Thursday, July 7, 2011

WCHA to Lose 5 Teams after 2012-13 season

North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, Duluth, and Omaha will be leaving the WCHA and forming a new league along with Miami (OH) and possibly Notre Dame and Western Michigan, according to the Grand Forks Herald. This will leave both leagues with five teams.

It it thought that the leagues will combine to form one league. It is unclear what this league will be named. However, it is thought that it will take on either the WCHA or CCHA name.

WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod said no contingency plan was in place. CCHA Commissioner Fred Pletsch was unavailable for comment.

Check out the USCHO story for more information.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Ten Plans to Establish Hockey Conference for 2013-14 Season...

The Big Ten announced today that the six member schools that have D-I hockey will be seeking to start the Big Ten hockey Conference to begin play for the 2013-14 hockey season. The Presidents/Chancellors of each school will need to approve it, but it will not be a problem.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in a statement: “Today’s announcement from the Big Ten conference has been anticipated for some time now, and this will obviously have an impact on the WCHA. But change creates opportunity, too. The timeline of this Association spans seven decades and has included expansion and contraction on numerous occasions, but the success of this organization has remained constant. The commitment to excellence by our member institutions will not waver and working together we will push forward to assure our future remains bright.”

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi: “It’s worth celebrating that a BCS conference institution in Penn State has joined the great landscape of college hockey. We are also pleased that the Big Ten has embraced this move by recommending that men’s hockey be added as an official conference sport. At the same time there are some mixed emotions for us, as Minnesota is an original and proud member of the WCHA. We would depart with fond memories, and the sincere belief that many of the great WCHA rivalries that the Gophers have been a part of will continue through non-conference play.”

Minnesota coach Don Lucia: “We are excited about the possibility of a Big Ten hockey conference beginning with the 2013–14 season. Our rivalry with Wisconsin is well documented and it will be nice to play Michigan and Michigan State more than once a year. It will also be exciting to create new rivalries with Ohio State and Penn State. Right now we enjoy playing in the WCHA and will work with the league and WCHA schools to maintain established and traditional rivalries to ensure a competitive and entertaining non-conference schedule.”

Each member school of the BTHC will play 20 league games (10 home, 10 road) and will play 14 non-conference games plus whatever tournaments they decide to participate in. It sounds like the Huskies will probably keep a two game series with the Gophers on the schedule each year. If they don't, expect them to have a two year on, two year off schedule with them.

Personally, I am not a fan of this decision by these schools. The WCHA and CCHA are two very strong conferences, and now they're screwing those up to created this one conference for the Big Ten schools. I don't think this is a good move for the game, but what do I know? I've only been following the sports for the last 14 years...

We did see a preview this last weekend of what the Final Five will be like without the Badgers and Gophers there. It was pretty dull, until the Sioux played on Friday and Saturday. Expect the league to go back to the original format of the Final Five for the 2014 FF. However, I would not be entirely surprised if they drop the third place game as that was an unpopluar game with the coached.

Hopefully, this will not have a negative impact on the member schools of the WCHA. Also, I would hope that the league would not change the location of the Final Five. Even without the Gophers and Badgers, we still were able to draw at 13,000 per game. Yes, you could sell out the Ralph, but it still can't hold more than 11,500 for a game.

The only problem I could possibly see running into is if the BTHC wants to use the X and outbids the WCHA for it. I don't see that happening as I think they're going to want to want to have something more centrally located for their tournament. I could see something in Chicago, Madison, or even Detroit.

Only time will really tell us how this is all going to play out in the end. We'll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Final Five Picks, Championship Edition

We're here. It's officially the last day of the WCHA season. For me, it's a sad day. I look forward to the WCHA season every year, and it feels like it just got here. The good news is that we still have one more full weekend of games with the rest of the national tourney games, and we still have the Frozen Four.

Yesterday saw one boring game, Bemidji/Denver, and one great game CC/NoDak. The Beavers have a way of lulling you to sleep with their style. With that said, they did manage to outplay Denver most of the game and outshot them. Unfortunately for the Beavers, their season came to an end in a 6-2 loss.

The night game was spectacular. It was fast paced, full of great hits, and had one play that was probably the single greatest thing I've ever witnessed. Even Trupp picked the puck up, on his stick mind you, at between the far blue line and center ice and carried it all the way to the CC net, still on his stick, and took a shot. He missed the shot wide, but it was still an amazing play.

Take a look for yourself.

That game saw some lead changes and a wild third period. We were knotted at two after two. 6:41 into the period UND was whistled for a checking-from-behind. In my opinion, it was not a check-from-behind, but should've been called boarding. I digress... The game is still tied at two at this point and now CC has a power play for five minutes. Well, things didn't work out the way people thought they would. UND scored a shorthanded goal less than 2:00 into the penalty. CC was able to tie at three, though. Matt Frattin blasted the game winner into the net at 14:20 of the third, and the Sioux were able to hold on to win the game 4-3 and advance to the Championship Game.

I predicted both games correctly yesterday, and am now 151-125 on the season.

Denver vs. North Dakota, 7:07
We will actually see the top two seeded teams in the tournament face one another in tonight's game. Both teams are talented, but I feel the Sioux have the edge when it comes to physical play.

For Denver to win, they need to weather the Sioux storm in the first two periods, and somehow manage to come out of the first period or two with a lead. Unfortunately, Denver doesn't seem to show up offensively until the third period in a lot of games.

For the Sioux to win, they need to play their game and then hold on for the third. The Sioux have scoring differentials of +15, +31, and +28. If they can manage to go into the third with the lead, they should be fine.

