NCHC weekend picks: Oct. 11-12

Silly me, I would have gotten a game up on Matthew last weekend, but I forgot to publish. Yes, loyal NCHC readers, the Candace-Matthew NCHC beer contest, after a year away, is back in full swing. This week starts the long slog to hopefully a fifth-straight NCHC winner of the NCAA tournament. Yes, I am an unabashed league homer. It’s a privilege to cover this league, its players, coaches, and loyal fans.

This weekend marks the first full weekend of action, so let’s see how we do.

Friday, Oct. 11

No. 14 Western Michigan vs No. 12 Ohio State (IceBreaker semifinal; Toledo, Ohio)
Candace: Western has started well in recent years, and I think Andy Murray will have his squad ready for a win, possibly in OT, against a tough OSU team that is near home. Western Michigan 4-3
Matthew: Ohio State will be tough to score on, but I’m going to take the homer pick. I’m feeling bullish on Western Michigan this season, and winning this game would put the Broncos in good shape toward getting their hands on hardware. Western Michigan 3-2

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 11-12

No. 7 St. Cloud State at Bemidji State
Candace: Gone is the high-flying offense that, at least in the regular season, seemed to score at will last season. The Huskies likely will depend on players like Jack Ahcan to keep the games close while the offense gets its legs. Bemidji is a notoriously difficult team to score on, but that might play into St. Cloud’s hands. These road games are a tough task for a young St. Cloud team, but I think they get the wins. St. Cloud State 2-1, 3-2
Matthew: St. Cloud will be green in spots this season, but you wouldn’t say the sky is falling on the Huskies. Bemidji was picked third in the WCHA preseason poll, and this weekend will provide a good opportunity for the Beavers to show what they’ve got to people that may have been surprised BSU’s poll spot. I’ll take SCSU to sweep, but this series could go a few ways. St. Cloud State 4-2, 4-2

Minnesota at Colorado College
Candace: CC doesn’t have Alex Leclerc in net anymore, and the Tigers also lost some defensive leaders. Without knowing how healthy Nick Halloran is at the moment, I think CC will struggle some in the early going, and the altitude won’t be enough to get the wins. I hate picking B1G teams to beat NCHC squads, but at this time I have to. Minnesota 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: Both teams lost a lot of talent from last season, and this could be a tight series between former WCHA rivals. CC being at home should be worth something, but I’m not sure either of these teams is far better than the other at this stage and I don’t think either team would be heartbroken with a split. Minnesota 3-2, Colorado College 4-2

No. 2 Denver at Lake Superior
Candace: Denver got off to a good start last weekend in Alaska, and I think that will continue this weekend. The Pioneers have a lot of ways to hurt opponents. Denver 3-1, 4-2
Matthew: Lake State is going to be competitive in the WCHA this season, but I’m feeling pretty good about Denver after the Pioneers grew stronger from one game to the next last weekend at Alaska Anchorage. A 4-0 start for the Pioneers is a very real possibility. Denver 3-1, 3-1

New Hampshire at Miami
Candace: UNH had some moments last year, and could be a dangerous team in Hockey East this year. Miami struggled defensively last weekend in a loss to Bowling Green, but I think the RedHawks will get a win this weekend. Miami 3-2, New Hampshire 3-2
Matthew: New Hampshire, a streaky team last season, visits a Miami team that ought to be feeling optimistic despite opening the season with a loss to Bowling Green. I think the RedHawks will get their first win of the Chris Bergeron era this weekend, but I’m not ready to pick a sweep. Miami 4-2, New Hampshire 3-2

UMass Lowell at No. 1 Minnesota Duluth
Candace: Lowell is a good team, but my money is on the defending national champions. However, I expect two close, playoff-style games, something unusual this early. Minnesota Duluth 2-1, 2-1
Matthew: UMD’s exhibition loss last weekend against Alberta is nothing to freak out about, but the Bulldogs could be starting their season on the back foot if they aren’t careful. Lowell is young but ought to be competitive in Hockey East. I’ll pick Duluth to sweep, but getting there likely wouldn’t be easy. Minnesota Duluth 3-2, 3-1

Canisius at No. 18 North Dakota
Candace: North Dakota is likely itching for revenge for the sweep last January that shook the Fighting Hawks’ confidence. Plus, they are at the Ralph this time. Even with as many question marks as UND has, I like a sweep. North Dakota 4-2, 4-2
Matthew: You can’t point to UND getting swept last season at Canisius as the only reason that the Fighting Hawks missed out on the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year, but it’s definitely up there on the list of factors. I’m not ready to even pencil UND in for this season, but this series ought to go differently to what we saw in January. North Dakota 3-1, 4-2

Alabama Huntsville at Omaha
Candace: Two teams with low expectations at the start of the year. A tie is likely in one, but there’s no percentage in it. The Dark Prophetess picks a Mavericks sweep. Omaha 3-2, 4-2
Matthew: Omaha has a dozen freshmen this season and Alabama Huntsville has 10 newcomers, so this series will very much be about finding one’s bearings. Expectations aren’t through the roof for either team, but while I’m tempted to pick a split, I’ll take Omaha to grind out both games. Omaha 3-1, 3-1