This may be Thanksgiving weekend, but it's a busy time for college hockey. So I'm especially grateful that Jerry, an independent sales rep, took the time to pick college games with me.
He describes himself as a big college hockey fan. He watched four WCHA series last weekend. And he has a lot of opinions as do I.
To set up this weekend, here is an introduction from Jerry:
Following a weekend when only one of the top 20 teams nationally was upset and a weekend in the WCHA that concluded with five of the eight games ending in overtime, you might just get fooled again if you think outcomes are becoming predictable.
The premier games this weekend are undoubtedly the match-ups between a couple of arbitrary top 10 foes, specifically:
#3 New Hampshire at #2 Denver on Saturday night and #7 North Dakota at #6 Notre Dame
New Hampshire also plays at #14 Colorado College on Friday night. The WCHA features three series between teams fighting for positioning, the highest ranked of the bunch in the WCHA standings is St Cloud, tied for fourth place with Colorado College and North Dakota.
As always, may the best team win and here’s who I believe are the best teams on this particular weekend:
Minnesota State (3-5-2, 1-5-0) vs Wisconsin (1-5-2, 1-3-2)
Jerry says: Both teams’ lone conference victory has come against a team dressed in maroon and gold. Both teams are struggling. The Blue Ox should be revitalized coming off a bye week coupled with the excitement of this past week’s announcement of newly signed recruits. Coach Hastings is hoping it will be enough to make them forget about the sweeps at the hands of the Pioneers and the StC Huskies. The Blue Ox are showing improvement. ... WI wants/needs the victories against a team they believe they can beat if they had their full roster and fewer distractions. The Badgers are being tortured by bad luck. They lost another player, D Eddie Wittchow, due to a cut that caused the player to faint! Red victories may be possible in January at the rematch in Mankato, but not this weekend. Time for Mankato to bring the brooms to the Kohl. Pick: MSUM SWEEPS in an undisciplined series.
Roman says: The Mavericks had a bye last weekend but, before that, they, lost two one-goal games to Denver. Sophomore forward J.P. Lafontaine has three goals and four assists in his last four games. The Mavs have been outscored 11-6 in the opening period but have outscored foes 14-11 in the third. ... The Badgers are 17-4-1, including seven wins in a row, vs. MSU Mankato at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin's penalty kill was nine for 10 against the Gophers last weekend, and kept the U off the scoreboard on two five-minute man advantages. Junior forward Michael Mersch leads the team in goals with six. Sophomore goalie Landon Peterson stopped 41 shots in the Badgers' 2-2 tie with Minnesota last Friday. Pick: SPLIT
Alaska Anchorage (2-3-3, 0-2-2) vs Bemidji State (2-5-1, 1-4-1)
Jerry says: Two more teams with low outside expectations. The Sea Wolves come off a bye weekend while BSU comes off a frustrating sweep at the hands of the MTU Huskies, both in OT. AA has had its moments so far this year, but yet no conference victories. BSU got its victory against the same team they seem to always beat…UNO! No loses to the Red Bulls in the last 12 games anyway. Coach Shyiak seems to keep things interesting. ... Coach Serratore promises a full 60-minute effort. Bemidji has a draft pick. With all that talent, discipline and the home-ice advantage, the Beavers win on Friday night. AA seems to do better on Saturday nights so AA will continue this trend and wins on Saturday night. Pick: SPLIT
Roman says: Jerry, you don't get bonus points for picking which night a team wins when there is a split. ... The Seapups have had two bye weekends in last three weeks, so they want to play and hit somebody. The Beavers swept UAA 2-1, 5-4 in Anchorage last March. Seapups are 1-0-3 on Saturdays, which is also sophomore goalie Rob Gunderson's record. ... BSU is coming off two OT losses to Michigan Tech at home and, in one of those led 4-1. Beavers are 0-5-4 in nine OT goals in Sanford Center. Ben Kinne leads BSU in scoring with two goals and five assists. Pick: Beavers SWEEP
