Hey, it’s the last weekend of January!
That means there’s (basically) a month left in the college hockey season. As per usual, absolutely nothing has been decided in the WCHA, and likely won’t until the season’s last weekend (again).
There are only two conference series this weekend, but both are extremely meaningful to the standings. The plethora of nonconference games will also be intriguing — it’s the last real chance for the WCHA to gain some respect nationally (and the last chance for the bubble teams to move themselves up in the Pairwise).
I’m excited for this weekend, so let’s get to the picks!
Michigan Tech at Bowling Green
Shane: This should be a great series between two of the top teams in conference. Certainly, a lot of eyes down Mankato way will be scoreboard watching this one. A good offense, a good defense, a good home team, a good road team … it all makes for a tough call. I think they’ll split, but which team wins which day? Shot in the dark: Falcons 3-2, Huskies 4-2
Jack: Michigan Tech was off last weekend, but the quirk of the schedule has them playing both Minnesota State and BGSU in consecutive series. The Huskies aquitted themselves well against the Mavericks and I could very well see them getting three more points here. They’re a god road team. However, BG is excellent at home so I think this is a split as well. Just to be contrary, I’ll go with the opposite, Shane: Huskies 3-2, Falcons 4-2
Alabama Huntsville at Alaska Anchorage
Shane: Interesting series with a couple of teams that could be road weary heading into Anchorage. The Seawolves are coming off a two-weekend trip south, and the Chargers are making the long trek north. This also feels like a split. Chargers 2-1, Seawolves 4-1
Jack: Both teams have really deserved better fates than their respective records. The Chargers need the points more, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to take all four points here. Seawolves 3-2, Chargers 3-1
Minnesota Duluth at Northern Michigan
Shane: WCHA teams haven’t fared all that well against NCHC teams this season, but the Wildcats are at home and have played everybody tough this season, thanks to solid goaltending and defensive play. Surprisingly the Bulldogs haven’t scored much lately, so this sets up for at least one Northern win. (Actually, I’d call two ties, if that were allowed.) Wildcats 2-1, Bulldogs 5-2
Jack: I don’t think the Bulldogs are quite the team they were cracked up to be at the start of the season. They are ranked in the top 5 to start the season, but I just don’t see that from them. The Wildcats, on the other hand, have been consistently okay: They won’t overpower you offensively but they’ll defend as well as anybody and force you to play their style. That usually means a pair of low-scoring games, and I don’t see that changing the way UMD has played lately. I’ll pick a split too, but I think NMU could steal a sweep (or three points). Bulldogs 2-1, Wildcats 2-1
Alaska at Wisconsin
Shane: The Nanooks head back on the road after a week off but go to Madison where the Badgers continue to struggle for a second year in a row. Bucky will be angry after getting kicked by Minnesota last weekend, and it will take it out on the visiting team from another conference. But I suspect Alaska will leave Wisconsin happy. Badgers 6-3, Nanooks 2-1
Jack: Fun fact: Wisconsin is 1-0-3 against the WCHA. Alaska, meanwhile, hasn’t played out of the conference since the two Alaska tournaments at the start of the year. The Nanooks have been disappointing, to be sure, but Wisconsin is in such disarray that the Badgers have barely looked like a team that belongs on the same ice as most of their Division I opponents right now. I’ll call as Nanooks sweep. Nanooks 4-2, 3-1
Minnesota State and Bemidji State in North Star College Cup
Shane: This should be a fun weekend in St. Paul with four teams that are playing some pretty good hockey right now. The Mavericks have a tough matchup with No. 3 St. Cloud State to start, while the Beavers take on red-hot Minnesota. Can the WCHA rivals avoid playing each other on Sunday? Why not? Huskies 5, Mavericks 4; Beavers 3, Gophers 2 … Mavericks 4, Gophers 2; Huskies 5, Beavers 2
Jack: Once again, the Beavers seem to be the odd team out in this tournament — of all the coverage I’ve seen in the Minnesota media, much of it has been focused on the Gophers and the Huskies without mentioning the defending champions (the Beavers). A few outlets have mentioned the defending runners-up (the Mavericks) but not many. That’s why I kind of think both teams will once again defy the pundits and play for the title again. After all, the Mavs need some redemption after their early-season 0-fer against St. Cloud. Mavericks 5, Huskies 1; Beavers 4, Gophers 2 … Huskies 6, Gophers 2; Mavericks 3, Beavers 2
Last week: Shane 4-1-1, Jack 2-3-1. Overall: Shane 82-48-26, Jack 71-59-26