This is such a fun game to try and predict. I'm going to go with my gut on this one, again. Sioux win 4-3 in OT.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Final Five Picks, Day Two

Day one of the Final Five is over, as are two games. I do not like this format for the tournament. It feels like it's going by too fast. Maybe today will even it out, but only having one game on Saturday is going to change the feel of it as well.

Anyway, we saw two games yesterday afternoon in downtown St. Paul. Game one saw the Beavers of Bemidji taking on the Bulldogs of Duluth. I'd be lying if I said it was a fun game to watch. Both teams played a defensive-type game which really slowed the pace of the game down. Shots on goal were 22-21 in favor of the Beavers.

Both Connolly's scored for the Dogs while Hunt, Read, and Walters scored for the Beavers. Shea Walter's goal at 6:12 of OT, on the power play, was his first of the season. Can you say timely goal? I think so.

The second game saw the Seawolves of Anchorage taking on the Tigers of Colorado College. This was just a boring game to watch. The Seawolves looked to control the game, but couldn't seem to find the back of the net. Shots on goal were 23-16 in favor of the Seawolves.

Rapuzzi, Hall, and Marciano (2) scored for the Tigers and Spender and Vidmar scored for the Seawolves. A three goal lead after 24:39 of play for the Tigers chased Chris Kamal from the Seawolves net. The Seawolves cut the lead to 3-1 with 5:03 left in the second, but then gave up the back breaking fourth goal with :18 left in the period. UAA added a SH goal with 1:01 left in the game.

Yesterday, I went 0-2 to push my record down to 149-125 for the season. I did pick a score correctly, just in the wrong direction... Again, we have only two games today.

Bemidji vs. Denver, 2:07
The Beavers will be riding high on an OT win against the Bulldogs yesterday, but will they be ready to take the Pioneers seriously? I think they will be. Bemidji had a sloppy first period yesterday, and the Dogs could've easily put them away. Sadly, I don't think Duluth took them as seriously as they should have. Bemidji is a hard-working, tough hockey team, and if you don't take them seriously, they'll lull you to sleep with tough defense and timely goals.

Denver, on the other hand, is the second place finisher in the WCHA. They aren't the best they've been, but they're a pretty good hockey team. George Gwozdecky is one of the best coaches in the league, and he'll have his team ready to take on Bemidji.

If the Beavers are looking to win this game, they need to score in the first two periods. After that, watch out. The Pioneers are a third period and on hockey team. they are -5 in goal differential in each of the first two periods and are +34 in the third period on.

Not that I've been right this week, but I'm going to go with Denver in this one. The Beavers less than 24 hours ago and will probably have some lead in their legs towards the end of the game. The Pioneers will be fresh and ready to go. I wouldn't expect a Gwozdecky coached team to take anyone lightly. Denver win 4-1.

Colorado College vs. North Dakota, 7:07
The Tigers will be feeling confident in their goaltending after the stellar job he did in thwarting the multiple high-quality scoring opportunities the Seawolves had yesterday, but I'm certain it won't be enough.

The Sioux will be ready to take the Tigers down. They have had an amazing season thus far, and are only getting stronger as it goes on. They had a winning percentage of over .700 in the first half and over an .800 in the second half. Oh, and they got Chay Genoway back from injury last weekend to boot.

I have to go with Sioux in this one. They are far and away the best team in this game, and league, and CC is going to start wearing down towards the end. Sioux win 5-3.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Final Five Picks, Day One

Well, it's an interesting field in the Final Five this year, to say the least. It did not go entirely as I predicted it would... The most surprising outcome of last weekend was the Gophers being swept by Alaska-Anchorage at Mariucci. Going to the series, the Gophers were 26-1 at Mariucci in the the first round of the playoffs. Their only loss came to the Seawolves in 2007.

The other teams that made it are: North Dakota, with a sweep over Tech; Denver, with a sweep over Mankato; Duluth, with a sweep over St. Cloud; Colorado College, won two of three against Wisconsin; Anchorage, with a sweep of the Gophers; and Bemidji, with a sweep at Omaha.

I'm only going to pick the games after it's been decided who's playing in them. So, today I will only be picking the Bemidji/Duluth game and the Anchorage/Colorado College game.

Bemidji vs. Duluth, 3:37
It took Duluth three overtimes on Saturday night, but they finally defeated SCSU by a final score of 3-2. Duluth looked good last weekend, but part of that was St. Cloud absolutely rolling over and dying. It was truly a pathetic effort...

The Beavers went on the road and were absolutely dominated by Omaha, but luck stayed with them during their sweep. The Beavers got timely scoring and tremendous goal tending to defeat the Mavericks.

I'm feeling Bemidji in this game because they bring it every night. The Bulldogs could take the night off thinking the Beavs aren't going to show up, but that would be a mistake. These games are so tough to pick, but I'm going to go with the Bulldogs to win this one 3-2.

Anchorage vs. Colorado College, 7:37
Honestly, this game bores me. Two out of state teams are playing tonight. I can't imagine the WCHA is happy about that, but what can you do... Anchorage did the unthinkable and went into Minnesota and swept. The Gophers couldn't hit the net, and they gave up tons of odd-man rushes and breakaways. To the Seawolves credit, they capitalized on them.

The Tigers had an absolute battle with Wisconsin. It was the only series to go three games, and CC trailed every game going into the third period.

Both teams are playing for their NCAA tourney lives, and need to win the Final Five to get in. My gut is telling me to pick CC, but Anchorage is playing well and they're 3-2 against CC this season. Based on the numbers, I'm going to pick the Seawolves to win this one 4-1.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SCSU's Lauridsen Sign's with Philly

SCSU'S Junior defenseman Oliver Lauridsen has opted to forego his Senior year of eligiblity by signing an entry-level contract with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.