#12 St Cloud State (6-4-0, 4-2-0) vs University of Minnesota, Duluth (2-6-2, 0-4-2)
Jerry says: So far this year, I have been losing a great many hypothetical chips on the Dawgs! I thought I knew exactly who I thought they were after the NDame series, but they have become somewhat disappointing since then. The sweep by UNO was a shocker! Now, after three weekends earning only two points, you have to wonder if the porch is their best stop! ... St Cloud, on the other hand, has done better than expected even in the absence of key players. Perhaps some thought St Cloud was a lesser team after losing to New Hampshire. Now part of a three-way tie for fourth in the WCHA after a very tough opening schedule, the Huskies are out to prove home-ice shouldn't even be a consideration. It should be theirs to lose. With the skating talent about even, Dowd/LeBlanc vs Seidel/Cameranesi, the edge might be given to StC in goal (what happened to Crandall?) and its defense. But UMD blocks a lot of shots! The deciding factor may be realized by the challenge between PK and PP and how many times the Dawgs go to the box. If the Dawgs continue their undisciplined ways, this is a series for the other hounds to lose. But, as I said, “may be”. The on-ice factor probably will be: How mad are the Dawgs? No doubt their record does not reflect their capabilities or season expectations. Luckily, Dawgs are finally at home in the friendly dawg house. This is a weekend the Dawgs must make a statement and they do. They get off the porch and play up to their coaches, fans, and their own expectations. And I am down so far with those hypothetical chips, I need a good hit! Pick: UMD SWEEPS
Roman says: The Huskies have two big scorers. Drew LeBlanc (5-9-14) and Nic Dowd (6-8-14) are tied for second in points in the WCHA in overall games. The Huskies are averaging 3.60 goals per game, second in the conference. SCSU goalie Ryan Faragher has a 2.29 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. ... The 'Dogs were 3-0-1 vs. the Huskies in Amsoil Arena two seasons ago, but took only one point in a March series in St. Cloud last March. Senior wing Mike Seidel (7-5-12) has a point in every game but one. He has four power play goals. UMD averages 20.6 minutes in penalties per game, most in the nation, and has been outscored 9-4 in the third period. Pick: SPLIT.
#4 Minnesota (7-2-2, 4-2-2) vs Vermont (2-5-2, 2-5-2)
Jerry says: Minnesota returns the favor and actually travels east to the Catamounts lair. Not very many Gopher fans, players or coaches will forget last year’s early season Sunday matinee episode ending in an undeniably embarrassing loss for the home team (recap: MN took what was thought to be a commanding lead at 3-1 early in the second, then gave up four unanswered goals, including the GW 5th goal on 25 shots. New Hampshire won 5-4.). With only two draft picks on this year’s roster that has 19 returning players, Vermont certainly will be the undercat in this predator vs prey contest. These first nonconference games of the season for the Cats pit a middle of the pack HE [Hockey East] team vs a preseason favorite WCHA team. With the Gophers typically having an off night each weekend, Vermont has a chance to pick up one game on its home ice, especially since the M/G’s tendency is to split on the road. Too bad a team just can’t win a hockey game on talent alone! I believe cats have nine lives. They will get their second this weekend. Pick: SPLIT
Roman says: The Gophers have swept only one opponent this season, that was Michigan State opening weekend. The U ranks first in the WCHA on the power play at .250 and the penalty kill at .882. And freshman goalie Adam Wilcox is doing his job; he has a 1.55 gaa to lead the conference. Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad have six goals apiece to lead the team. This is the Gophers' first trip to Burlington, Vt. ... The Catamounts are coming off a 3-1 loss at UMass on Tuesday. They are 53rd of 59 Division I teams in scoring offense, averaging 1.78 goals per game -- just ahead of Wisconsin and Canisius, two other U opponents, who are 54th and 57th. Catamounts have killsedoff 13 power plays in row, and 28 of last 31. Junior forward Chris McCarthy (4-3-7) leads the team in goals and points, nobody else has more than two goals. There are two Minnesotans on the roster, junior forward Anthony DeCenzo of Hibbing and sophomore defenseman Blake Doerring of Chanhassen. Pick: Gophers SWEEP
