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OK NCHC fans, we’re ready for the kickoff of season two, and that means your USCHO columnists, myself and Matthew Semisch, will once again engage in our season-long picks race. On the line is a friendly wager for a six-pack of craft brew. I won last year, beating Matthew by five games.

The rules: you have to pick the winner on the correct night, no picking a split and getting it right because it happens on different nights. First game listed in the pick is the first game of the series. Shootout wins are ties. Wins count as a point, ties as a half point.

All teams are in action this weekend, so let’s get to it!

Friday, Oct. 10

Minnesota vs. Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: I think this will be a close game, but Minnesota looks strong this year, and since UMD is going with a new goalie is trying to replace its top scorer, I’ll go with the Gophers. Minnesota 4-2
Matthew: I have a reasonably good feeling about UMD for this season, but I think they’ll run into issues against the Gophers. Minnesota 3-1

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 10-11

Miami vs Bowling Green home-and-home (at BG Friday, at Miami Sunday)
Candace: I like to think Miami might carry some momentum from its second half surge last year. Miami 3-2, 4-1
Matthew: Bowling Green should be a top-half team in the WCHA this season, but with Miami as keen on showing that the last regular season was a fluke, I expect the RedHawks to come out in this series with all guns blazing. Miami 5-2, 4-1

Western Michigan at Canisius
Candace: Western Michigan got off to a slow start last year, and lost a few key players. However, while I don’t underestimate Atlantic Hockey teams, I think the Broncos should sweep. Western Michigan 2-1, 3-1
Matthew: This is something of a housewarming series for Canisius with its new home rink, and the Golden Griffins will be hungry to send the Broncos home empty-handed. Western will likely be the better team, but they’ve both lost key pieces from last season and it’s tough to predict just how different the two teams are now, so I’m taking the safe option and going with a split. Canisius 3-2, Western Michigan 4-1

Alabama-Huntsville at Colorado College
Candace: A series between two squads that really struggled offensively last year. I like the Tigers in the first series under Mike Haviland. Colorado College 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: It can’t get a lot worse for Alabama-Huntsville than last season’s 2-35-1 effort was, and the Chargers will be better this time around. CC has a lot of questions of its own to answer, but I think the Haviland era will officially open this weekend with a couple of wins at home. Colorado College 4-2, 4-2

Colgate at St. Cloud State
Candace: This is a barn-burner of a series. Colgate is expected to win the ECAC, and St. Cloud to content the first night. This will probably be a split, but I’ll be a conference homer since I’m not sure which night a team will win. St. Cloud 3-2, 4-2
Matthew: Colgate is a lot of people’s favorite to win the ECAC this season, and I’m curious to see how they’ll fare this weekend in St. Cloud. I think they’ll win one of the two games in this series, but who knows which one that will be? Colgate 3-1, St. Cloud State 5-2

North Dakota vs Bemidji State home-and-home (at UND Friday, at BSU Saturday)
Candace: North Dakota has started slowly in the Hakstol era, and is missing its top scorer from last season, but I like UND to get it done. North Dakota 3-2, 4-1
Matthew: UND looked good in the final 40 minutes of its preseason exhibition on Sunday, and although UND tends to start seasons slow, I think they’ll pick up a sweep here. North Dakota 3-0, 3-2

Minnesota State at Nebraska Omaha
Candace: While Nebraska-Omaha has a strong freshmen group, I think it might take a while for them to get used to the collegiate level, and UNO lost four of its top six scorers from last season. Minnesota State 3-1, 3-2
Matthew: UNO got worked 4-0 at home on Monday by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and a big improvement is going to be needed if the red Mavericks are to do well against the purple Mavericks of MSU this weekend. This is such a young UNO team this season that I don’t know if they’ll be able to pick up more than one win against MSU at home. Minnesota State 3-1, Nebraska-Omaha 2-1