There’s no RFO/B5Q Podcast this week as myself and Bucky’s Fifth Quarter‘s Andy Johnson are taking a break to spend Thanksgiving with our families, but we wouldn’t leave you hanging. Here’s our predictions for this weekend’s set of games involving WCHA teams:
ALASKA ANCHORAGE (2-3-3, 0-2-2 WCHA) AT BEMIDJI STATE (2-5-1, 1-4-1 WCHA)
Andy: Bemidji has really been struggling since taking three points in Omaha a few weeks back. Since then, the Beavers have lost four straight, including a pair of overtime games at home last weekend against Michigan Tech. Jordan George is finally starting to put the puck in the net, though, which is huge for the confidence of this club.
Anchorage should be rested, as it’s played just four games in the past four weeks. The Seawolves have been able to snag a tie on Saturday night in their past two series after dropping the opener. I see that trend continuing this weekend with Bemidji picking up three points at home.
Matthew: You would have thought that that series at UNO would have been the perfect tonic for Bemidji, considering it hadn’t lost in Omaha since 2010 (and still hasn’t now).
I expected the Beavers to use that series as a springboard into its next handful of games, but BSU lost its next four games instead. Shows what I know, I guess.
Those two overtime losses at home to Tech last weekend were real kicks to the pants, though, and Tom Serratore’s club needs to overcome that pain quickly. The Beavers ought to do just that this weekend at home against a UAA team that isn’t very good, and least of all when it’s playing on the road.
I can see the Seawolves stealing a game, but I’m picking them to only come away with one point from the four on offer.
ST. CLOUD STATE (6-4-0, 4-2-0 WCHA) AT MINNESOTA DULUTH (2-6-2, 0-4-2 WCHA)
Andy: UMD is in full desperation mode as it hasn’t won a game since the Bulldogs travelled to South Bend, Ind. to face Notre Dame in the middle of October.
St. Cloud has played above expectations so far this season, and will finally see the return of offensive leader Ben Hanowski this weekend, who has been out with a concussion.
St. Cloud is the better team, and should get a boost from Hanowski; that said, Minnesota Duluth is in dire need of some points and I think they’ll get one. I’m going to call for a three point weekend for St. Cloud, but I could see this swinging in UMD’s favor very easily.
Matthew: You have to feel bad for Duluth. All but one (Wisconsin) of the Bulldogs’ opponents so far this season are in the top half of their leagues right now, and, like you alluded to, UMD’s winless since getting one over on the Irish on Oct. 18.
St. Cloud State is in sixth place in the WCHA right now, but the Huskies are a significantly better team than their current place in the league table suggests. That said, Duluth’s Amsoil Arena is a tough place for opponents to play in, and I’m taking the league’s biggest disappointment so far this season to get something this weekend. Split.
MINNESOTA STATE (3-5-2, 1-5-0 WCHA) AT WISCONSIN (1-5-2, 1-3-2 WCHA)
Andy: Continuing on the theme of desperate teams, we’ve got the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin has just one win on the season, and a closed-door team meeting was called earlier this week.
The Mavericks have had a rough start to the WCHA portion of their schedule, going just 1-5-0. That said, the three teams MSU has faced are arguably the best in the league to this point.
Despite Wisconsin’s adversity, they’ve got the more talented lineup—especially in goal—and are playing at the Kohl Center for just the second time this season. I see the Badgers sweeping this weekend.
Matthew: Little has gone right for the Badgers so far this season, you’re right, but I see Mike Eaves’ men in red and white getting back to winning ways this weekend.
UW’s only two games at home so far were against a Colorado College team that the Badgers are, on paper, better than, but the Tigers left Kohl Center with four points in tow. Wisconsin’s better than this weekend’s opponents, too, although I don’t see the hosts having the same sorts of issues that they had against CC three weeks ago.
I have a lot of time for MSU head coach Mike Hastings and his program, but sorry, fellas, it’s not happening this weekend. Wisconsin should sweep.
YALE (3-2-1, 2-2-0 ECAC) AND NEW HAMPSHIRE (8-1-1, 6-1-1 HOCKEY EAST) AT DENVER (9-1-0, 7-1-0 WCHA) AND COLORADO COLLEGE (7-5-0, 4-2-0 WCHA)
Andy: Nice little cross-country tournament-style action as Yale and New Hampshire will take on CC and Denver in the Colorado schools’ home rinks.