This is a fairly significant loss for the Huskies next year as Oliver had finally come into his own this season. He had some rocky games in November, but has really been solid otherwise. He finished the season with 1 goal and 8 assists, and was right around a +8 (not sure where he ended up as I can't get on the stats site for SCSU). His numbers aren't stellar, but he's big and looks to be coachable. He will be missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WCHA Award Winners

Here are the regular season award winners as released by the WCHA this afternoon.

Player of the year: Matt Frattin, North Dakota
Rookie of the year: Jason Zucker, Denver
Student-athlete of the year: Chay Genoway, North Dakota
Defensive player of the year: Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
Coach of the year: Dean Blais, Omaha
Scoring champion: Matt Frattin, North Dakota
Goaltending champion: Aaron Dell, North Dakota

First team all-WCHA
F — Matt Frattin, North Dakota
F — Mike Connolly, Duluth
F — Jack Connolly, Duluth
D — Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
D — Chay Genoway, North Dakota
G — Aaron Dell, North Dakota

Second team all-WCHA
F — Justin Fontaine, Duluth
F — Drew Shore, Denver
F — Jason Zucker, Denver
D — Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
D — Matt Donovan, Denver
G –Kent Patterson, Minnesota

Third team all-WCHA
F — Jason Gregoire, North Dakota
F — Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
F — Drew LeBlanc, St. Cloud State
D — Kurt Davis, Mankato
D — Justin Faulk, Duluth
G –John Faulkner, Omaha

All rookie team
F — Jason Zucker, Denver
F — Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
F — J.T. Brown, Duluth
D — Justin Faulk, Duluth
D — David Makowski, Denver
G — Sam Brittain, Denver

WCHA First-Round Playoff Picks

The regular season has now come and gone. We're in the final two weeks of WCHA play and then we head to the NCAA tourney. As disappointing as it is to see the season coming to an end, this is what the teams play the regular season for and I'm excited to see what comes out of the playoffs.

Last weekend saw some teams jockeying for position, but the standings didn't really change at all. UAA swept Mankato and SCSU split with Denver, so UAA ended up tying the Huskies for points and winning the tie breaker, based on league wins, and end up getting the eight seed instead of the ninth. Everything else stayed the same.

Since the Huskies are my team, I'm going to spend some time on them this week. Sorry folks, but I feel I need to. SCSU was picked to finish 2nd or 3rd in the league, depending on the preseason poll, and they finished tied for 8th. I think we can all agree that they are the biggest disappointment this season. However, the bright spot is their finish.

Only one team had a better second half record than the Huskies and that was UND. The Huskies finished the second half of the season 8-5-3 in league play and 10-5-3 overall. When you compare that to a 3-8-1 league record and a 5-11-2 overall record in the first half, it was one heckuva turnaround for this team. The walked into Denver last Friday and took a game from the Pioneers, and they played a great game against the Pios on Saturday night as well. They got down by two goals in the third, but closed the lead to within one with plenty of time to tie it. They came about six inches to a foot of doing so, by the way.

I have been impressed the way this team has started coming together in the final month of the season. Unfortunately, it's going to be too little, too late to get them a spot in the NCAA tourney. They are currently 20th in the Pairwise rankings and will need to raise their RPI by about .200 points to get them into a position to win the comparisons against the six teams in front of them. Given the lack of games remaining I just don't see this happening. Their best bet to make it is to sweep Duluth and then go on to win the Final Five.

Given the way this team is playing right now it certainly is a possibility, but it's highly unlikely from an SCSU squad. I hate to say it, but SCSU has never been a post-season team. The won the Final Five in 2001 for the first and only time in school history, and have made it to the championship game multiple times since and have failed to win it again. Then again, you never know what your team can do. This team has already surprised me with its late season push, so maybe they're finally saving their best hockey for last.

Looking back to my preseason prediction, I didn't do so well. I only managed to predict three teams final standings correctly. I pick UND to win it and CC and UW in 6th and 7th, respectively. The most surprising team this season is easily Nebraska-Omaha, and the most disappointing is SCSU. Anchorage was also a pleasant surprise. They had a sub-.500 first half, but were over .500 in the second. That's a total reversal of UAA teams of old.

I went 6-6 last weekend and finished the regular season 142-117. That's not too shabby given the unpredictability of this league on a night-in, night-out basis. I did pick two scores correctly last weekend, too. I don't know how many of those I have for the season; it's probably around 10-12. Obviously, all 12 teams are playing each other this weekend. I'm going to do this by match-up instead of time this week. All Sunday games are if needed. I'll still give scores for all Sunday games should unexpected match-ups go to three games, so be sure to read where I have [team name] in 2 or 3 games.

12 Michigan Tech (2-24-2, 4-28-4) at 1 North Dakota (21-6-1, 26-8-3), Friday 7:37, Saturday/Sunday 7:07
The Huskies come into this game having been embarrassed on their home ice last weekend. They dropped both games by 6-1 and 11-2 scores. That is not the way you want your seniors to go out, but it happened. Tech is now on a five game losing streak.

The Sioux are, obviously, coming off a couple big wins...scoring margin wise anyway. They're currently on a nine game unbeaten streak.

UND leads the overall series 142-89-8, and they don't look to lose any games here. This should be an easy sweep for the Sioux. They dominate the Huskies in all aspects of the game, and it doesn't look like the Huskies will put up too much of fight for the Sioux. I think MTU is going to put its best foot forward, but the Sioux are so talented that is just won't matter.

