WCHA Weekend Outlook

There are definitely games that are categorized as "must watch" this weekend in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this weekend.  Between the Minnesota-St. Cloud State series, North Dakota visiting Nebraska Omaha, Colorado College and Denver's home-home series, and hell  the Minnesota State road trip up to Duluth series should be some solid college hockey.  So, why not take a look!

Minnesota Gophers at St. Cloud State Huskies

This weekend's hottest series, without a doubt, will take place in a town northwest of Minneapolis in a town called St. Cloud, Minnesota.  The Huskies are currently sitting on top of the WCHA standings, comfortably with three points ahead of Nebraska Omaha and five points on top of the Gophers.  But this weekend could easily make-or-break that standing.  Last week the Huskies went on a tear, outscoring Bemidji State 8-1 in the weekend sweep while the Gophers split a home-home series with the much improved Minnesota State Mavericks.

Both teams share about the same amount of wins, with Minnesota at 18, just one over St. Cloud State, but the Gophers are much better looking on paper.  Minnesota's 3.77/1.85 scoring compared to St. Cloud's 3.32/2.32 scoring should make things hard for the Huskies when it comes to putting the puck in the right places.  The special teams advantage goes to Minnesota as well, as they have killed 89.2% of penalties while scoring on 24.8% man advantages compared to a 83.5% kill and a poor 17.9% power play percent.

But if games were to go as they were planned on paper, the WCHA wouldn't stand the way it is now.  Bob Motzko will make sure his Huskies do whatever they can to make their home record of 11-5-0 advance with two more wins and take advantage of Minnesota's road of 6-2-2, which has half the amount of wins in comparison to their home record.  Look for the Husky forwards LeBlanc, Dowd, and Hanowski to be quick and sneaky while Gopher forwards Haula, Rau, and Bjugstad try and do the same.  This is going to be one hell of a series which I would highly recommend attending.

Past Meetings:

North Dakota at Nebraska Omaha Mavericks

Gosh, this is another series I would pay a large amount of money to attend.  Does it get any better than Dean Blais vs Dave Hakstol?  Come on, let's be honest here.  Last weekend the whioux struggled against Bucky before destroying them the following night to snag three points out of the weekend, meanwhile the Red Mavs were struggling at home against Michigan Tech, where they split, losing on Saturday in overtime.

On paper each team actually is pretty dang close.  UNO holds a better goals-per-game average but UND has the lower scoring defense.  Special teams is also pretty close.  Being that the all-time record between these two teams is tied at three wins apiece, Friday could be very interesting.  North Dakota has it's scoring in Corban Knight and Danny Kristo, while Nebraska Omaha has WCHA leading scorer Ryan Walters rostered, so this matchup is far from un-even.  If you're in Nebraska, catch some aggressive college hockey in Omaha, I can promise you now you won't be let down.

Past Meetings:

Denver Pioneers vs Colorado College Tigers
(home-home series)

The battle of Colorado again?  Denver currently holds the state as it's stomping grounds due to the earlier sweep of Colorado College back in mid-November.  Can Colorado College turn that around?  Denver is coming off an impressive road sweep of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs while Colorado College was forced into two overtime ties in Alaska Anchorage last weekend.  I guess that's the harder way of getting two points out of a series, huh?

If Colorado College wants to play with the Denver they're going to have to work on keeping the puck out of the net.  Averaging a scoring defense of 3.54 makes Denver's average offense of 3.41 salivate, not literally but you get my point.  Both these teams have had their fair share of bumps along the way in the WCHA's last season as it stands, making this series a big test as we near the end.

Past Meetings:

Bemidji State Beavers at Wisconsin Badgers

The Beavers are on something that most of us would refer to as, "the struggle bus", which is basically a slang term meaning they've been sucking.  I don't think there was much expected out of the Beavers this year, but after being swept at home by St. Cloud last weekend 4-0 then 4-1 I think they know they're going to have to prove they're not as irrelevant as people are thinking.  Wisconsin on the other hand has had some improvement as of the last few months.  Bucky was able to bring a point back to Madison after picking up a Friday night tie in North Dakota last weekend.  Even if it was just one point, it still helped.

I'm pretty confident in saying that special teams will not impress anyone in Madison this weekend.  The Badgers' 10.3% PP and 81.4% PK is nothing to brag about, with the same thing being said for the Beavers' 15.6% PP and 79.8% PK.  Although it seems as though Wisconsin has already won the series, you can never count a team in this conference out.  I like the way Bemidji State plays and as shocking as it seems, I don't think they're going to get swept.

Past Meetings:

Alaska Anchorage Seawolves at Michigan Tech Huskies

I think this series will be more intriguing than what the average Joe Schmo may think.  Alaska Anchorage did just hold off Colorado College's high powered offense to earn two ties last weekend.  So Anchorage isn't exactly playing bad hockey, but neither is Michigan Tech.  The Huskies were able to beat a very difficult Red Maverick team in Omaha last weekend, although they lost the first night, a split was all they could have dreamed about going into that series.

Well I'm not sure one would even want to look at how Anchorage has been playing this year, but I'll show ya anyway.  Averaging 1.92 goals-per-game while allowing 3.27 goals versus Michigan Tech's 2.72 goals scored and 3.04 goals against.  Special teams is nothing special, at all, for either of these teams but I do think it's rather interesting that both of these teams have an average height of their players over six feet and an age of over 22 years old.

Past Meetings:

Minnesota State at Minnesota Duluth

I wrote a separate article on this series, as I usually do which can be found here so check it out.

The One Ring to Rule Them All

We all know this is the last year the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be supporting most of the teams that are currently members.  This makes the race for the MacNaughton Cup and the Broadmoor Trophy as much more difficult as it is valuable.  Each of the teams, especially those who are leaving the conference are going to want a shot at hoisting one, if not both of those guys up.  As we near the end of the regular season, game paces will pick up and WCHA hockey will get to be more and more exciting.  If you have an opportunity to catch any of the games I would highly suggest it.  I promise you'll agree it was money well spend.