After this weekend, 10 of the 12 WCHA teams will have played 14 of their 28 conference games, including the Gophers.
Might be time for some kind of midseason review.
But I digress or maybe it is regress.
The purpose of this post is to predict this weekend's games involving WCHA teams. Eleven teams are in action. Only St. Cloud State is off.
For competition, I looked to my left at the press box at Mariucci Arena and challenged Minnesota Daily reporter Dane Mizutani. This is his first semester covering the Gophers hockey team, my ninth although I'm not in school anymore, of course. What a mismatch!
He was grateful for the opportunity. Here is Dane's intro:
Thanks for having me on Roman. I’m truly honored to be a part of the Roman Empire. Hopefully this week’s picks will show that I’ve picked up a few things from sitting next to you in the Mariucci Arena press box this season. Honestly, my success in your pick-em challenge is reflective of how good of a teacher you are Mr. Augostoviz. [Sorry Dane, one too many o's in my name.]
I’m going for a perfect record this week. That’s right, unbeaten in my first ever appearance. Talk about expectations.
[If you get ever series right, it will certainly be your last. Don't want anyone that good. But I'm not worried.]
Here we go:
MICHIGAN TECH at MINNESOTA
Dane: The Gophers seem to be back on track after sweeping Minnesota State last weekend. They eked out two wins at Mariucci Arena against the Mavericks and continued their somewhat sloppy play in the process. Still they managed four crucial WCHA points and are 8-1-0 at home this season. They will host Michigan Tech, a team that has shown improvement this year under new head coach Mel Pearson, but was just swept by No. 1 UMD. They showed some fight, but I think they continue the losing trend at Mariucci Arena. Trust me, I’m not a homer, I’m from Chicago, but I still think the … GOPHERS SWEEP
Roman: Senior Josh Robinson of Tech is playing well and he has to be hot for Tech. If he saves 35-40 shots, if the Huskies stay out of the penalty box, and if they can slow down the Gophers top line, they will end the Gophers' seven game winning streak over them. That's too many ifs. ... GOPHERS SWEEP
MINNESOTA DULUTH at WISCONSIN
Dane: Remember when UMD was swept by the Gophers at home? I think they tried to forget, and if so, they’ve done a great job. That seems like an eternity ago and the Bulldogs have not lost a game since. They are playing like the best hockey team in the nation right now and are led by senior Jack Connolly, who has 25 points on the season. Wisconsin has struggled this season, but still has an All-American defenseman in Justin Schultz who should help stymie the Bulldogs’ attack. Despite UMD’s recent dominance, it’s never easy to win on the road, especially in Madison. I think Wisconsin fans in the Kohl Center will “Jump Around” and the series will end in a … SPLIT
Roman: It's hard to say anything bad among the Bulldogs. That are rolling, 10-0-2 in their last 12 games. And who is hotter than J.T. Brown with three goals and 13 assists in a nine-game points streak. Maybe Jack Connolly, 14-game points streak, at least one goal in seven games. Or maybe Kenny Reiter, 1.73 goals-against, .938 save pct. in last 12 games. ... But Badgers remember last UMD visit in Nov. 2010 when they won two OT games 6-5 and 3-2. UW rested last weekend. And players know their coach is one win away from his 200th at the school. Badgers also have two of highest scorers in nation in forward Mark Zengerle who has a 15-game points streak and D-man Justin Schultz. So I should say split but to avoid copying Dane, let's go with ... UMD SWEEP
DENVER at BEMIDJI STATE
Dane: I’m not going to lie, I don’t know a lot about Bemidji State hockey. I’m from a suburb of Chicago, and believe it or not, Bemidji doesn’t get a lot of pub in those newspapers. That being said, I know they split a series with North Dakota and played UMD tough at home this year. Denver, on the other hand, is a name I’ve heard of and I know it normally is near the top of the WCHA. This year, however, they have underachieved. Still they weren’t ranked No. 4 to start the year by accident. They have talent and it should be enough to earn a … SPLIT
Roman: Ha, Dane. Got you on this one. I was there for the ground-breaking of BSU's rink and for a series there last season. Me and Tom Serratore -- the BSU coach not his nephew Tom, the Gophers winger -- are pals. Well, maybe acquaintances. But the harsh reality is the Beavers are 0-8-0 all-time against DU. But the Pios are down to their third goalie, Finn Juho Olkinuora, because of injuries. Hmmm ... PIOS SWEEP
NEBRASKA OMAHA at NORTH DAKOTA
Dane: It looked grim as North Dakota stumbled out of the gates this season, but like every year, it has slowly climbed its way back into the WCHA standings. Brock Nelson has been playing out his mind lately and was recently named WCHA offensive player of the week. The Fighting Sioux are on a four-game win streak and Nelson has 11 points in those games. Nebraska Omaha is coming of a split series with Alabama Huntsville, a team that entered last weekend winless. There’s a good chance the Mavericks will be questioning themselves, after the Friday night debacle last weekend, and North Dakota will continue its win streak … NORTH DAKOTA SWEEPS
Roman: Biggest matchup of weekend if you look at the standings. UNO is in third place, UND is tied for fourth. The red Mavs have taken 40 shots or more eight times this season and have not given up a power play goal in four games. Dean Blais, UNO's coach, had the same job at North Dakota once. He will have his players fired up. ... The Fighting Sioux -- until they drop that name next month -- have won four in a row since being shut out by Bemidji State on Nov. 20. ... SPLIT
ALASKA ANCHORAGE at COLORADO COLLEGE
Dane: This might be the easiest pick of the weekend. Alaska Anchorage has struggled immensely this season and Colorado College is fresh off a win against in-state rival Denver. Colorado College possess the best offense in the WCHA, scoring at a clip of 4.33 goals per game, the Seawolves have the worst. CC has also played two less conference games than Alaska Anchorage this season, but still has a seven more points in the WCHA. That’s not by mistake. They’re better. They’re at home. It’s a no brainer … CC SWEEPS
Roman: Easy? Wins never come easy in the WCHA. Haven't you been listening to The Don like I have. Play back those recordings. Last season these two teams met six times and both teams won three of those games. That's even. ... The Tigers' power play is at 27 percent, third best nationally. But the downer for the Tigers is that Jaden Schwartz, arguably CC's best forward, will leave after Friday's game for Team Canada's selection camp for the World Junior Championships. That puts doubt in my mind if CC can sweep a pesky foe. I say no ... SPLIT
ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE AT MINNESOTA STATE
Roman: The purple Mavs played the Gophers tough last weekend before losing 4-2 and 3-2. That extended their winless streak (0-6-1) to seven games, but they are 5-0-1 in their last six meetings with Alabama Huntsville. UAH, the lone independent in Division I hockey, split with the red Mavs in Nashville playing in the Predators' rink. They have a good goalie in Clarke Saunders and the Chargers lead the all-time series with MSU Mankato 19-16-4. This weekend ... MAVS WIN AND TIE
Dane didn't pick this game. But still has a chance to do so. I'll sent him a text message. Students are always up at midnight studying, right? We have four differences so far.