Sioux advance to the Final Five in two games.
6-0 Friday
6-2 Saturday
(7-1 Sunday, should it amazingly go to three games)

11 Mankato (8-16-4, 14-16-4) at 2 Denver (17-8-3, 21-10-5), Friday 8:37, Saturday/Sunday 8:07
Mankato is coming off an embarrassing sweep at home by Alaska-Anchorage, of all teams. Again, that's not the way you want your seniors to go out. Mankato is on a three game losing streak entering the playoffs, and don't look to be playing well at all.

The Pioneers are coming off a tough home split vs. the Huskies last weekend. They've split all five of their series since the start of February, and don't appear to playing their best hockey.

The Pios were able to take three of four points from the Mavericks when they met in mid-January, and own a 22-13-6 lead on Mankato all-time. This could be an interesting series. Yes, Denver leads the Mavs in all statistical categories, but neither team is playing great hockey right now. With that said, the talent level on Denver is far and above the level of Mankato, and that will be the difference maker in the series.

Pioneers advance to the Final Five in two games.
4-1 Friday
3-2 Saturday
(3-2 Sunday, should Mankato steal a game)

10 Bemidji (8-15-5, 12-17-5) at 3 Nebraska-Omaha (17-9-2, 21-13-2), Friday 7:37, Saturday/Sunday 7:07
The Beavers are coming off of a disappointing weekend against the Gophers. They managed to squeak out a tie on a horrible penalty called on the Gophers in the closing minute of the game on Friday, and then blew a two goal lead on Saturday and lost in OT. The Beavers are on a four game winless streak.

Omaha went into Duluth last weekend and were man-handled on Friday night before bouncing back to win on Saturday night. UNO has won seven of their last ten games, but are 3-3 in their last six.

This is probably the one match-up this UNO team did not want and the only match-up Bemidji wanted. UNO holds a 5-4-1 record all-time against the Beavers, but the Beavers have dominated the Mavs this year going 3-0-1. I don't know what it is about this Bemidji team vs. this Maverick team, but something is wrong. These teams look to be fairly even statistically speaking. This could be a very interesting series. Will UNO finally figure it out against Bemidji?

Beavers advance to the Final Five in three games.
Bemidji wins Friday 3-1
UNO wins Saturday 3-1
Bemidji wins Sunday 4-1

9 St. Cloud (11-13-4, 15-16-5) at 4 Duluth (15-8-5, 20-9-6), Friday/Saturday/Sunday 7:07
The Huskies are coming off a well-played weekend at Denver where they split with the Pioneers. Prior to that they swept Wisconsin at St. Cloud in embarrassing fashion if you're a Badger fan. The Huskies are playing well right now, but started out the month horribly. They're 4-4-2 since the start of February.

Duluth is coming off a split with Omaha last weekend, and dropped three of four points at CC the prior week. Duluth is 3-4-3 in February and is not playing well right now.

For me, this is the match-up I wanted most. The Gophers don't lose at home in the playoffs, and we had no luck vs. CC earlier this season. Surprisingly, the Huskies lead the overall series against UMD 54-36-7, and are on a 4-0-2 run against the Dogs since Jan. '09. Things change though. Statistically, the teams look fairly even. The Dogs have three high scoring forwards, but the Huskies are putting some goals up now, too. Special teams will probably be the key in this one, and the Huskies special teams are playing well right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see Duluth take this in three, but I'm really impressed with this St. Cloud team right now.

Huskies advance to the Final Five in three games.
Huskies win Friday 3-1
Bulldogs win Saturday 4-2
Huskies win Sunday 3-2

8 Alaska-Anchorage (12-14-2, 14-17-3) at 5 Minnesota (13-10-5, 16-12-2), Friday/Saturday/Sunday 7:07
Anchorage is coming off an impressive sweep at Mankato last weekend. Prior to that they split with Alaska in the Governor's Cup. They're on a three game winning streak and are 6-4 since the start of February.

Minnesota struggled last weekend against Bemidji, but still managed to come away with three points from the series. They're currently on a seven game unbeaten streak and are 5-2-3 since the start of February.

I can't really say that this is an interesting match-up, but in some ways it actually is. This is a different UAA team than we're used to. They have the ability to win some games. Also, Anchorage is the only team to win a playoff game in the new Mariucci. The Gophers have a good record over the last month, but they've played Bemidji, Michigan Tech, Wisconsin, Denver, and Duluth. They were 1-2-1 against Denver and UMD and 4-0-2 against the bottom half. They got the wins they were supposed to, though. I can't see Anchorage taking a game. The Gophers are clutch at home in the playoffs. The Gophers hold a 50-17-7 all-time edge on the Seawolves.

Gophers advance to the Final Five in two games.
4-1 Friday
3-2 Saturday
(4-1 Sunday if Anchorage pulls of the (nearly) impossible once again)

7 Wisconsin (12-13-3, 20-14-4) at 6 Colorado College (13-13-2, 19-16-2), Friday 8:37, Saturday/Sunday 7:07
Wisconsin is coming off a split last weekend vs. CC. From what I understand, though, the Badgers played some of their best hockey. Friday probably would've ended in a tie had a Badger not taken a 5:00 major to end the game. The Badgers are 1-6-1 since the start of February.

CC is, obviously, also coming off a split last weekend. The finally got their first road win since sweeping St. Cloud in mid-December. The Tigers are 4-4-2 since the start of February.

