Week one of college hockey has come to an end. I don’t know how to explain it but I have never been happier. Not all of the games were premiere matchups, and many didn’t even count, but that doesn’t matter. No, what really matters is that HOCKEY IS BACK. Specifically College Hockey, but the Wild aren’t far behind either.The leaves have finally started to change in this neck of the woods and that’s got me feeling some type of way. It’s officially COLD out and, while most people consider that Football weather, it’s hockey weather here in Minny. That rings even more true after the Gophers Football team found a way to lose their homecoming football game in devastating fashion for the second year in a row. Plenty of room on the hockey bandwagon…I promise it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun.
Week 1 Recap
Minnesota may have their most highly touted team in a decade, so it’s only right they opened the season up with a high-quality matchup. Just kidding, they played Lindenwood, who’s in their first D1 season. The gophers looked good and had major flashes of high-level talent throughout the weekend. They also had to come back in the third period on Saturday in order to secure their second win. The best way to describe how most Gopher fans are feeling right now would be cautiously optimistic…but heavy-handed on the optimistic side.
BulldogsUMD took two wins during Week 1, in what may have been the best matchup of the weekend. It took overtime on Friday, but Saturday was a runaway after the dogs found their footing. It’s been two slow starts, but when rolling, they’ve found some young players who can put the puck in the net. Something they were desperately missing last year. After just one week, they’ve got their first bye week of the season before heading down to Minnesota state next. If they’re smart, there will be a lot of time in the film room this weekend breaking down the Mavs/Gophs games in preparation.
The Mavericks really took it to the Mavericks last Saturday. I can see how that would be confusing…let me re-phrase. Nebraska Omaha seized their opportunity and SLAUGHTERED Minnesota State 7-2. They haven’t given up SEVEN goals since 2019! A couple of key players have moved on to NHL contracts from Mankato since the end of last year, so everyone knew they’d have to find a new identity. I’m guessing they’re still looking for what that’ll be. I don’t care that this was an exhibition game…it’s officially got me NERVOUS for the Mavs.
Huskies / TommiesAs was the case last season, the Huskies took care of Saint Thomas and the rest of their business in week one. While the Huskies did not find a way to score 12 goals against the Tommies this year, they also did not have a close 2 – 0 win either. Saint Thomas has had a much better showing already in terms of how they’re able to keep up with contending talent in College Hockey’s best conference. I’m even more interested in seeing how they fair against other teams closer to their own caliber after this showing.
College Hockey Matchups to Watch
Minnesota (2) vs Minnesota State (5)
The Gophers and Mavericks will be facing off for the first time this year on Friday and Saturday. This is (obviously) the first time that these teams have met since the Gophs were eliminated in the frozen four last season. That was the second time in a row that the Mavericks have ended a gophers postseason run. To say that they want revenge would be an understatement. Based on how Logan Cooley was playing for Minny last weekend, I expect another big game out of the kid, despite the uptick in competition.
The Mavericks (of Minnesota) really struggled with UNO last weekend in their exhibition game. I don’t know if I’d bank on them having as tough of a time this weekend. That sounds like an insane statement since they’ll be going up against one of the best teams in the nation, but hear me out. Their starters are going to play real minutes on top of getting the nerves out and rust shaken off. With that being said, it could easily be a long weekend if Mike Hastings doesn’t right the ship quickly. The losses of Dryden McKay and Nathan Smith were clearly apparent last weekend, so he’ll need someone else to step up.
While the gophers took two victories, they weren’t much better off in game two against the Lindenwood last weekend. They seemed to struggle with the newcomers to D1 hockey. If they find themselves down against the Mavericks, I don’t know if they will be able to come back late in the third again. If I were a betting man, I’m hammering the over in the first game.
Notre Dame (9/11) vs. Denver (1)The Ice Breaker Tournament is also happening out in Colorado as Air Force and Denver play host to Maine and Notre Dame. They took a little bit of a different approach to it this year that I’m not sure I enjoy. They have the championship game being played first between Notre Dame and Denver, and then whoever wins gets the privilege of beating up on Maine or Air Force the next day. All I know is that Air Force has released some ridiculous uniforms this year.
In all seriousness, I expect both Notre Dame and Denver to be in the 16-team playoffs at the end of the season. Both had great showings last year. Obviously Denver won it all, but Notre Dame was no slouch either. The Irish “upset“ North Dakota in the first round and they’ve got a ton of returning talent to their team as well. This will be a close game but with that elevation I’m always giving Denver the edge.
Prediction: Pioneers win 4-2 then crush Maine 6-1
Bowling Green (NR) vs Michigan State (NR)
After losing their opening (exhibition) game of the season to the CHILDREN on the US National Team Development Program, Michigan State will be trying their hand against Bowling Green. It’ll be a battle between one of the CCHA’s best teams and one of the Big Tens worst. That’s not to say that this won’t be a good series, but those are just the facts. Read into that however you want to. I have been known to make fun of Bowling Green in the past and refer to them as the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs of college hockey, but not this year.
The boys rocking the orange sweaters are much improved and I expect big things out of them this season. Michigan State is a different story. They lost their goaltender in the off-season to North Dakota’s bewitching lure via the transfer portal. That’s a huge blow to the Spartans as he was one of the only pieces keeping them in some games last year. I’ve got the Falcons taking both games here with team ECH in the building alongside Barstool’s John Rich. The boys are there to grow in the game of college hockey and so I am here supporting that!
Prediction: Bowling Green takes BOTH and sneaks into a ranked position
Bemidji State (NR) vs Arizona State (NR)
After losing to the Bulldogs two games in a row, Arizona State will finish their Minnesota road trip with two against the Bemidji State Beavers. It’s been pointed out a number of times online how much Arizona has struggled with the state of hockey in their short time in the D1 college hockey world. With no wins to their name they’re hungry for one. I honestly think that they’ve got a good shot of snagging one on Friday night, but they’ll have to play disciplined. After all, they are representing the future Pac-12 hockey conference.
Bemidji is nowhere near as strong as they were during their playoff run two years ago, but they’ve still got great coaching, a great atmosphere, and a great scheme. The trap defense that they have been running for what seems like an eternity there has proven that it can work against anybody. NHL-caliber talent (à la Wisconsin) has shown that they can struggle against that type of play so it’s plausible that Arizona could fall into that same trap. With that being said, there are scorers on this Arizona state team. They came out fast last weekend and I think they’ll come out fast again.
Prediction: Series split in a low-scoring affair on both nights. Wouldn’t be surprised to see AZ come away with two based on how improved they are from a season ago though, so keep the units low here.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
I write about everything across the board, but focus on Hockey and the pain that is Minnesota sports.
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