Thursday, November 29, 2007

Weekend Preview: Nov. 30 - Dec. 2

North Dakota at Denver
Friday – 8:30 p.m. CST (Live on FSN Rocky Mountain and FCS Pacific)
Saturday – 8 p.m. CST

North Dakota travels to Denver this weekend to take on the second-place Denver Pioneers, and the Fighting Sioux will look to buck their early-season trend of splitting WCHA series. The Sioux are 4-4-0 in WCHA play, and have split each of their conference series (at Michigan Tech, at Wisconsin, versus Colorado College, versus Minnesota Duluth), which has left them in fifth place in the WCHA. The Pioneers split a home-and-home series with the first place Colorado College Tigers last weekend, with each team winning on home ice. Both teams have senior netminders, but the difference this weekend could be on the blueline, where North Dakota would appear to have more talent and experience. UND is also older up front, but DU’s sophomores (Brock Trotter, Rhett Rakhshani, and Tyler Ruegsegger) have done a very admirable job in carrying the load for DU.

Michigan Tech at Minnesota
Friday – 7 p.m. CST (Tape-Delayed on FSN North and FCS Central)
Saturday – 7 p.m. CST (Live on FSN North and FCS Central)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers return to conference play this weekend as they play host to the Michigan Tech Huskies. Both teams are off to slower than expected starts, and in particular Minnesota, whose troubles have been well documented. They rank near the bottom of the WCHA in nearly every key statistical element, including power play, penalty kill, scoring offense, scoring defense, and third period goal differential. The key to the weekend could be the play of Minnesota’s goals – Jeff Frazee and Alex Kangas. Both have been okay this season, but with Michael-Lee Teslak likely in net for the Huskies on both nights, Minnesota likely cannot afford any soft goals. Michigan Tech, meanwhile, will likely try to play a tight, physical game with the Gophers and try to grind out a pair of road wins. Goal-scoring has been an issue for Tech as well, so a pair of low-scoring games could be on tap at Mariucci.

Colorado College at Alaska Anchorage
Friday – 10:30 p.m. CST
Saturday – 10 p.m. CST

The first place Colorado College Tigers will look pad their four-point lead over DU for first place in the WCHA as they head north to take on Alaska Anchorage this weekend. They key to these games will be the Seawolves’ ability to slow down CC’s high-octane offense, which is led by the likes of Chad Rau, Jimmy Kilpatrick, and Billy Sweatt. They are averaging 3.6 GPG in WCHA play; the Seawolves have been scoring just 2.17 GPG in conference play, and go up against one of the conference’s best goaltenders in the form of Tiger freshman Richard Bachman, who has been the biggest surprise of the season so far. Expect CC to handle UAA handily in one night, but don’t be surprised if the Seawolves push the Tigers to the limit in one of the two contests.

St. Cloud State at Wisconsin
Friday – 7 p.m. CST (Live on FSN North-Wisconsin and showing at 1 a.m. on FCS Central)
Saturday – 7 p.m. CST

In what could end up being a key series down the road for home-ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs, St. Cloud State travels to Madison to take on Mike Eaves’ Wisconsin Badgers, who are coming off a loss and a tie during last weekend’s College Hockey Showcase against Michigan and Michigan State, respectively. UW has four points in six conference games, which leaves them tied with UAA for eighth place in the WCHA. The Badgers need to come away from this weekend with at least two points to keep themselves in the hunt. The Huskies bring their top-ranked power play into Madison, and UW will need to key on sophomore Ryan Lasch and freshman Garrett Roe – the duo each have 20 points in 12 WCHA games, and are the conference’s co-leaders in scoring. UW’s scoring issues haven’t been as serious as they have been in year’s past, but they are far from an offensive juggernaut. SCSU has been yielding over 30 shots per game on a regular basis, so the Badgers will need to cash in on some of those chances, since it’s likely that the Huskies will get theirs in the offensive end.

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

Minnesota Duluth will look to keep gaining ground on CC and DU in the WCHA this weekend when they travel to Mankato to take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. On paper, it looks like four points should be in the Bulldogs’ future, but the Mavericks always have a propensity to play in-state teams tough, and certainly have the ability to take a point or two from UMD at the Alltel Center. Statistically speaking, UMD certainly wouldn’t appear to be a top WCHA team, but they have played well during the arguably toughest stretch of their schedule, and are primed to make a run at the top of the league with their next six WCHA games coming against the Mavs and Alaska Anchorage. Minnesota State didn’t play last weekend, and currently sits at the bottom of the WCHA, having amassed just three points in eight WCHA games, though most of their games have been away from home.

Other Noteable Games:

Boston University vs. Boston College
Friday - at BC
Saturday - at BU