This match-up intrigues me because these two teams are playing back-to-back series, and they're fairly evenly matched. Wisconsin is just terrible right now, and the Tigers appear to be holding their own. The Tigers are decent at home this season and the Badgers aren't the best on the road. I'm not sure what else to say about this one. The Badgers lost a lot last season and are having trouble putting it all back together, but they tend to do ok in the playoffs. UW does lead the overall series 107-60-9. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team come out of this one.

Tigers advance to the Final Five in three games.
CC wins Friday 4-2
UW wins Saturday 3-2
CC wins Sunday 3-2

That's it folks. Those are my final full weekend picks of the season. I'll still have picks next weekend, but they'll be a day at a time. I will, however, fill out a bracket before the tourney starts. Enjoy your games this weekend. I'll see you all back here next week. Go Huskies!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week Twenty-One Picks

Well, the final weekend of the season is here. This season has gone by incredibly fast, for me anyway. Yes, my Huskies haven't performed to the level that anyone has expected, but it isn't horribly surprising to me. Yes, I picked them in the top half of the standings, but I honestly felt as though they could go either way. Defensively, this is not a very good team, but they have picked it up recently.

SCSU is one of the hottest teams in the league since the Christmas break. Since they came back from break, the Huskies are 9-4-1. Really, they should be 11-3, but they blew TWO three goal leads where they lost one and tied one. Those points are absolutely huge to this team right now. Since those series, the Huskies have been playing with desperation...or something.

They went toe-to-toe with UND and had good chances to win both games. A late GTG by the Sioux on Friday night saw the Huskies lose a point there, and a fluke goal, deflected off a Husky stick, was the difference in the 3-2 loss to the Sioux on Saturday. The Huskies rebounded the following weekend and embarrassed the Badgers by 5-2 and 7-3 scores at the National Hockey Center. The last four games for the Huskies have been incredible.

It finally looks as though the defense has shored itself up and is not allowing the back-breaking chances they have been. The D is playing tough hockey, they're clearing the front of the net, and they're getting in lanes and blocking shots. It's been a pleasant surprise.

Last weekend against the Beavers, the Fighting Sioux clinched the MacNaughton Cup. Sunday's win against the Beavers clinched the 15th WCHA title for the Fighting Sioux. That's such an incredible number... Congrats to the Sioux and their fans on another title.

Let's talk playoff scenarios. The Sioux have clinched the top spot in the playoffs no matter what the outcome of this weekends games are, and Tech is stuck at the 12th spot no matter what. The Sioux would win a potential tie by virtue of league wins. If Denver swept and the Sioux were swept, UND would have 19 wins to their 18.

There are three teams fighting for second through fourth. Denver (35), Omaha (34) and Duluth (33). All three of these teams have clinched home ice. What we're waiting on is who they play.

Minnesota (28), CC (26), UW (25), and SCSU (24) are all in the hunt for the final two home playoff spots. One point this weekend will clinch home ice for the Gophers, and one win will clinch home ice for the Tigers. Wisconsin will need a sweep to clinch the final home ice spot, and the Huskies will have to sweep the Pioneers (at Denver) AND have Wisconsin win and tie against the Tigers.

Anchorage (22), Bemidji (20), and Mankato (20) are just looking to finish as high as they can. Bemidji is really the only team who could play spoiler this weekend as they host Minnesota. Anchorage and Mankato play one another.

I'm going to take a guess at the four teams fighting for the final two spots. I'm thinking it's going to be UMN, UW, CC, and SCSU. That would mean the Huskies would travel to the U, where they've never won in the playoffs, and CC would travel to UW. As I'm thinking about match-ups, it occurs to me that the best team the Beavers could play is Omaha as they're 3-0-1 against the Mavericks this season. I'm excited to see the final standings after the Husky/Pioneer game on Saturday night.

Let's get to the picks. Last week I went 8-4 and am now 138-111 on the season. We have all twelve teams playing in six conference series this weekend. Every series except the UND/MTU series has playoff implications.

UND @ MTU, Friday 6:07, Saturday 4:07
This series doesn't mean a whole lot for either team, but both teams want to set the precedent for next weekend. I don't see the Huskies having a chance against this team, however.
Sioux sweep 6-2, 5-0

CC @ UW, Friday/Saturday 7:07
This is a series has some major implications for the playoffs. It's the difference of home ice and playing on the road. CC needs two points this weekend to clinch, and the Badgers need four. CC hasn't won on the road since before the Christmas break, but Wisconsin is not a good team right now. Personally, I'd like to see a win and tie by the Badgers to give my Huskies a shot at home ice, but I'm feeling a split out of these two teams.
Split. UW wins Friday 4-3. CC wins Saturday 3-2

UNO @ UMD, Friday/Saturday 7:07
This is just for a shuffling of 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in the league. 2nd place gets a buy in the quarterfinals at the Final Five, so to say it's meaningless would be misleading. This will be a hard fought series. UNO had a decent showing at home against Denver last weekend, and UMD did not have a good series at CC.
Split. UNO wins Friday 4-1, UMD wins Saturday 4-2

UAA @ MSUM, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
Anchorage holds a two point lead over the Mavs right now. Really, this series doesn't mean a whole lot, just "bragging" rights. I don't know what else to say on this one. Both teams are pretty equal.
Split. UAA wins Friday 3-2, Mankato wins Saturday 4-2

UMN @ BSU, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
The Gophers are still trying to clinch that five seed and one win, or two points, will do that. The Beavers would like to finish outside of 11th, but I'm not feeling it for the Beavers this weekend. The Gophers have been playing decent hockey lately, and the Beavers seem to be consistent, but they just don't have the talent level. It'll be a good warm-up for the Beavers for the playoffs.
Gophers sweep 5-2, 3-2

SCSU @ DU, Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07
The Huskies are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, but Denver is a pretty good team, too. Home-ice advantage and senior night will probably play into this, but the Huskies are fighting for that final home-ice spot in the playoffs, so desperation by the Huskies could come into play here. I think the Huskies will give a great effort, but things just won't line up for them.
Split. Huskies win Friday 3-2, Denver wins Saturday 4-2

Tentative 2011-12 SCSU Schedule

This is a tentative schedule, so it may not stay the same. It has been my experience that the tentative schedule is the actual schedule, though. The only time I've seen changes is when they've added a tournament and rescheduled a non-conference game.

