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First things first: Welcome aboard Bemidji’s Jack Hittinger to our WCHA coverage this year, and we bid adieu to Matt Wellens, who did a great job last year and will be missed. I cannot confirm that Matt got out because he lost to me in the picks. We’ll see if Jack can overtake me.

But enough jibber-jabber … there’s hockey this weekend!

The season officially gets underway Saturday, and three league teams already are in action, playing games that count! It’s not necessarily ideal, especially for Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State, who are playing for conference points. How important are the points? At the end of last season, Tech missed home ice by a single point and got bounced out in the first round. Lake Superior lost the tiebreaker for the league’s final playoff spot, and its coach got fired.

On to the picks:

Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State

Shane: Given the situation, coach Mel Pearson’s veteran, experienced Huskies have the edge against the Lakers and new coach Damon Whitten, who is still just getting to know his team. In fact, he probably knows more about Tech, with whom he was an assistant coach the last four years. Lake Superior did get off to a hot start a year ago, and they split four games with the Huskies, so I’ll call a split. Michigan Tech 4-1, Lake Superior State 4-2

Jack: Just about the only known with Lake Superior State is they have a new coach and return Alex Globke. Everything else is a crapshoot, including their goaltending situation. None of the four goalies listed on Lake State’s roster have any collegiate playing time. That could spell trouble for the Lakers. I’d call it a sweep, but maybe the Lakers can steal a high-scoring tie at home. Michigan Tech 5-2, 4-4 tie

Michigan at Ferris State

Shane: These teams are ranked eighth and ninth in the nation, respectively, and, a year ago tied in Ann Arbor (with the Wolverines winning in a shootout). The rink should be rocking in Big Rapids Saturday night. The Bulldogs were 16-1-1 at home last season, and, with C.J. Motte back between the pipes, I like their chances to win a close, low-scoring game. Bulldogs 2, Wolverines 1

Jack: You basically said everything I was going to say about this game. Ferris is tough to beat at home and I think I read somewhere that the game sold out 10 days ago. Still, I’ll zag and call Michigan the winner just to make it fun — with CJ’s brother Tyler Motte scoring the game-winner in overtime for the team in blue. Michigan 2, Ferris State 1