Well well well, with the New Year, we get some games with points on the line as the WCHA regular season kicks into gear with three conference matchups and one nonconference one between two teams searching to improve on their fortunes quickly.
With Bowling Green playing as well as it is offensively and with Michigan Tech playing as well as it defensively, both teams are involved in series this weekend that should be exciting to watch.
Meanwhile, we continue to wait for Minnesota State and Bemidji State to break out of their 2020 funks, and a series to start 2021 might be just what the doctor ordered.
Bowling Green at Ferris State
Jack: The first true conference series of the WCHA season, Bowling Green is an impressive 9-1-0 and has scored a nation-high 40 goals. Ferris is still looking for its first win, but earlier this week against Northern Michigan the Bulldogs managed to get some goals into the back of the net. They lost 6-5 in overtime, but that’s an encouraging sign. I still can’t look past Bowling Green this weekend, but I think it will be a high scoring affair. Falcons win 5-3 Saturday, 6-5 Sunday
Daver: I like the way the Falcons have started the season. They have a balanced offense led by three seniors in Cameron Wright, Connor Ford and Brandon Kruse. The trio all have 11 points each and look unstoppable early in the season. The Bulldogs are still young and trying to find their way. I know the wins are coming, but it is tough to feel that it will start with this weekend. Falcons sweep, 4-1, 3-1
Alabama Huntsville at Michigan Tech
Jack: The Chargers haven’t hit the ice since Dec. 6. By the time they get under way Saturday afternoon, it will have been almost a full month between games. Tech played two series in the week before Christmas. Because they’ll be eager to go, I think the Chargers should be able to nick something from the Huskies this weekend. Huskies win 3-1 Saturday, Chargers win 2-1 Sunday
Daver: Boy the Huskies have been solid since their home opener split with the Mavericks, splitting with Bemidji State before sweeping rival Northern Michigan. They also boast one of the top penalty kills in the country. Add to that, WCHA goaltender of the month Blake Pietila, and that is a formidable defense to contend with as an opponent. The Chargers enter the weekend struggling to score goals, and that does not bode well against the Huskies. Huskies sweep, 3-1, 4-2
Minnesota State at Northern Michigan
Jack: Both teams should be excited to play different teams for once. The Mavs have played Bemidji State three times and Michigan Tech twice, while NMU has played Tech twice and Ferris twice. A change of scenery might do both teams some good. I think we’re looking at a split. Wildcats win 4-3 Saturday, Mavericks win 4-1 Sunday
Daver: The Mavericks have not looked like the Mavericks of old yet, but this could be the weekend they break out. Cade Borchardt and Julian Napravnik have both gotten off to good starts while Reggie Lutz and Jake Jaremko are starting to heat up. They’ll face a motivated Wildcats squad that has seen an infusion of offence from A.J. Vanderbeck, who looked very good against the Huskies a couple of weeks ago. He has five goals in his first four games this season. Mavericks sweep, 3-2, 4-2
Bemidji State at Lake Superior State
Jack: Something of a “makeup” series for both teams to compensate for losing the Alaska schools, this series also happens to be a rematch of the final game of the 2019-20 season, which saw the Beavers beat the Lakers in Game 3 of their WCHA quarterfinal series in Bemidji. It was the last time the puck dropped in the WCHA before the pandemic. This is technically a nonconference series for both teams, so there are no points on the line, but the Lakers will be looking to keep up their momentum — they haven’t lost yet this season but they also haven’t played since Dec. 6 against Huntsville. This one also feels split to me. Beavers win 3-2 on Saturday, Lakers win 4-2 on Sunday
Daver: The Lakers have easily been the surprise of the season thus far. They have played extremely well and are getting contributions from their leaders like Ashton Calder, who is averaging a goal a game thus far. On the flip side, much was made of the Beavers before the season began, but 2020 was not kind to the team picked second by the media and the coaches. They are not far away from winning games, so look for them to jumpstart things this weekend. Lakers win Saturday 3-1, Beavers win Sunday 4-1