All bolded items are WCHA conference games. Road games have an @ symbol, home games do not.

Oct. 7-8 @ UAA Tourney
Oct. 14-15 @ Northern Michigan
Oct. 21-22 New Hamshire
Oct. 28-29 @ UND
Nov. 4-5 Wisconsin
Nov. 11-12 @ Mankato
Nov. 18-19 Minnesota*
Nov. 25-26 @ Omaha
Dec. 2-3 Bemidji
Dec. 16-17 Denver
Dec. 30-31 @ Western Michigan
Jan. 13-14 @ Colorado College
Jan. 20-21 UND
Jan. 27-28 Minnesota*
Feb. 3-4 @ Wisconsin
Feb. 17-18 Anchorage
Feb. 24-25 @ Michigan Tech
March 2-3 Duluth
March 9-11 WCHA First Round Playoffs
March 15-17 WCHA Final Five
March 23-25 NCAA Playoffs
April 5-7 Frozen Four
*I'm not sure if the Gopher series are home-and-home or not at this point. I would have to assume that they are as we are playing them four times.

The Huskies will play the Gophers, Badgers, and Sioux four times each next year and will play every other team in the league only twice. With the addition of Bemidji and Omaha, the WCHA went to a system where you rotate the teams you play four times based on the "rival" system they've setup.

In this system, the Huskies will always play the Sioux four times, and will rotate through rival pairs. This year we play the pairing of Bemidji and Omaha, next year it's Minnesota and Wisconsin. I don't know what the rotation will be after that.

Also, some may have noticed that the Huskies finally have a good eastern school on the schedule in New Hampshire. We will get UNH at home next season and will travel to UNH the following season. I'm hoping some success in these games will start to open the doors to some of the other perennial top teams in the country, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week Twenty Picks

We're fastly approaching the end of the hockey season. We only have two weeks left in the regular season...

I feel that I have mention Michigan Tech this week. They finally have won a game again. Yep, the defeated Denver last Friday night by a 3-2 score in Denver. I don't know how you live that one down, Denver. That's a tough, tough loss to take.

As it's somewhat late, and I have an early morning and full day tomorrow, this one is going to be brief again. Sorry, folks.

I went 5-7 last week which dropped my record to 130-102 on the year. Not too bad, but it could probably be a little better. We have five conference series and one non-conference this weekend. Mankato is the lone team off this weekend.

UAA @ Alaska, Friday 10:05, Alaska @ UAA, Saturday 10:07
Each team wins on their home ice.
Split. Alaska wins Friday 3-2, UAA wins Saturday 4-1

BSU @ UND, Saturday/Sunday 3:37
The Beavers have been such an up and down team this year that it's tough to predict what they're going to do on a weekly basis. The Sioux, on the other hand, have been pretty steady. In fact, it's pretty much a given that they're going to win on Saturday, so if the Beavs wanna pull one out of Siouxland, they'd better do it on Friday. I don't see that happening, though.
Sioux sweep 4-1, 6-2

MTU @ UMN, Friday 6:37, Saturday 7:37
I'm not sure what's going on the with start times at Mariucci this weekend, but the certainly are different. The Gophers are taking on the worse team in the league, possibly the country, so this should be a fairly easy couple of victories for the Gophers. Then again, look what the Huskies did at Denver last weekend. Tech has nothing to lose at this point in the season, so they might as well try and play spoilers. Even so, the Gophers should win a couple of games in convincing fashion.
Gophers sweep 4-1, 3-2

UW @ SCSU, Friday/Saturday 7:07
The Huskies and Badgers are both coming off of one point weekends when both teams needed two or better. The Badgers are the better team here and the Huskies are just too up and down each week. However, if they're able to play the Badgers how they played the Sioux last weekend, the Huskies could walk away with three or four points easily. It'll be interesting to see which team shows up. The Huskies are in desperation mode if they want to try and grab home ice. It is looking like that's going to be impossible to do, though, as they're currently four points out of sixth with four games left. The teams in front of them have easier schedules, too. (The Huskies travel to Denver to close the season out.) The Badgers are fighting to hold on to fifth right now, so expect them to come out with some fire. I think Bucky gets the best of Blizzard this weekend in both games. I sure do hope I'm wrong, though.
Badgers sweep 4-3, 5-2

DU @ UNO, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
The second and third place teams are squaring off in this one, and I'm expecting a good couple of games. Denver is one of the best teams in the league, again, and UNO has surprised a lot of people this year with their style, speed, and size. This one will probably be a split, but either team has the capability to sweep this. I'm going the safe route.
Split. UNO wins Friday 4-3, Denver wins Saturday 4-3

UMD @ CC, Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07
The Tigers are coming off of a tough weekend at Bemidji which saw them get one point in a Friday night 5-5 tie. UMD was able to split its series with Mankato last weekend in Mankato. CC is trying to get itself back into home ice for the playoffs and Duluth is still in the hunt for the MacNaughton Cup. Given the way the Tigers have been playing, it's tough to see them come away with more than a point or two. It is tough to win on the road, though, so I have to give them one game, because they're still a fairly good team.
Split. UMD wins Friday 4-1, CC wins Saturday 4-3

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week Nineteen Picks

Sorry about the length of the two previous weeks, but I was out of town for one and just flat forgot about last weeks until it was too late. Oops! Well, that's not going to happen again. I'm back in full form this week, and have a full slate for you this week.

