year’s GLI, with Michigan winning 2-1. U-M is probably the favorite but I’ll take Tech just because. Huskies 4, Wolverines 3

Shane: This should be a great game, and I agree, Jack, that Michigan is the favorite. Although the WCHA could use the boost in nonconference play, I’m going to have to go the other way. Wolverines 3, Huskies 2

Catamount Cup

Tuesday, Dec. 29

Lake Superior State at Vermont

Jack: I’ll admit it: I don’t follow Hockey East or the ECAC closely enough to know how Lake State will match up to either of their opponents this week. That said, I know all four teams participating are below the .500 mark, which means the Lakers have a good a shot to win as any team. Vermont is 5-12-2 and LSSU is 6-10-4. If the Lakers have another top-notch performance by Gordon Defiel, they could steal a win here. Lakers 2, Catamounts 1

Shane: Last year at this time was Lake Superior State’s highlight of the season when it won the Florida College Classic. Can the Lakers make midseason magic again? I say, Why not? Lakers 3, Catamounts 2

Wednesday, Dec. 30

Lake Superior State vs. Brown

Jack: Brown is just 2-7-3, overall, with one win coming against Colgate at the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast. They’ve scored 2.5 goals-per-game — which is slightly better than LSSU’s scoring rate of 2.0 goals-per game. So I expect a low-scoring one here. Brown 2, Lakers 1

Shane: There probably won’t be many goals scored in that whole event, one of the plagues on the WCHA and college hockey, in general this season. I’ll stand by my statement above: Midseason Magic for Lake State. Lakers 1, Bears 0

Western Michigan at Bowling Green

Jack: The single game on Wednesday, Dec. 30, is the back-end of a home-and-home that started Oct. 13 with a 4-1 WMU win. Since then, the teams have gone in opposite directions: BGSU is still unbeaten at home and is No. 12 in the country while WMU is 6-10-1 and has struggled against the NCHC’s top teams. And although this isn’t technically a home game for Bowling Green, it’s at the Huntington Center in nearby Toledo, Ohio. I expect the Falcons to keep rolling. Falcons 5, Broncos 2

Shane: I attended an NCAA regional at the Huntington Center a couple of years ago. Nice arena. Hopefully there will be more people at this game than there were to see Minnesota State, Miami, St. Cloud State and Notre Dame in 2013. Anyway, the Falcons have gone nine games in a row without a loss. Make it 10 after this one. Falcons 4, Broncos 1

Alabama Huntsville at North Dakota

Jack: Talk about a rude awakening for the New Year. UAH greets 2016 with a nonconference series at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Jan. 1-2.  This won’t be easy for the Chargers. However, while I don’t think they’ll win, don’t be surprised if a performances by Carmine Guerriero or Matt Larose keeps them in one or both games far longer than F’n Hawks fans will expect. Fighting Hawks 4-1, 5-2

Shane: I watched the Chargers play in Mankato a few weeks ago, and they play hard. Good goaltending and no quit can cause fits for any opponent. But they’re going into a hornet’s nest (hey, Hornets, that would have been a better name than Fighting Hawks, am I right?) this week against the country’s second-ranked team and one that’s been rolling most of the season. Fighting Hawks 5-0, 4-1

Mariucci Classic

Friday Jan. 1
Ferris State vs. Harvard

Jack: Ferris State has lost consecutive games this season just once. That might be in jeopardy. Harvard has given up just 1.5 goals a game and can score some goals, too, with Jimmy Veasy and Alexander Kerfoot both in the top 10 nationally for scoring. Crimson 3, Bulldogs 1

Shane: As a USCHO rankings voter, I’ve liked Harvard since the beginning of the season, and expect the Crimson to win this one, especially with all of that skill on Mariucci Arena’s giant sheet of ice. However, Ferris State will give them a fight to the finish. Crimson 4, Bulldogs 3

Saturday, Jan. 2
Third-Place Game

Jack: I think Minnesota beats UConn (the Gophers aren’t great, but they’re at home for this one), but the Bulldogs will once again avoid being swept this season by beating UConn for third place. Bulldogs 2, Huskies 0

Shane: I’m with you on Minnesota beating UConn in the first game. However, I’m not sure what the rules are for our own wins and losses when it comes to counting the result if Ferris State does play the Gophers. I guess we just have to go with a W or an L, no matter what. Bulldogs 3, Huskies 2

Bemidji State at Alaska

Jack: The lone WCHA series this weekend finds the Beavers doing their first-ever extended Alaska swing. I assume the Saturday-Sunday (Jan. 2-3) series makes things easier on BSU’s holiday traveling, but either way it may take them some time to adjust. I think this can be a split, considering the two teams split in Bemidji in November. Nanooks 3-2, Beavers 5-3

Shane: This will be the first weekend of dark jerseys at home, the WCHA’s new mandate to — what? — boost fan interest? I’m not sure I’m a fan of this, but it doesn’t really change things for me. The Beavers are beginning their long Alaska trip to play both teams there, while the Nanooks are at home for one weekend before a long road swing that won’t bring them back to their own rink for games until February. I think both teams would be pleased with a split here. Beavers 3-2, Nanooks 3-2

Clarkson at Bowling Green

Jack: There are so many games this weekend we almost forgot about this series! This is a rematch of last year’s series in New York, when Bowling Green tied and beat the Golden Knights. Clarkson seems to be an improved team this year but I can’t see BG losing this weekend. Their home streak continues. Falcons 4-2, 3-2

Shane: The Falcons have an interesting schedule from the holidays into January with the Wednesday game against Western Michigan, this series and then another nonconference game against Miami (after first traveling to Lake Superior State). Bowling Green simply doesn’t lose at home, it seems, and I’m not ready to predict that they’re about to now. Falcons 4-3, 4-1

Last Week: Shane 1-1-0, Jack 1-1-0;. Overall: Shane 55-37-22, Jack 51-41-22.