Pickin’ the WCHA: Nov. 21-25

Hey there WCHA hockey fans, we finally made it to another season. This will be a year like no other, and not just because of the global pandemic. This will be the final season of the WCHA as we know it, as seven schools have banded together to move on next season to a new iteration of the CCHA. That’s not all, Alaska-Anchorage, who had originally announced that 2020-21 would be their last season in NCAA hockey, announced recently that they would forgo the season.

Jack and I had a good competition a year ago once I came on board. We will see what this year holds as we go. For now, we are both 0-0-0, so let’s get after it.

Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State

Daver: Last season, the Lakers showed signs of improvement at points, but a rough start led to a tough finish for them in the overall standings. This season, they are not opening with giants of the hockey world, but are instead facing head coach Damon Whitten’s former squad, the Michigan Tech Huskies.

There is plenty of reason for optimism for head coach Joe Shawhan with a lineup that includes transfer goaltender Mark Sinclair and recent Arizona Coyotes draft pick Carson Bantle. The question for the Huskies isn’t can they get there, but rather how quickly can they get there.

Jack: This is a sneaky underrated series. It’s not technically a conference game due to the weird schedule, but these teams were close last season and I think this is a likely split.

Daver: MTU wins Saturday 4-2, LSSU wins Sunday 3-2
Jack: Saturday: Lakers 4, Huskies 3; Sunday: Huskies 3, Lakers 1

Alabama Huntsville at Robert Morris

Daver: New head coach Lance West had a tall task in front of him when he took over a Chargers squad that was coming off the brink of losing their hockey program. Losing a starting goalie like Sinclair does not help. Losing sophomore Josh Latta, who scored seven goals and 18 points to lead the team last year made things even worse.

The Colonials feature senior forward Nick Prkusic, who scored 28 points last year to lead the team. The Chargers will be one of two WCHA opponents the Colonials will face this season.

Jack: Like Lazarus, the Chargers’ program rose from the dead to come back this season. Hopefully they’re here to stay. I’d like to think their players are going to be fired-up to be back on the ice this winter, so I’ll call it a sweep

Daver: Robert Morris sweeps, 4-1, 3-1
Jack: Saturday: Chargers 3, Colonials 1; Sunday: Chargers 2, Colonails 1

No. 5 Minnesota State at No. 16 Bemidji State

Daver: The Mavericks, who were picked to win the WCHA regular season title again this season, feature a strong crop of incoming talent including freshman defenseman Akito Hirose. However, they will only get as far as junior goaltender Dryden McKay can carry them, which will likely be deep, given that he remains among the top goaltenders in the country.

The Beavers were ranked second to the Mavericks in both the media and coaches’ polls this season, and that makes good sense given how much respect players and coaches have for junior forward Owen Sillinger who earned WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors three times last season while racking up 14 goals and 34 points, both career highs. He also racked up two five-game point streaks along the way.

Jack: The two best teams in the league last season get to face one another right off the bat this season. The Mavs went 3-2 against the Beavers last season and the two had a sixth potential meeting wiped out by COVID. I expect this will be another hard-fought split.

Daver: MSU wins Sunday 2-1, BSU wins Monday, 3-2
Jack: Sunday: Beavers 4, Mavericks 2; Monday: Mavericks 3, Beavers 2

Bowling Green at Adrian

Daver: While Adrian continues to be one of the top programs in Division III, I just do not think they are quite ready to take that next step against a very good Falcons squad that looks to compete for a WCHA title this season.

Jack: I’ll be honest: When these teams played last weekend in Bowling Green, I thought it was an exhibition game. As it turns out, I was wrong: The teams agreed to play a real, live home-and-home series that counts. No third-string goalies or untested freshmen here. I love that these teams are playing, though. Division III Adrian is only about an hour from BG and Adrian’s conference (the NCHA) decided not to play until 2021. The Bulldogs needed some opponents so the Falcons agreed to come and play them. BG won 6-2 last week, and although the Bulldogs have a strong squad, I expect another Falcon victory.

Daver: Falcons win, 6-1
Jack: Saturday: Falcons 5, Bulldogs 1

Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan

Daver: A strange mid-week game for both teams, but one thing is for certain, the Wildcats will be ready to go, no matter what day of the week it is. The Lakers will have little time to prepare for this one coming off a likely hard-fought series against Michigan Tech over the weekend.

Jack: One thing about these COVID-19 influenced schedules that are going to be weird for us in the Midwest: A lot more midweek games are on the schedule, and I am guessing cancelations will force a whole ton more. The Lakers have to play three rivalry games in a row, so they will have some momentum. I’m picking them for the win.

Daver: Wildcats win, 4-1
Jack: Wednesday: Lakers 3, Wildcats 2