The Huskies of SCSU went into Duluth on Friday night and absolutely dominated the Dogs in theie new arena.  They won 8-2, if you didn't catch the final. Of course Saturday struck where they, once again, blew a three goal lead. Although, this time they managed to hang on and tie the Dogs to take three of four points on the weekend.

With points being a premium, and the Huskies having a horrible season, these points are HUGE. First, it kept them at 9th, and, second, it keeps them within five points of fifth place and within three of sixth and a home playoff spot. It's going to be brutal for the Huskies down the stretch as they play UND and UW at the NHC the next two weekends and then travel to Denver to close the year out.

The Saturday game between Denver and Minnesota saw the Gophers take it to the Pioneers like we haven't seen too often this season. The Gophers took a commanding 6-0 lead and wound up winning the game by a 7-3 final score. I'm not sure what got into the Gophers on Saturday. It could've been Hockey Day Minnesota, maybe Lucia lit a fire under their butts, or maybe they were just scared of the possibility of ending up in 10th place on the weekend. Whatever it was, it worked.

One of the most interesting stories of the weekend was the struggles the Beavers had against Tech. I understand that it's tough to win on the road in the WCHA, but this Tech team is horrible and the Beavers should've had no problem dispatching this team. As I was watching the back-and-forth game on Friday I was really beginning to believe that Tech would finally pull off a win. Sadly, I was wrong. The Beavers managed to tie the game and hold on for the remainder. They did win on Saturday by a 1-0 score to take three of four from Tech.

Since I didn't have time to get the record updated for the previous week, I'll tell you that I went 7-3 on that weekend which improved my record to 117-91. I went 8-4 last weekend and now stand at 125-95 on the season. I think I've done a fairly good job predicting the games each weekend, especially in this league. We have all twelve teams participating in league games, so we have six series going on.

UMN @ UW, Friday 7:07, Saturday 8:07
I'm not sure what's happening with the late start on Saturday, but for whatever reason it's an 8:07 start time. Anyway, this series always seems to be a good one to watch. This is one of the most intense rivalries in all of hockey and I don't expect this one to be anything short of great. The Gophers are coming off a huge win over Denver on Saturday and the Badgers are coming off of being swept at UNO. I think the Gophers are going to come in and surprise the Badgers, but the Badgers will get their revenge.
Split. Gophers win Friday 4-3, Badgers win Saturday 4-2

UND @ SCSU, Friday/Saturday 7:07
I'm not sure where to start on this one. The Huskies and Sioux have some bad blood between each other dating back to last year. However, I feel that we should be back to normal now. The Sioux are a tremendous team and the Huskies have been up and down at best this season. The Huskies do have a lot of talent that, when they decide to play, are one of the tougher teams to beat. It doesn't seem to matter where these two teams meet, the Sioux almost always dominate the show. Unless the Huskies find something deep down inside, they're not going to come away with anything.
Sioux sweep 4-2, 4-3

CC @ BSU, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
I'd like to sit here and tell you that the Beavers are a tough team to beat in Bemidji, but they really haven't been. For some reason their new building hasn't been kind to them. CC has been a .500 team on the road. The Tigers and Beavers have both been struggling as of late, so I really don't know what to expect out of this one. I'm going the safe route...
Split. CC wins Friday 4-3, BSU wins Saturday 3-2

UMD @ MSUM, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
Duluth and Mankato are fairly even offensively, but Duluth is the runaway winner defensively between these two teams. Mankato plays a run-and-gun style, but their defensemen take too many risks which bites them in the butt too often. Duluth is a great power play team and they'll take you apart if you let them. I could see the Mavs stealing one here.
Split. UMD wins Friday 5-4, MSUM wins Saturday 4-3

MTU @ Denver, Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07
Do I really need to say anything. Tech hasn't won since the October and Denver's a pretty good hockey team. This should be one of the easier series for Denver, but they had better not take the weekend off. This is still the WCHA and any team can win on any given night.
Denver sweeps 6-1, 5-2

UNO @ UAA, Friday/Saturday 10:07
This one is somewhat of intriguing series to me, but only because Anchorage hasn't been absolutely horrible this season. With that said, the Seawolves aren't playing that great right now, and UNO is an in your face team. Anchorage should be able to, somewhat, counter that with their size, though. This could end up as a split, but I'm going with UNO on this one.
UNO sweeps 3-2, 4-1

Friday, February 11, 2011

Week Eighteen Picks

Sorry this week is so late, but I completely spaced it this week. Unfortunately, I'm at work right now so this is going to be extremely short. I don't have my stats for last week, so I'll get them next week. All twelve teams are playing one another this week, so we have six conference series.

BSU @ MTU, Friday 6:07, Saturday 4:07
Should be an easy weekend for the Beavers, but you never know.
Beavers sweep 5-1, 5-1

Denver @ UMN, Friday 7:07, Saturday 5:07
Denver is going to be a challenge for the Gophers. The Gophs are playing fairly well right now, though.
Split. Denver wins Friday 4-3, UMN wins Saturday 3-2

SCSU @ UMD, Friday/Saturday 7:07
The Huskies are now losers of three straight and winless in their last four since going 6-0 after Christmas. The Dogs are a solid team that will hurt you on the PP and at even strength.
Dogs sweep 3-2, 4-1

UAA @ UND, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
UAA has been a sneaky team this year, but the Sioux should prove to be no match for them.
Sioux sweep 4-1, 5-2

UW @ UNO, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
This should be a fun series to watch. I'm expecting up-and-down play and lots of hits.
Split. UW wins Friday 4-3, UNO wins Saturday 4-1

MSUM @ CC, Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07
Mankato has come on strong in their last 15 games, or so, and CC has fallen off a bit. Should be a split.
Split. MSUM wins Friday 3-2, CC wins Saturday 4-2

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week Seventeen Picks

This one is coming to you from out of town, so it's going to be short and sweet.