#7 North Dakota (5-3-2, 3-1-2) vs #6 Notre Dame (8-3-0, 5-1-0)
Jerry says: NDame’s early season success, especially this past weekend’s dominating sweep over highly regarded Michigan, is sending a strong and loud message to the world…Irish play hockey too! NDakota is the Irish’s USC hockey counterpart this weekend. National title hopes and implications are at stake in both sports. NDame is loaded with hockey household name talent, including 12 draft picks and especially with Mario Lucia back and scoring in his first series. This year, with a record of 2-1 against other WCHA teams, namely UNO and UMD, NDame has the confidence and the advantage of home ice. Their confidence, however, may be impacted by their familiarity with the NDakota program. Not only have several of the players played together on the national teams but the two teams have met in various tournaments over the past several years (’10. ’11; NDakota holds the slight edge recently: 1-0-2). NDakota also rosters 12 draft picks and a solid upper class. While NDame may have one or two Hobey Baker and All-American candidates, NDakota’s strength will be their teamwork and depth of role players. NDakota’s first line seems to be juggled continuously with the exception of the faceoff king, Corban Knight, at center. Look for two great games decided late by a goal. Speed and finesse will be intensely displayed at both ends of the ice for 60:00. Young players should watch and learn! North Dakota wins on Friday night as NDakota’s defense and neutral zone control frustrates the Irish. Perhaps playing before a half-empty house on Saturday night while the Irish fight for BCS supremecy, NDakota takes the finale as well. Pick: North Dakota SWEEPS
Roman says: This is the first UND visit to Notre Dame since 1980-81, the all-time series between the two teams is tied at 16-16-3. North Dakota has been outshot in five consecutive games. Danny Kristo has a team-high 12 points and has at least one point in seven of the eight games he has played. ...The Irish swept Michigan 3-1, 4-1 last weekend. They are tied for second in the CCHA. Junior goalie Steven Summerhays has been super. He is 7-3-0 with a 1.51 gaa and a .939 save mark. Junior forward Anders Lee of Edina (5-4-9) leads Notre Dame in goals and points. The Irish are second in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 1.64 goals per game. And they have outscored other teams 13-3 in the third period. Mario Lucia, Don's son, missed first nine games of season with broken leg but returned for Michigan. He has size and gives Irish another scoring threat. Pick: Irish SWEEP
Alabama-Huntsville (1-10-1) vs #15 Nebraska-Omaha (6-3-1, 4-1-1)
Jerry says: There is no reason why the Red Bulls of Omaha shouldn’t sweep this series, and regardless of what happened last year, the Red Bulls prevail this year. Coach Blais won’t let last year’s miracle repeat! Ala-H did tie MSUM and beat Lake Superior earlier this year, but its 10 loses so far tell the story. Plus, UNO is on a roll, coming off two consecutive sweep weekends, following their usual debacle against their nemesis, the Beavers of Bemidji State. Interesting fact about UNO’ roster: they have the tallest (6’1.27”) team in the NCAA and one of the heaviest (195.5lbs)! Pick: UNO SWEEPS
Roman says: The Chargers are on the road for the sixth consecutive weekend, such is life as a Division I independent. The broke a 10 game winless streak last Friday by beating Lake Superior State 2-1, then lost 4-0 the next night. UAB had only two wins last season, but one was 3-1 over Omaha on Dec. 2. ... Omaha is 8-2-2 against the Chargers. The Mavs are holding opponents to 21.73 shots per game, third fewest behind Quinnipiac and the Gophers (21.73). Omaha is on a four-game winning streak and has five power-play goals in the past three games. Junior forward Ryan Walters of Rosemount leads UNO in scoring with 11 points. Pick: UNO SWEEPS
