Welcome to a new way that USCHO’s writers will pick some of the top college hockey games each week.
Every Friday, in this space you’ll find short previews of five men’s Division I college hockey games. Ten writers from USCHO – the six conference columnists and four national columnists – will each make their picks for each game.
Additionally, I’ll provide a gambler’s look at each game. While it is difficult to find actual money lines on college hockey games, I’m going to set my own line based on where I see betting moving were there to be an official line in Las Vegas.
Understand, this is for entertainment purposes only. USCHO.com is not a licensed gambling platform and no money may be wagered through this site or any subsidiary of USCHO.
We’ll always attempt to pick games that feature nationally ranked teams. When two teams are playing a two-game series, the picks, analysis and money lines only pertain to the first game in the series.
Enjoy reading along. Feel free to keep your own bankroll at home (in a notebook or spreadsheet, not with your local bookmaker!)
Here are this week’s games:
No. 6 Boston College (-130) vs. No. 9 Quinnipiac (+115)
(Icebreaker Tournament, at Worcester, Mass.)
Boston College’s Jerry York is the most successful coach in college hockey history, having amassed 1,108 career victories. He has earned wins against 70 different college hockey programs.
One team York has never defeated, though? Quinnipiac.
Rand Pecknold, himself with with 549 wins, has kept BC out of the win column in all four meetings to date. Quinnipiac is 3-0-1 all-time against BC, including a win in the 2016 national semifinal game.
Still, that won’t be enough to make Quinnipiac the favorite in this game. BC has a slight money line edge in this neutral site tilt.
No. 18 Northeastern (-420) vs. Holy Cross (+300)
(Icebreaker Tournament, at Worcester, Mass)
Both teams in this matchup feature first-year head coaches with Northeastern’s Jerry Keefe and Holy Cross’s Bill Riga. But just at the matchup itself, these rookie head coaches possess significant differences.
Keefe takes over for Jim Madigan, a coach whom he worked up for nearly a decade. Keefe has basically built this program with his own recruiting skills. This, if anything, is Keefe’s chance to put his own stamp on an already successful program.
Riga arrives at Holy Cross after a long, successful audition for a top position while at Quinnipiac. He helped that staff reach two NCAA Tournament finals and seven ECAC regular-season crowns. Unlike Keefe, though, Riga wasn’t able to handpick this team and will have to teach some old dogs new tricks, or at least his style of play.
Major advantage to Northeastern.
St. Cloud State (+110) at Minnesota State (-115)
Both St. Cloud State and Minnesota State made major statements in their first weekend of play. The one difference to many may have been the opponent.
St. Cloud State routed first-year St. Thomas on Saturday, 12-2, before earning a defensive-based victory on Sunday, 2-0. The Huskies power play was what stood out. St. Cloud State went 8-for-13 with the man advantage, a decent NBA shooting percentage more than an NCAA ice hockey power play. It’s not conceivable that those type of numbers will continue, but no team wants to give up even three or four power-play goals.
Minnesota State faced a much more difficult Massachusetts team as the Minutemen raised their national title banner. Winning in different ways, Saturday was about defense and Sunday was a big-time comeback scoring the final six goals after trailing, 3-0, late in the second.
Of the five matchups on here, this is the most difficult to handicap. Perhaps home ice helps Minnesota State in this national semifinal rematch. But maybe goaltending dictates, in which case I give a slight edge to the Mavericks.
Minnesota Duluth (-160) vs. Bemidji State (+135)
This game serves as the actual season opener for both teams, though each played in relatively high-profile exhibition games a weekend ago.
Bemidji State played in front of nearly 12,000 fans at North Dakota and put forth a more-than-respectable effort, falling 2-1. Minnesota Duluth knocked off the now Cole Caufield-less Wisconsin, 4-2, in a game played in Chippewa Falls, Wis.
There is no doubt that Bemidji State was a darling of any college hockey bettors last season, posting a 16-10-3 overall record. But this season has the Beavers facing a schedule with significantly more integration of non-WCHA (er. .. CCHA) opponents. I expect Bemidji State to be competitive, but this first series could be difficult.
Arizona State (+190) at Denver (-170)
Might Arizona State be the pick of the week for an upset? It’s tough to tell, but I’ve got my reasons to believe in the Sun Devils.
For one, Arizona State was a very tough opponent for what many consider as a potential tough team this year, UMass Lowell. The Sun Devils continuously fought back after falling behind in both games, rallying for a 5-3 win on Saturday then coming back from two down to tie on Sunday before falling, 4-2.
There is definitely something to be said for Arizona State having played all of last season on the road.
But Denver has plenty of upside and hence why you make it a significant favorite. The Pioneers boast plenty of power up front and were coming on strong late in the latter part of the 2020-21 season. The concern is for this team to get started quick this year.
Still, if I were able to gamble on games, I’d be grabbing Arizona State if I could get a price over +160.