I went 4-6 last week and am now 110-88 on the season. There are five series this weekend and all of them are conference series.

Conference Games
UMN @ UMN, Friday/Saturday 7:07
The Gophers are up and down and the Dogs are a pretty good team. I'm not sure which Gopher team is going to show up, though. I'm going to be safe and pick a split.
Gophers win Friday 4-3, Dogs win Saturday 4-2

BSU @ MSUM, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
The Beavers have an ability to beat teams at or below them in the standings, but the Mavs are playing some good hockey right now. The question is, can the Beavers steal points from these Mavs like the did from the Mavs of Omaha? I'm going to say no. Mankato is playing very well right now.
Mavs sweep 6-2, 3-1

SCSU @ UNO, Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07
The Huskies are coming off an embarrassing game at home against Mankato and the Mavs are coming off an embarrassing OT loss at home to Huntsville. The Huskies played Omaha evenly in their last meeting, and they are playing better now than the last time these two teams met (last weekend excluded). The Mavericks have come back down to earth since their hot start, and are looking very beatable.
Split. Huskies win Friday 3-2, Omaha wins Saturday 4-1

DU @ CC, Friday 9:07, CC @ DU Saturday 8:07
This is a rivalry, so picking it is really a crapshoot. Denver is obviously the better team in this one, but CC isn't too shabby either. I'm going to say that each team wins on their home ice.
Split. CC wins Friday 3-2, Denver wins Saturday 4-2

MTU @ UAA, Friday/Saturday 10:07
Normally, we'd be talking about the two bottom feeders, but that isn't the case this season. The Seawolves have been playing decent, competitive hockey all season, and the Huskies have been, well, there...
Seawolves sweep 3-2, 4-1

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week Sixteen Picks

Here we are in the last weekend of January already! Where has the time gone. We have six weekends of hockey before the first round of the playoffs begin. Where has the time gone?

Last weekend was a fairly standard weekend, with one exception. The Omaha/Sioux game on Friday night. For those of you who didn't see a score, Nebraska-Omaha blasted the Sioux for eight goals in Grand Forks and won the game 8-4. It was an interesting game to watch. For some reason the Sioux could not kill a penalty to save their lives. At one point, the Mavs were 4-for-5 on the PP and had scored a shorthanded goal to boot. Interesting game.

I digress... I went 7-5 last week and picked one score correctly. My record now stands at 106-82, which is an impressive .564 winning percentage. I'll take that every day in this league. We have one non-conference tilt and four league series this weekend.

Huntsville @ Omaha, Friday 9:07, Saturday 8:07
Where to begin. This ought to be a pretty easy series for the Mavs to sweep. Unless Huntsville pulls something magical out of their hat, they'll continue their road winless streak.
Omaha sweeps 4-1, 3-1

UW @ MTU, Friday/Saturday 6:07
Tech is now winless in their last TWENTY (20) games! It must hurt to be a Michigan Tech fan right now... Anyway, this ought to be a fairly easy sweep for the Badgers, unless they drop the ball of course...
Badgers sweep 5-2, 6-2

UAA @ UMN, Friday/Saturday 7:07
The Gophers had the weekend off last week and the Seawolves found themselves playing at Denver and getting swept in the process. I don't know if it'll be the same story this weekend or not. The Gophers have been such and up and down team all year, it'll be interesting to see which team shows up. Will it be the team that outplayed the Sioux, or will it be the team that lost both games of its own tournament? Only time will tell on this one.
Split. UAA wins Friday 4-3, Gophers win Saturday 3-2

MSUM @ SCSU, Friday/Saturday 7:07
The Mavericks are coming off of being swept at Wisconsin last weekend while the Huskies are riding high on a six game winning streak. Mankato is a beatable team, but you're going to have to work your butt off to do so. They'll outwork you all day long in the offensive zone and throw some goals in the back of the net, but they'll let a lot in the net too. And, for some reason, they are having a horrible WCHA season again. They're 4-11-3 in the WCHA and 6-0-2 in non-conference play. The Huskies, on the other hand, are playing some of their best hockey right now. They've won four league games in a row, but those games have been played against Bemidji and Tech, teams they should be beating anyway. A sweep here would be huge for the Huskies and is much needed to get them back into this thing. If the Huskies sweep and CC and Minny split, the Huskies will find themselves all alone in 6th place. I think the Huskies are playing some of their best hockey right now, so I have to go with the hot team here.
Huskies sweep 4-3, 3-2

UND @ CC, Friday 9:07, Saturday 8:07
This ought to be an interesting series as well. I truly think that this one could go either way. The Sioux are, obviously, the better of the two teams here, but they're not playing great hockey right now as evidenced by two home splits in a row. CC isn't playing great either which is definitely not a good sign for them against this team. I'm thinking that this game is going to come down to special teams. Statistically speaking, the Tigers have the better numbers on both sides, but the Sioux's PK numbers took a dive last week against UNO. This is a tough series to predict, but I have to go with my instincts on this one.
Sioux sweep 4-3, 3-1