Paula’s picks: Feb. 11, 2011

We’re getting down to it and the league is becoming less predictable – for me at least, apparently.

Last week: 2-7-1 (.250)
Season to date: 87-60-21 (.580)

With three weekends left in the regular season, every series this week is bound to be hotly contested. Every team plays this weekend; Ferris State welcomes Alabama-Huntsville for a nonconference series. All games are Friday-Saturday. Start times are noted.

I’m covering Northern Michigan at Michigan State on Friday and helping out at Yost on Saturday, where Bob Miller will be covering Ohio State at Michigan. As always, feel free to abuse me via Twitter: @paulacweston.

BGSU at ND. In their last four games, the Falcons are 1-2-1 – and that constitutes a hot streak for BG this season, especially considering the extra point captured against the steadiest team in the nation, Western Michigan, in Kalamazoo last weekend. The Fighting Irish were too busy playing outside at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka, Ind., to play games that counted last weekend. (j/k, as the kids say) In fact, ND had last weekend off but the Irish held their annual outdoor practice Feb. 4, interacting with their adoring local public and spreading the good news about ND hockey. Prior to playing outside, the Irish split a weekend in Oxford, tying the RedHawks twice with each team capturing an extra shootout point. Notre Dame is 6-2-2 against Bowling Green in the last 10 meetings, but these teams split a pair earlier this season (Nov. 5-6) in BG, a weekend in which the Irish allowed three goals per game. ND trails first-place Miami by one point, with series in hand over the RedHawks. Friday 7:35 p.m. Saturday 7:05 p.m. ND 3-2, 3-2.

NMU at MSU. Last weekend, the Wildcats dropped two in a row and watched as the Lakers hoisted the Cappo Cup for the second straight season. In fact, NMU has lost four consecutive games and the Wildcats have not manifested their usual second-half bounce, having gone 2-6-0 in CCHA play since the start of the calendar year – and averaging a goal per game in those six losses. The Spartans are 2-2-0 in their last four games, having split with Ohio State on the road last weekend. MSU is 18-8-2 all-time against NMU in Munn Arena, but the overall games are pretty evenly split between the Wildcats and Spartans – 14-12-1 in favor of NMU – since Walt Kyle became NMU’s head coach. The teams split a pair of games in Marquette last season. Northern has an 8-5-0 edge over Michigan State in the last three seasons, including four CCHA playoff victories, the most recent coming at the end of the 2008-09 season. Friday 7:05 p.m. Saturday 5:05 p.m. MSU 4-2, NMU 4-3.

OSU at UM. Here’s an underappreciated hockey rivalry, to be sure. The loathing the students on these teams feel for each other’s schools because of the gridiron rivalry certainly spills over into every encounter on the ice. In Yost, it’s especially fun and the fans are occasionally – that is to say, rarely – creative in non-profane ways when the Buckeyes are in town. But I digress. The Buckeyes split a pair at home against Michigan State last weekend, while the Wolverines were schooled by the RedHawks just down the road in Oxford. That latter tidbit is very bad news for Ohio State. Very. Bad. News. There is no one the Wolverines would rather take out their frustrations on than the Buckeyes following a weekend that saw UM knocked to third in the standings by the team that was then in third place itself. UM is now two points behind Miami in league standings and – like the Irish – the Wolverines have two games in hand over the RedHawks. The Buckeyes are in that funky middle mix with a bunch of other CCHA teams. The teams are 3-3-0 in their last six games, all of which were played in Columbus. The last time they met in Yost (Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2008), Michigan swept. 7:35 p.m. both nights. UM 3-2, 4-2.

UAF at LSSU. Sixth-place Alaska is two points ahead of Lake Superior, and the Lakers are tied with the Buckeyes for seventh place. LSSU has two games in hand over UAF, making this series even more interesting. What else makes this series interesting? The respective second-halves each team is having. The Nanooks are 3-6-1 in league play since the beginning of January; the Lakers are 3-2-3, grinding it out for every point they can. Last weekend, Alaska dropped two at home to Ferris State, while Lake Superior swept NMU at home and successfully defended the Cappo Cup. Last season, the Nanooks were 3-1-0 against the Lakers, splitting the series in Sault Ste. Marie. This is another hot goalie match-up: UAF’s Scott Greenham (2.02 GAA, .925 SV%), one of the steadiest goaltenders in the country, faces LSSU’s Kevin Kapalka (2.22, .922), this week’s CCHA Goaltender of the Week – but a goalie still seeking consistency. 7:05 p.m. both nights. LSSU 4-3, UAF 3-2.

