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There is one game on the schedule for this week. Since it’s a game involving Northern Michigan, this week’s picks blog also provides an early Christmas present to Wildcats fans — who love to love me.

Paula’s picks

Last week: 7-5-0 (.583)
Season to date: 64-44-14 (.582)

This week, it’s all or nothing. Watch the game end tied.

This week

It’s the last game involving a CCHA team until Thursday, Dec. 29. The game begins at 7:35 p.m. tonight in Marquette.

MTU at NMU

The Huskies (9-8-1) are no longer the doormat of the WCHA, having improved significantly this season under first-year head coach Mel Pearson (whom Michigan misses, I think). Their nine wins are seven more than they earned in all of 2010-11 — in fact, one more win than these MTU seniors have seen in their entire careers in Houghton. Last weekend, the Huskies split with Minnesota, beating the Gophers in overtime 3-2 Friday before dropping Saturday’s game 6-2. Junior Milos Gordic (7-2–9) leads MTU in goal scoring and senior Josh Robinson (2.65 GAA, .916 SV%) has played most of MTU’s game. Robinson had 34 saves in each game against Minnesota.

Last weekend, the Wildcats split with Lake Superior State in ways similar to how the Huskies fared against the Gophers: 2-1 win Friday, 6-3 loss Saturday. Sophomore Stephan Vigier (9-2–11), one of two Wildcats with nine markers on the year, had the game-winning goal late in the third period Friday. Sophomore Jared Coreau (2.27, .919) had 37 saves in the win, and he replaced senior Reid Ellingson (2.40, .922) in Saturday’s loss after Ellingson’s third goal on 12 shots in the first period, the last two coming 13 seconds apart.

Pick: The Wildcats are 63-48-13 all-time against the Huskies, but MTU is 4-2-2 in the last eight games. Last season, the teams split this series evenly: 1-1-1. MTU won 4-3 in OT Oct. 8, the teams tied 4-4 Oct. 12 and NMU won 6-2 Dec. 17. NMU 4-3

Players of the week

I usually draw attention to them in my column, but there’s no column this week.

Rookie of the week: Michigan’s Alex Guptill, who had a goal and two assists in UM’s win and tie against Michigan State last weekend.

Offensive player of the week: Western Michigan’s Dane Walters, who recorded his first career hat trick in WMU’s 6-1 win over Bowling Green Saturday. He also had an assist in each game of the sweep.

Defenseman of the week Miami’s Steven Spinell, who had an assist in Miami’s split with Ohio State but was also a blocking machine — five in the set, including two in the 3-2 OT loss on Saturday — and was instrumental on a PK that was 10-for-11 in the series.

Goaltender of the week Lake Superior State’s Kevin Kapalka, who had 44 saves in the Lakers’ 6-3 win over the Wildcats Saturday and 17 stops in Friday’s 2-1 loss.

My ballot

Another tidbit usually tucked into the weekly column.

1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Minnesota
3. Boston College
4. Ohio State
5. Boston University
6. Western Michigan
7. Colorado College
8. Notre Dame
9. Merrimack
10. Michigan State
11. Ferris State
12. Lake Superior State
13. Northern Michigan
14. Colgate
15. Denver
16. Union
17. Cornell
18. Miami
19. Massachusetts-Lowell
20. Air Force

Merry, merry

For the first time in many years, scheduling prevents me from traveling to Florida to spend Christmas with my parents and the rest of my family. My mother — who is 77 and spends days and days baking holiday breads and hundreds of dozens of cookies from scratch — sent a package that arrived yesterday containing a homemade dose of love. I had one of these cutouts with coffee early this morning before writing this and was instantly transported back 42 years to our small, tidy kitchen on Wilbert Drive in North Syracuse, N.Y., where I began to learn to make them myself at the age of five, my mother’s hands cupping mine on each end of a child-sized rolling pin.

Dolly’s cut-out cookies

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
half tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter
2 eggs
4 tsp. milk (1 tbs. plus 1 tsp.)
1 tsp vanilla

  • Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

  • Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Add milk.

  • Mix dry and moist ingredients together until smooth.

  • Divide into workable amounts and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. The dough will be really gooey before you refrigerate it, really hard after refrigeration.

  • Preheat oven to 375.

  • Roll a small amount of dough one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated.

  • Cut into festive shapes. Mom always prefers bells and other rounded shapes, as they are less likely to get too crisp around the edges. Place on ungreased baking sheets.

  • Brush with beaten egg whites and decorate with colored sugar before baking.

  • Bake five to 10 minutes and watch carefully; these can burn quickly. They should not brown at the edges.

    Make sure your rolling pin is cold and that the work surface is floured. I cut the flour with powdered sugar so that I’m not adding too much flour to the dough. Work quickly, because the dough warms quickly. These are not as good if you cut them more thickly and try to frost them. I always kick up the nutmeg a notch, too, but my mom — Dolly — does not.

    The dough freezes well after it’s cooled in the fridge if it’s wrapped really, really tightly in plastic. Thaw it in the refrigerator before using. I also frequently double this recipe when I make it, but that makes a lot of cookies.

    One recommendation

    If you like holiday music and jazz, check out the Eddie Higgins Trio’s “Christmas Songs.” It’s lovely without being overly cheesy and loungy. I’m listening to it while I finish this up.

    Next week

    I’ll have a brief wrap-up on Monday — obviously, very brief — with some news from a couple of old friends of the CCHA. Next week I’ll also blog to look back at the first half of the season.

    • Mark W.

      Have a wonderful holiday Paula.  Thanks for all the writing you do: the insight, prognostications, analysis, humor, and…recipes.

      Go ‘Cats!

      • Paula Weston

        You’re very sweet, Mark — thank you, and have a great holiday yourself.  

        Seriously, the cookies are worth it.  And you’re welcome. 

    • Davyd83

      Michigan Tech won 4 games last year. The seniors had 15 wins under their belts coming in to this season, going 4-30-4. 5-30-1 and 6-25-7.

      • Paula Weston

        I’m dopey.  I meant conference wins.  

    • PA Wildcat

      I like thecorrect pick but were is my cookie recipe

      • Paula Weston

        Not sure what happened to the end of the blog …

      • Looks like something got cut off in a follow-up edit. Everything should be in there now.