New Hampshire looks like they’re near the cream of the crop in Hockey East this season, and UNH has swept its only WCHA competition to date (St. Cloud State) this season. Yale looks like a pretty average club to this point.
Meanwhile, Denver is the top dog in the WCHA to this point in the season, and they swept CC last weekend in a home-and-home rivalry series.
I’ve got both WCHA schools winning their game against Yale this weekend, but the UNH matchups are interesting ones to handicap. I think Denver and UNH tie, while the Wildcats get the better of CC.
Matthew: I’m with you on all counts here. Denver is unquestionably the class of the WCHA so far this season, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’re able to do against No. 3 UNH in their battle of the country’s No. 2 team against its third-ranked club.
Colorado College was swept in its home-and-home series with Gold Pan trophy rival DU last week, but CC won its last four games before that. Neither of those opponents – Bemidji State and Wisconsin before that – are world-beaters, though, and both Yale and UNH will prove to be stiffer competition than the Tigers have faced so far. I have faith in CC to defend the realm, though, as it were, and I like the Tigers to pick up a win over the Elis one night after likely getting dropped by UNH.
NORTH DAKOTA (5-3-2, 3-1-2 WCHA) AT NOTRE DAME (8-3-0, 5-1-0)
Andy: You have to love non-conference series like these. North Dakota is in the upper echelon of the WCHA this season, but I’m still not sure how good UND can be. It appears to have found its starting goaltender, though, in Alabama Huntsville transfer Clarke Saunders.
Notre Dame is hot right now, as it went into Yost Arena and swept then-No. 13 Michigan last weekend. The Irish have also got one of their top freshmen back as Mario Lucia made his season debut against the Wolverines.
Both of these are very good clubs, and this series has ‘split’ written all over it. I expect that these should be some fun games to follow this weekend.
Matthew: UND hasn’t been entirely convincing so far this season, you’re right, but Dave Hakstol’s men won’t be scared going into South Bend this weekend. You look at their opposition this month – No. 10 Boston University at home, at St. Cloud State, UMD at home and now sixth-ranked Notre Dame away – and you feel that North Dakota’s been preparing for a while for this series.
The Irish looked superb last weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., and they’ll be buzzing as they welcome Notre Dame to northern Indiana. I like North Dakota to pick up a win this week, though, and it may even pick up two if Notre Dame experiences an admittedly unlikely hangover from its success at Yost.
It shouldn’t, though, and the Irish and UND should each pick up a win from the two-game set.
ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE (1-10-1, D-1 INDEPENDENT) AT NEBRASKA OMAHA (6-3-1, 4-1-1 WCHA)
Andy: Well, let me put it this way. UAH is not a very good team, and UNO is. I could bore you with some stats but this is an easy sweep prediction.
Matthew: There’s no question that UNO is a better team than UAH is, and the Mavericks’ current four-game winning streak only proves UNO’s current supremacy that little bit more.
I’m not prepared to go nuts about this series, though, as the Mavericks have split both of its last two series with the Chargers, in Nashville last season and in Omaha the year before that. We were talking before about Saunders, and he was a big reason why UNO hasn’t quite mastered UAH in recent years, but he wasn’t the one scoring Huntsville’s goals.
Don’t get me wrong, though – UAH has only scored 14 goals in its 12 games so far, and there isn’t much reason to think that the Chargers might get yet another split with UNO this time around. I’m taking UNO to sweep and pick up the Mavericks’ fifth and sixth wins in a row, but I very much doubt either game will be a walkover for UNO.
MINNESOTA (7-2-2, 4-2-2 WCHA) AT VERMONT (2-5-2, 2-5-2 HOCKEY EAST)
Andy: The Catamounts surprised the Gophers last season as they stole a Saturday night win at Mariucci after being thumped the night before.
This year’s series is being played in Vermont, but I expect the same result. Most are calling for an easy Minnesota sweep this weekend, as they are very talented, and Vermont is not. That said, the Gophers have had trouble closing out sweeps this year, especially on the road. Split.
Matthew: I don’t really think there’s such a thing as an easy split anymore – An easy win, yes, but not two games in a row. Taking that into account, despite Minnesota being a much better team than Vermont, I don’t see it all going the Gophers’ way this weekend.
The Catamounts haven’t really blown anyone away this season, and UWM’s two home wins so far against Providence and Northeastern were solid but not overwhelming. However, Kevin Sneedon will have his Vermont club up for this weekend’s series – Minnesota’s first-ever trip to Gutterson Fieldhouse – and I expect the Catamounts to earn a split in this two-game set.