WMU at Miami. It’s certain that Western Michigan’s head coach Jeff Blashill will get a warm welcome from the crowd in Steve Cady Arena – before the assembled turn all of their thoughts and energies on crushing the Broncos. At the start of the season, even with the turnover in coaching in Kalamazoo, few could have predicted how much this series would matter. The first-place RedHawks are exactly six points ahead of the fourth-place Broncos, and WMU has two games in hand on Miami. WMU also faces Notre Dame and Michigan to end the season, so the pressure on the Broncos’ 13-game unbeaten streak (8-0-5) is enormous. Last weekend, the RedHawks realized their full potential with a two-game sweep of Michigan – including a 3-0 shutout – in the comfort of Steve Cady Arena. The Broncos tied and defeated visiting Bowling Green and now head to a place where they’ve never won; WMU is 0-4-0 in Steve Cady Arena. Miami went 3-0-1 against Western last season and is 7-0-1 against the Broncos in the last three seasons. I don’t know which streak to pick against: WMU’s current unbeaten streak or Miami’s clear domination of the Broncos. I’ll split the difference – and I can’t believe I’m picking against either of these teams. 7:35 p.m. both nights. WMU 4-2, Miami 5-2.

UAH at FSU. Last weekend, the Bulldogs traveled to Fairbanks and captured six points from the Nanooks – no easy thing to do, and it was the first time that FSU swept UAF since the 2002-03 season. And it was the first victory for the Bulldogs in Fairbanks in 10 games. Senior goaltender Pat Nagle needs just one win to move into second place on FSU’s all-time career wins list with 42 victories (which is 15 more wins than current WMU head coach Jeff Blashill had in that position, if you’re keeping track at home). Nagle had 60 saves last weekend against the Nanooks, as FSU won 2-1 and 3-2. The Chargers snapped a five-game losing streak with a gritty, improbable win against Nebraska-Omaha last Saturday to split the road series with the Mavericks. Sebastian Geoffrion had the game-winner in OT and with his 58 saves, Clarke Saunders was USCHO’s first star this week. That win was one of four this season for UAH (4-24-2), the team without a home. Matt Baxter (9-11-2) and Keenan Desmet (8-10-18) lead the Chargers in scoring. FSU is 5-2-0 against UAH all-time, and leads 4-0-0 at home against the Chargers. 7:05 p.m. both nights. FSU 3-2, 4-2.

  • nice

    Good article Paula.

    • someonewhoknowshockey

      You would like you would actually do research when you put your garbage together….Might want to look up stats before putting your crap down. Cody Reichard has a 1.5 gaa in the last two months and only given up more than 2 goals once since the middle of december…but yea a Western team without their top goal scorer and a limited offense to begin with will put up 4 on a team with big game experience and hitting on all cylinders….good luck with that…look forward to reading more mistake filled crap next week….USCHO would do itself a service and find someone who actually knows the game to write…

      • Paula Weston

        Here’s the thing, anonymous “someonewhoknowshockey” who is taking issue with what I wrote in my picks Friday. I said I didn’t want to pick against either team. I’ve given Reichard props in much recent writing. The RedHawks are not — and I know this is a really difficult concept for you to grasp — are not invincible, and I respect Western Michigan’s unbeaten streak.

        Last night, Reichard allowed three goals in regulation and lost the shootout. Well, that’s one way to look at it. Another is that the determined and hot Broncos scored three goals in regulation and Jerry Kuhn won the shootout, extending that unbeaten streak that I so respect to 14 games. I picked WMU to win 4-2 last night. I was factoring in an emotional aspect to their play; it had nothing to do with Miami. I don’t think I look like an idiot this morning for that pick.

        I’ve also picked the RedHawks to pretty much crush the Broncos in tonight’s second game. I don’t hear any WMU fans jumping me about that, because they’re realistic and know that it can happen. This could go another way, too — Western picks up at least a point, as they have for the last 14 games. I don’t know. As the coaches say, that’s why they play the games.

        I don’t know why you come to the interwebs and display such anger and misery. Perhaps this is a way for you to vent because there are other aspects of your life that cause you anger and misery. If so, then I’m sincerely glad that I can provide a safe target for you to spout. In any event, I thank you for continuing to read my “mistake filled [sic] crap” and I genuinely hope that you find some joy in your weekend.

  • Guest

    Miami isn’t 7-0-1 against WMU in the last 3 seasons, they split a series earlier this year…

    • uh oh…

      Whoops, don’t critique too much!

    • Joe

      Does the last 3 seasons include the current season?

      • Paula Weston

        I certainly meant the three previous seasons. I’m an idiot. When I get another minute — off to the doctor — I’ll clarify.

  • Hey, it’s easy to get a lot of these stats confused..heck WMU has had including tonight 10 ties, 5 being shoot-outs they won on the road, Kuhn is posting a 1.99 overall and 1.92 in conference and is 1.42 in regulation and 1.85 if you include shootouts..since December.

    • Fight on Western!

      Why can’t we ever get a recap of a WMU game? They haven’t lost in 14 games and just came back in Oxford to win tonight. The Broncos are legit!

