The WCHA starts to get really interesting this weekend.
We have four in-league series scheduled, and three of those come with teams on the same — or at least perceived to be — on the same tier in the league pecking order. Who takes the next jump? Who proves they’re ready to move up?
Let’s get pickin’….
Minnesota State at Lake Superior State
Jack: They way both teams have been playing as of late, this should be a really fun series. The Lakers have only defeated the Mavericks once since joining the WCHA — that was last season in the playoffs, a 1-0 victory with Gordy Defiel making 54 saves. I think we’ll see more from the high-scoring Lakers offense. Lakers 5-3, Mavericks 3-1
Sean: I’m with Jack on this one, this is going to be a hell of a weekend series. These teams met in the playoffs last season and both are rolling lately. Can the Lakers keep the offensive churning? I think so. Lakers 4-2, 5-4
Ferris State at Bowling Green
Jack: Funnily enough, both teams finally got their first victories of the season on Saturday. I’ll bet nobody picked that when the season started. Naturally, this is probably going to be a split, too. Falcons 3-1, Bulldogs 2-0
Sean: When this season started we all would have pencilled this in as a game between teams near the top of the WCHA standings. Instead it’s a battle of teams looking to climb out of a hole and build upon their first victories this past weekend. It feels like a split, and it has overtime written all over it. Bulldogs 3-2 (OT), Falcons 4-3 (OT)
Alabama Huntsville at Alaska Anchorage
Jack: Can the Chargers finally get off the schneid this weekend? Judging from what I saw from the Seawolves last week in Bemidji (and how well the Chargers played in St. Cloud, despite the lopsided-looking scorelines), this would be the series in which to do it. Chargers 4-2, 2-0
Sean: If you want to compete in the WCHA you need to win the games against lower-tier teams. For the Chargers, this is a weekend to pick up points and prove they aren’t amongst the bottom teams in the league. That motivation and opportunity should work out favorably. Chargers 3-0, 3-2
Bemidji State at Alaska
Jack: The Beavers are the last team left unbeaten in conference play. They’ve been getting it done defensively, for the most part — Michael Bitzer has a 0.50 GAA in WCHA play thanks to three shutouts and a solid defensive core in front of him. I think they’ll keep that up this weekend, despite the long trip to Fairbanks. Beavers 4-1, 3-0
Sean: Bemidji State is my kind of hockey team. They play solid defense and they have a goaltender that shuts down all mistakes. It’s made life difficult for opponents and that trend should continue in Alaska. Beavers 3-1, 4-1
Michigan Tech at Michigan State
Jack: The first of two WCHA/B1G matchups this weekend. The Spartans are a weird team — they got wrecked by Lake State on opening weekend but played an extremely tight series against top-10 Denver. I think the Huskies have shaken off some of their early-season struggles, however, and will sweep this one in East Lansing. Huskies 5-2, 3-2
Sean: Former CCHA rivalries are renewed and I think it should be good series. Michigan State is a wildcard of an opponent, and this series sounds like a split. Huskies 3-1, Spartans 4-3
Northern Michigan at Wisconsin
Jack: Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. Oh yeah. You have heard this one before. A month ago. The teams split on “neutral” ice in Green Bay, Wis. But this one is in Madison. It should be more of a challenge for NMU, but I think another split seems likely as well. Badgers 4-3, Wildcats 3-2
Sean: Familiarity breeds contempt, right? And Northern Michigan has grown familiar with trips to Wisconsin. Northern Michigan has a chance to make an out-of-conference statemen, and I think they’ll deliver. Wildcats 4-2, 5-3