Last week’s modest schedule of games yielded an almost perfect set of picks for both of us. One of us, it delights me to say, was more perfect than the other.
We’ll see how well that holds up as the slate of contests fills up.
Dave last week: 6-0-1
Jim last week: 5-1-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 6-0-1
Jim’s record-to-date: 5-1-1
Friday, October 11
Wisconsin at Boston College
Was it really all the way back in 2010 that these two teams faced off in the national championship game? Coincidentally, that tilt occurred in Detroit, site of this year’s Frozen Four, albeit with the venue moved (fortunately, can you give me a hallelujah!) from Ford Field to Little Caesars Arena. If either team is to make a return trip, it will need to improve greatly on last year’s sub.500 season (14-18-5 for Wisconsin, 14-22-3 for BC). The Eagles look like the far better candidate. They were picked to finish first in Hockey East by league coaches while both of USCHO’s Big Ten columnists picked the Badgers to finish last. Dave’s update: It was actually last year’s Big Ten preview in which our columnists picked Wisconsin to finish last. This year, they picked the badgers to finish third and sixth. But what does a stubborn man do when he’s proven wrong about something? He ignores the truth and sticks to his guns. I’m ignoring the truth and sticking to my guns.
Dave picks: BC 4, Wisconsin 2
Jim picks: Wisconsin 3, BC 2
Rensselaer at Massachusetts
While last year UMass was taking its Cinderella season all the way to the national championship game, Rensselaer was finishing next to last in the ECAC. The Minutemen suffered substantial losses from that roster, however, led by All-Everything Cale Makar, but still look like a hefty favorite in this game. That said, Rensselaer at least has an exhibition game under its belt (a 6-3 win over Brock), while UMass will be seeing its first game action.
Dave picks: UMass 5, Rensselaer 1
Jim picks: UMass 5, Rensselaer 2
Army West Point at Connecticut
UConn’s steady progress within Hockey East took a step backward last year when it dropped to 12-20-2 overall and ninth place in the league (7-15-2). Army fared no better in Atlantic Hockey, finishing next-to-last and 12-20-7 overall. The Black Knights, however, opened with a 3-2 win over Union, while UConn had to settle for a 3-3 tie at Sacred Heart. The Huskies rallied to take a 3-2 lead only to see it disappear on an extra-attacker goal with just three seconds left in regulation. Their supporters might be concerned, though, over the Huskies finishing on the wrong side of a 48-20 shot disparity.
Dave picks: Connecticut 3, Army 2
Jim picks: Connecticut 4, Army 3
Holy Cross at Providence
Both teams tossed lopsided shutouts over their opponents last week, but only Providence’s counted. The Friars took Maine to the cleaners, 7-0, solidifying their national Top 10 ranking, at least until that result lost some of its luster when the Black Bears similarly got dominated in a Canadian exhibition. Holy Cross shellacked Simon Fraser, 9-0, in its exhibition opener. Coming off a trip to the Frozen Four, the Friars appear to be a prohibitive favorite here against the Crusaders, who finished 10-21-5 last season.
Dave picks: Providence 5, Holy Cross 2
Jim picks: Providence 5, Holy Cross 3
Friday/Saturday October 11-12
Alaska Anchorage at Maine
This is the weekend we find out if Maine’s abysmal performance last weekend was just a pothole in the road. The Black Bears got shut out and outshot about two-to-one by both Providence (a 7-0 loss) and, in an exhibition game, New Brunswick (a 5-0 loss). Not to pick on Alaska Anchorage, but the Seawolves finished 3-28-3 last season. If they give the Black Bears anything close to a whitewashing, sound the alarms.
