Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weekend Preview: Nov. 23-25

College Hockey Showcase
Minnesota & Wisconsin at Michigan and Michigan State
Friday & Saturday Nights

For the first time a quite a while, both the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers will be the heavy underdogs in all four games of the College Hockey Showcase, as the two WCHA rivals head east to tangle with Michigan and Michigan State. Both WCHA schools are coming off disappointing weekends, with the Badgers having been swept by Colorado College and Minnesota taking two points from Alaska Anchorage at Mariucci Arena. Their CCHA opponents, meanwhile, are both off to great starts: Michigan has just one loss on the season, and that came at the hands of the Golden Gophers in the championship game of the Ice Breaker Invitation back in early October, while the Spartans have just three losses – one at North Dakota and two to the Miami Redhawks, who are the No. 1 team in the nation. It would appear that the most common theme in these matchups will be the CCHA’s edge in goal. Michigan’s Billy Sauer is finally living up to the hype that surrounded his arrival in Ann Arbor, while Michigan State’s Jeff Lerg proved his worth last spring in Sparty’s national title run. Minnesota’s combination of freshman Alex Kangas and junior Jeff Frazee has been okay at best, while UW junior Shane Connelly has struggled at times, especially during WCHA play. On the surface, if the WCHA could manage a split in these four games, it would be a nice accomplishment when you consider where all four teams are currently sitting.

Denver vs. Colorado College
Friday – 8:30 p.m. CST at Colorado College
Saturday – 8 p.m. CST at Denver

The marquee series in the WCHA – and around the nation for that matter – takes place in Colorado this weekend as the Colorado College Tigers and Denver Pioneers are set to do battle in a home-and-home series. The Pioneers, who are currently ranked No. 3 in the latest poll, currently trail the No. 4-ranked Tigers by four points in the WCHA standings, though the Pios have played two fewer games. DU’s defense has been stifling this year, allowing just 13 goals in 10 games. CC’s high-octane offense, led by the likes of Chad Rau, Jimmy Kilpatrick, and Billy Sweatt, will certainly test Peter Mannino and Co. this weekend. The series opens up at the World Arena on Friday night, and then shifts to Magness Arena on Saturday evening.

Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota
Friday – 7:30 p.m. CST
Saturday – 7 p.m. CST

Minnesota Duluth will look to get back to build off their win and tie versus Michigan Tech last weekend as they travel to Grand Forks to duel with the Fighting Sioux, who have plagued the Bulldogs over the last few years. To that point, UMD last beat North Dakota in December of 2004. The Sioux were off last weekend after going 3-3 in their first six WCHA games. UMD’s best shot to pull off the upset will likely be Friday night, as they might be able to take advantage of a potentially rusty UND squad.

St. Cloud State at Clarkson
Friday – 6 p.m. CST
Saturday – 6 p.m. CST

The Huskies won a pair of games from the Golden Knights last season at the National Hockey Center, so No. 7 Clarkson will be looking for a little revenge this weekend as SCSU visit Cheel Arena. These two teams were possibly set to meet in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but both were upset in the first round of the East Regional. As is the case with ECAC teams early in the season, Clarkson will need to prove that, despite their 6-1-0 record and lofty national ranking, they can hang with a pretty good WCHA team in the form of the Huskies.

Michigan Tech, Alaska Anchorage, and Minnesota State are off this week.