It's that time again. Time to look at this weekend's college hockey schedule and to pick who will win.
I was still in Atlanta, covering the WNBA champion Lynx, so I missed opening weekend. But this is almost as good. Opening weekend in WCHA. And there are three conference series. So let's start with those:
No. 14 Gophers at No. 9 Minnesota Duluth at Amsoil Arena: The Bulldogs were NCAA champions last season. The Gophers missed the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. They played four times last season and evert game was close.
The final tally was 1-1-2 with two 2-2 overtime ties. The 'Dogs had trouble beating Kent Patterson, who only gave up two goals in each of the first three games. In the memorable fourth game, Mike Connolly scored five goals as UMD won 6-4. Was it a breakthrough against Patterson or an aberration?
Mike Connolly but Jack Connolly, no relation, is back to center UMD's top line. The Gophers may have more firepower this season. It's hard to tell despite the U's 9-0 and 6-0 sweep of Sacred Heart. Last season the 'Dogs were still getting used to their new rink, the Amsoil, which didn't open 'til late December. Should be more of an edge this season. Bottom line: Split
Bemidji State at No. 7/8 Colorado College: CC beat the ybder-18 U.S. team 5-0 in an exhibitiion game last Saturday while the Beaders were giving then-No. 1 Miami all the Redhawks could handle. BSU won the first game 5-3, lost the second 3-2 on the road. This is another strong test for BSU and they will keep the score close but have to go with the team I picked to win the MacNaughton Cup ... CC sweeps
Wisconsin at Michigan Tech: Most knowledgeable hockey people expect Mel Pearson, the Huskies' new coach, to turn the program around. But how quickly? All of Tech's top scorers were freshmen and sophomores last season. Wisconsin is rebuilding. Lost as much or more talent to early departures than any other WCHA team in offseason. ... Split
No. 3 Denver at No. 1 Boston College on Fri., at No. 7/8 Boston University on Sat.: DU gets to show Hockey East how good the WCHA is. What a season opener for the Pioneers. DU beat the under-18 U.S. team 3-0 in an exhibition game last Friday. This is a bit of a step up. ... DU sweeps
No. 15.16 Nebraska Omaha vs. Alaska Anchorage on Fri., at Alaska Fairbanks on Sat. in Gold Rush tournament: Mavericks were1-1 last weekend, beating Mercyhurst 5-1, losing to Colgate 4-3. Expect more of the same. ... UNO loses first game, wins second.
St. Cloud State at Northern Michigan: NMU split with Wisconsin last weekend, winning 3-2 in overtime, then losing by same score. The Huskies beat Alaska Fairbanks 4-1, lost to Alaska Anchorage 4-3 in overtime. ... Split
UMass Lowell at Minnesota State: The Mavs won 1-0 over RPI, then lost 4-1 to the Engineers on their opening weekend. The visitors have a new coach in Norm Bazin and are coming off a 3-3 exhibition tie with New Brunswick. ... MSU sweeps
Maine at No. 6 North Dakota:The Fighting Sioux should be ready for Maine, which beat them 7-3, 4-2 early last season in Orono.North Dakota is also coming off a 6-2 home loss to Boston College. in the Ice Breaker tournament. The players probably had a tough week. The Black Bears split last weekend, losing to Merrimack 2-1 before beating Northeastern 6-3. ... UND sweeps