      • get a clue

        actually its a tie officially…must be a west coast michigan thing…keep celebrating ties…one day you might be relevant again….

  • laughable

    someone needs to get over herself lol….your pathetic rant is again filled with mistakes, but we all have become acustome to that…keep up your bad work.

  • Anonymous

    I realize that SCSU isn’t doing the best so far this year, and aren’t expected to do much, but it is worth mentioning that senior Drew LeBlanc is one point shy of Zucker with 2 goals 8 assists in 6 games.

  • SUEH8TER

    WHAT ELSE HAVE WE LEARNED??  THAT SUE FANS WILL ALWAYS BE IGNORANT.  NO MATTER WHAT THE TOPIC, BUT ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO HOCKEY.  IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT YOU SEE, THEY HAVE NO HISTORY WHEN IT COMES TO HOCKEY, LIKE IN MINNESOTA.  JUST GO TO THE MINNESOTA HOCKEY HUB AND SEE THE LIST OF THE 100 GREATEST MINNESOTA  HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY PLAYERS.  THE LIST WILL BLOW YOU AWAY.  YOU COULD MAKE A LIST OF THE 100 GREATEST CANADIANS TO PLAY IN NODAK.  THAT TOO WOULD BE IMPRESSIVE.  BUT, NO HOME GROWN TALENT TO SPEAK OF!!

    • rodenth8ter

      Let’s see – the last time the rodents won a national championship it was because of a great family of players by the name of POTULNY.  Oh yeah THEY ARE FROM NORTH DAKOTA.   Get your facts before you open your mouth, because I will continue to shut you up.

      • SUEH8TER

        GOOD LUCK SHUTTING ME UP.   I AM TALKING HUNDREDS OF HOCKEY PLAYERS, NOT JUST A HANDFUL.  AND BESIDES, WE ARE THANKFUL HERE IN MINNESOTA THAT THE POTULNY’S USED THEIR HEADS AND CAME TO A REAL UNIVERSITY.  AND YOU TOOLS ARE WELCOME FOR SANDELIN, KRAMPOTICH, KLAVITER, CASEY, OSHIE, PARISE JUST TO NAME A FEW.  AND IF I AM CORRECT, WHICH I KNOW I AM BECAUSE I HAVE MY FACTS STRAIGHT,  YOU HAVE NOT WON SINCE 2000.  AT LEAST MICKEY KRUMP WON A NATIONAL TITLE OUT THERE (1987).  YOU ARE WELCOME!

        • Fan

          Oshie transfered to Warroad to live with his dad.  He’s from California ya dink!!!   Get your facts strait

  • RIT over RPI
    Holy Cross over Brown
    Holy Cross over Clarkson
    Robert Morris over Army (Fri)
    Army over Robert Morris (Sat)
    Sacred Heart over Niagara (Fri)
    Niagara over Sacred Heart (Sat)
    Wisconsin over Mercyhurst (Fri/Sat)
    Air Force over UConn (Fri/Sat)

    AIC over Canisius (Fri/Sat)

  • sean

    ok i did this once before and didnt fare to badly so ill try it again

    RPI@RIT -the tiger has woken up from the early season slump and with madalora in goal r even better and with RPI not exactly being a top team this year im going with (and as an army fan i hate to do this) RIT 5-2 and thats pushing it with RPI’s inability to score goals

    Brown@Holy Cross-after witnessing an unbelievable tie game against army and then getting shut out against AIC i agree i dont think brown finds a win here 2-1 holy cross

    Clarkson@Holy Cross-also agreed holy cross settles for a split with the ecac but im going 4-2 clarkson                                                                                               

    Army@Robert Morris-as much as it pains me to do this i dont see much luck for army this weekend the first game i can see a 2-2 tie but the second i predict a 3-1 robert morris victory (trying not to be biased)

    Niagara@Sacred Heart-with niagara not having a great season and with alot of low scoring/close games they’ve lost and with alot of momentum/uplift sacred hearts shocking win over #8 yale(and thats putting it lightly)gave them i can see sacred heart taking the first game 2-1 but niagara rebounds in the second for a 3-1 win

    UCONN@Air Force-well first off UCONN sucks on the road and Air Force is undefeated at home so far this season and i can see that trend continuing but only for the first game Air Force wins the first game 4-3 and UCONN winning the second 3-2

    Mercyhurst@Wisconsin-with mercyhurst leading the AHA and Wisconsin being middle of the pack in the WCHA and having 1 win in its last 6 games i can see a split here first game 4-3 mercyhurst then 3-2 wisconsin

    Canisius@AIC-with AIC coming off an impressive 3-0 shutout of brown and surprisingly high in the standings for them and actually their last 2 wins have been shutouts and Canisus not exactly doing a whole lot this year nd not winning since november 6th im going out on a limb here and seeing an AIC sweep of 2-1 nd 3-1
    –hopefully i can beat u—sean the army fan