#3 New Hampshire (8-1-1, 6-1-1) vs #14 Colorado College (7-5-0, 4-2-0) on Friday
Jerry says: The Tigers were on a roll until last weekend against Denver. New Hampshire is simply on a roll, and the vehicle is defense, especially goaltending! Shutouts are now measured as a streak. Record books are being scoured to find out just how good they are! Both teams have scorers, and as CC’s Rylan Schwartz showed in the dustup at the end of the Friday night’s game against DU, a little physicality, too! NH has already dispatched StC while CC lost to another HE team, Mass-L. While the home ice advantage may be claimed by CC, NH is at least a goal better. Pick: NH
Roman says: Six CC players already have 10 or more points. Among them is senior captain Williams Rapuzzi (6-8-14). Junior defenseman Eamonn McDermott (1-10-11) leads WCHA blue-liners in assists. Junior forward Archie Skabeck of Hopkins (4-6-10) has doubled his point total from last season already. And senior D Mike Bovin has five goals in the past six games. The TIgers are 4-3 in one-goal games. ... New Hampshire has one of the top goalies in the country in Casey DeSmith. He has a 1.19 gaa and a .961 save percntage, both second nationally. He had three shutouts in a row before beating Boston U. 3-1 on Sunday. He has four shutouts total. Pick: New Hampshire
Yale (3-2-1, 2-2-0) vs #14 Colorado College (7-5-0, 4-2-0) on Saturday
Jerry says: CC Tigers are back on the prowl on Saturday night against the Bulldogs. Ol’ Eli will be howling in pain. CC vents its offensive rage against an over-matched opponent. The good news is Yale plays a disciplined game. Now if they can just get some shots! CC by three goals. Pick: CC
Roman says: Yale's goalie Jeff Malcom is right behind New Hampshire's in save percentage at .949 and he has a 1.50 gaa. Junior forward Kenny Agostino is the Bulldogs leading scorer (4-4-8). Three players have six points. Yale senior captain Andrew Miller has 95 assists in 110 games in his career. Pick: Yale
Yale (3-2-1, 2-2-0) vs #2 Denver (9-1-0, 7-1-0) on Friday
Jerry says: Yale gets to open up their Rocky Mountain trip against the winningest (best) team in the WCHA. The only tougher team on its schedule is Boston College! Yale may be the underdog and could catch the Pioneers off guard, but doubtful. Coach Gwozdecky won’t let the bow ties of Yale intimidate him and his classy wardrobe. This GW could be scored in the first 20 minutes. Too much talent in the trail blazer’s canteen for Yale. Don’t expect an upset! Pick: DU
Roman says: Nick Shore (5-11-16) of Denver is fourth in the nation in points. And DU is the nation's highest scoring team, averaging 4.50 goals per game. The Pios are 6-0-0 all-time vs. Yale, but the last time they met was in 1996. Pick: DU
#3 New Hampshire (8-1-1, 6-1-1) vs #2 Denver (9-1-0, 7-1-0) on Saturday
Jerry says: Big game! Playoffs start tonight! If NH is a goal better than CC and if DU just swept CC in two games in which DU dominated CC except for 15 minutes of the Friday night's third period, then it only makes sense that DU beats NH. Sense, yes, but hockey sense? Hmmmmm. This appears to be a very tight game but can the Wildcats go on the far west road trip and stop Shore and LaLeggia and Knowlton? Odds are not in their favor! The Wildcat streak ends! DU improves their post season seeding! Pick: DU
Roman says: The Wildcats are off to their best start since the 1968-69 season. Junior forward Kevin Goumas (3-10-13) and senior forward Austin Block (8-2-10) are the team's top scorers. New Hampshire has killed 35 of 37 penalties, so it has given up only two power plays this season while scoring two short-handed goals. ... DU is 9-3-0 vs. New Hampshire all-time, 5-0-0 in Denver. In the past three Saturdays, Chris Knowlton of the Pioneers has seven goals and three assists. He has eight goals total and 13 points. Sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia (5-7-12) is scoring, too. And Denver has three capable goalies; junior Sam Brittain, maybe the best, is 4-1-0 with a 2.01 gaa. Pick: DU