Thursday, November 4, 2010

This weekend

Nothing but conference games on the docket for the first time this season.

Bemidji State at St. Cloud State
The Beavers scored their first point in conference play last week and were within a few seconds of gaining another one Friday night against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth. That's a good sign, considering how badly BSU was outplayed by North Dakota in their previous series. The difference for Bemidji was junior goaltender Mathieu Dugas, who made 28 saves in his first start of the season Saturday in a 1-1 tie. The Huskies have yet to get on track, splitting last weekend at home against Quinnipiac. In eight games, Garrett Roe has just one goal. That number will need to go up if the Huskies hope to get more than a split.

Wisconsin at Minnesota
Unlike SCSU, the Badgers have gotten scoring from a number of different players. Through eight games, five different Badgers have at least eight games. Jordy Murray has seven points, including five goals. In addition, UW is tops in the league in goals allowed, giving up fewer than two goals per game. They play a team in Minnesota this week that can't seem to get healthy. After losing Nick Bjugstad to mononucleosis, the Gophers learned this week Jake Parenteau will also miss time with the illness. Zach Budish was in a moped accident Monday and may miss the rest of the season. Nick Larson has a foot injury and could return this weekend, but is more likely back next week. On the bright side, Kent Patterson seems to have nailed down the starting goaltender job, backing Minnesota to a sweep at Colorado College.

Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota
The match-up between the Bulldogs and Fighting Sioux is one between perhaps the best two teams in the league. UND was picked as the favorite before the season and UMD is currently ranked No. 2 in the country. In the words of Dennis Green, Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine "are who we thought they were." They are the three leading scorers in the WCHA right now. But they've also received help from freshman J.T. Brown (4-7--11) and junior Travis Oleksuk (5-5--10). Add to that, the surprising play of Aaron Crandall, who leads the league in goals against and is second in save percentage. Another surprise in goal is UND's Aaron Dell. He's played more minutes than Brad Eidsness and has posted better numbers. How much he plays this weekend -- in a critical statement series -- will show how much confidence Dave Hakstol really has in him. Brad Malone will miss Friday's game following the league's mandated one game suspension for his hit on Jesse Martin last Saturday.

Minnesota State at Nebraska-Omaha
The Spirit of the Maverick Trophy is on the line this weekend for the first time ever in a conference series. Minnesota State won three points at UAA last weekend, starting their month-long roadtrip off on the right foot. The key to MSU's play the last four games has been the play of goaltender Phil Cook, who seems to have nailed down the No. 1 goalie job. The purple Mavericks are middle of the pack in scoring offense, scoring defense and both special teams, which means Cook's play will be the key most nights. UNO started off red hot but was hammered at Michigan two weeks ago and then was off last weekend. The one goal scored in the loss at Michigan was the first time this season the red Mavs have scored fewer than four goals in a game. Five UNO players have scored at least eight points, but they've played just six games.

Colorado College vs. Denver
And speaking of rivalry trophies, Colorado College and Denver play this weekend in the first installment of the battle for the Gold Pan. Offensively, its been the Schwartz story. Jaden and Rylan are the only Tigers among the top 48 scorers in the league. Couple that with a struggling Joe Howe, and the Tigers are in deep trouble. They need a point or two this weekend. The Pioneers will have goaltender Adam Murray back this weekend, but will they need him? Freshman Sam Brittain has been outstanding in place of Murray, posting a goals against under two and a save percentage north of 93 percent. With Dustin Jackson on the verge of returning to the lineup and Nick Shore should be back within a couple of weeks. That should help ease the blow of the loss of Jesse Martin.

PREDICTIONS:
BSU at SCSU - St. Cloud State sweep
WIS at MIN - Split
UMD at UND - Split
MSU at UNO - Split
CC vs. DU - Denver sweep

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