Dave picks: Maine 5, UAA 2; Maine 4, UAA 2
Jim picks: UAA, Maine 1; Maine 3, UAA 2
Northeastern at Union
Last year, Northeastern tied for second in Hockey East and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament while Union could manage only a .500 record in the ECAC (albeit with a much more impressive 20-13-8 overall mark). So while the Huskies lost two All-Americans in goaltender Cayden Primeau and defenseman Jeremy Davies, this still looks like a Northeastern sweep. Especially considering Union’s two losses last weekend, a 7-3 stomping by BU, and a 3-2 loss at the hands of Army.
Dave picks: Northeastern 6, Union 2; Northeastern 5, Union 2
Jim picks: Northeastern 6, Union 3; Northeastern 4, Union 3
New Hampshire at Miami
Miami tied for last in the NCHC last season, but had a more respectable 11-23-4 overall mark. I suppose that befits a team in what was clearly the top league in college hockey. Meanwhile, UNH crawled out of the Hockey East cellar to finish eighth with an overall mark of 12-15-9. This series might look like a split since it’s on RedHawks home ice, but while UNH won its exhibition game opener, Miami lost 7-4 to Bowling Green, getting outshot 42-19 in the process. The odds might still favor a home-ice split, but we’re both going with a UNH sweep.
Dave picks: UNH 3, Miami 2; UNH 3, Miami 2 (OT)
Jim picks: UNH 3, Miami 2; UNH 3, Miami 1
UMass Lowell at Minnesota Duluth
When a Division I college team loses an exhibition game to a Canadian school, it usually gets the alarm bells warmed up, if not pealing loudly. And when that team then has to shift to real games against an opponent that is already 2-0 on the young season, the favorite is usually quite clear.
Except when the team with exhibition egg on its face is defending national champion and top-ranked Minnesota Duluth. In that case, you tip your fedora to the Bulldogs and note that sometimes exhibition games don’t mean a thing.
Dave picks: Minnesota Duluth 4, Lowell 2; Minnesota Duluth 3, Lowell 2
Jim picks: Minnesota Duluth 3, Lowell 2; Lowell 4, Minnesota Duluth 2
Saturday, October 12
Wisconsin at Merrimack
It’s gonna sound like a broken record pretty soon, but Merrimack’s 18 new faces (with only 11 returning players from a last-place team) is not a recipe for early-season success. The success may actually not be seen until next year or the year after. Exhibit A is the Warriors getting swept at Lake Superior State last weekend.
That said, Wisconsin was picked to finish last in the Big Ten, as noted above. And Lawler Arena is a tough little bandbox for visiting teams to get adjusted to, especially those coming from Olympic or near-Olympic sheets. So this could be a close one.
Dave picks: Wisconsin 3, Merrimack 2
Jim picks: Wisconsin 5, Merrimack 2
Rensselaer at Connecticut
Both teams have already been discussed and dissected above. Rather than cutting and pasting those details, let’s go with an Executive Summary here. UConn seems to be the better team, is playing at home, and the short turnaround time from a 7:00 Friday game to a 3:30 one on Saturday favors the home team.
Dave picks: UConn 4, Rensselaer 2
Jim picks: UConn 3, Rensselaer 1
Sunday, October 13
Boston College at Colgate
Colgate’s 10-23-3 record last year might not be much different from Boston College’s 14-22-3, but BC’s mark was a true anomaly and a stellar recruiting class has the Eagles considered the favorite to bounce back and win Hockey East. Meanwhile, Colgate is projected for close to the bottom of the ECAC. Plus, the Raiders lost their home opener to RIT, 3-1.
Dave picks: Boston College 5, Colgate 2
Jim picks: Boston College 5, Colgate 2
Tuesday, October 15
Massachusetts at Northeastern
Two of Hockey East’s top three teams from last year face off in this big early-season clash. Both have lost their top player and other vital contributors, so it’s truly a clean slate. That might argue for Northeastern as the favorite based on home ice, but this could go either way. It’s also a preview of the home-and-home series the two teams will be playing in two-and-a-half weeks.
Dave picks: UMass 3, Northeastern 2
Jim picks: UMass 3, Northeastern 2