Week 4 – College Hockey Preview

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We’re finally getting to the point in the college hockey season where not all of the Minnesota teams are beating each other up. Well…almost. In the CCHA, we’ve got Bemidji and St. Thomas back conference opponents with the Mavericks taking an off-week after the IceBreaker tournament. St. Cloud State is playing yet another non-conference game against what was supposed to be a competitive Wisconsin team. Then, you get to the sweet spot of the schedule this week: Gophers vs Bulldogs in a home-and-home bout for long-standing bragging rights. Let’s get into it.

Explaining My Rankings:

Absolutely nothing has changed in my eyes from last week to this week as far as ranking these teams go. Although I MAY (or may not) have been wrong about a few of the games actual results, it went about as planned. Going 7 for 10 in-game predictions last week is about as well as I could ever hope for. Hell, if I can replicate 70% accuracy all season, I’ll be a (slightly more) wealthy man. Want to make money betting on hockey, you ride with @Marlow and me, it’s that simple.

  1. Minnesota State – Mavericks
    • Great showing in both tournament games. They suffered a tough loss to the high-powered offense of Michigan after beating Providence. A week off will do them wonders before getting into the conference-heavy part of their schedule. As it stands right now and appears to be shaking out, they won’t run into another ranked opponent until UMD comes to town at the end of the calendar year. They’ll need to dominate to stay on top of the rankings.
  2. St. Cloud State – Huskies
    • If you’re in the top 5 of the college hockey rankings, you’re just not going to climb when you split a weekend series. When you lose one of those games to another top 5 opponent in overtime after what might be the worst non-call in the history of college athletics, you’re also not going to drop either. I expect the Huskies to bounce back in a big way with anger in their hearts.
  3. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
    • There’s no two ways about it, the Bulldogs got beaten (badly) by Michigan when you look at the box score. What that DOESN’T tell you is how different the game was from the first period to the next two. The bulldogs were completely DOMINATING possession and puck movement, out-shooting Michigan 10-1 well into the first period. Then, UMD captain Noah Cates was slapped with a 5-minute major and game misconduct in a call that was softer than baby shit thanks to some good acting from Michigan. When they finally gave up a goal after ~4 minutes of the man advantage, the tone changed completely and was never the same. The combination of ALMOST killing off the major and giving up that goal at the very end of the period led to them coming out flat and they just couldn’t ramp back up. UMD came back the next game and found a way to win through scoring against Providence. As always, they’ll have to stay out of the box to succeed on the year.
  4. University of Minnesota – Gophers
    • The Goofs committed highway robbery last weekend. I’m not sure how they got away with it, but they did. I’ll be the first person to say they the zebras should swallow their whistles in OT and let the boys play it out until one team gets the better of the other. Unless, of course, the call is so blatant you could make it from the stratosphere. Yeah, they’re still a great team and yeah they’ll still be frisky the rest of the year, but you’ve got to wonder if this is a win that’ll come back to bite them later in the year when it matters more. Hockey karma is a real thing and you can’t convince me otherwise.
  5. Bemidji State – Beavers
    • Hand up, I was wrong about the Beavs last week. Wrote em’ off against UND after they had lost their goalie to the Fighting Hawks in the off-season and starting slow this year. They proved why people still think highly of them and deserve to be ranked, despite being 1-3 on the season. Split or not, a win’s a win and when it comes against a ranked UND, it’s just a little sweeter.
  6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
    • Holy cow, these kids gotta quit giving up goals. Dropped both games to Lake Superior State, as predicted. Even if they had the offensive talent of Michigan, I’m not sure they could out-score their opponents this year. Something has got to change if they want to finally win their first game.

CCHA Games

#19 Bemidji State @ Northern Michigan – Fri & Sat Oct 15-16

Two teams that were both hoping to get off to a better start than where they’re at right now. Desperate for wins, I’m looking for a lot of emotion between these two. The thing about that is I strongly believe that game script to play into Bemidji’s hands. When things get scrappy and drawn out in a long game, there’s only a handful of teams I’d take in the country over Bemidji with their front-line senior leadership.

While I don’t expect a lot of scoring, I expect the Beavers to scratch out wins both nights. Finally getting to play conference games at home in front of a hungry crowd both nights. A crowd with an insatiable hunger for Beaver…sounds like a 10k Teams meeting. All joking aside, Bemidji has been in every game they’ve played this year and this is by all accounts, an inferior opponent to those that they’ve faced to date. Anything can happen, and this may be another “state pride” pick, but it’s all Bemidji this weekend.

Prediction: Bemidji gets back on track going 2-0 against the 4th best team (in Michigan).

Ferris State @ St. Thomas Fri & Sat Oct 15-16

Woof. That’s not an indication that I think the Ferris State Bulldogs will leave St. Thomas winless, yet again. However, it’s not, not that either. This is a game that I can promise you I won’t be watching a minute of. I have no interest in either of these teams this year in terms of talent to be scouting or expectations on the year. They’re programs worthy of national teams, but certainly ones that can be beaten with a decent plan and maybe a 24-hour notice. Plus, do I really need to say this is another bad mascot matchup again?

Enough being negative. This may be the weekend where the Tommies have their best opportunity to get a win this season. If not now, it could be a long road before their next solid chance. I think it happens at home this weekend. Nobody likes playing on the road and Ferris State has already struggled with that this year. I’m calling an exact shot that St. Thomas will win one of these games 3-1.

Prediction: The Tommies get their first win on the season but lose the other one big in a 1-1 series split. No way optimism about the Tommies can go wrong again. None whatsoever.

Non-Conference Games

Wisconsin (Big 10) @ #3 St Cloud State (NCHC) – Fri & Sat Oct 15-16

What’s black and white and red all over? This goddamn game, that’s what. Listen, last year this might have been the premier matchup of the season. Without Caufield on the team, the Badgers are looking like a completely different organization. I hate to say it because the top of the Big 10 is finally looking like it’s formidable in the NCAA, but I don’t see the remaining players doing much as far as a lengthy push in the post-season. With that in mind, they’re still someone that can snag wins if someone is dumb enough to look past them on the schedule.

Look for St. Cloud to come out of the gates hot after a ridiculous loss last week against Minnesota. I don’t mean to re-hash it for the 3rd time in this article or the ten-thousandth time this week, but they got hosed with the no-call rodeo pulldown that happened in OT last Saturday. St. Cloud has proven why they had this reputation coming into the year already. I’m looking for them to come out with a statement win. Scratch that; TWO statement wins.

Prediction: St. Cloud stomps Wisco two nights in a row, leaving with a 2-0 sweep on the weekend.

#4 Minnesota (BIG 10) vs #5 UMD (NCHC) Fri & Sat Oct 15-16

The biggest game of the weekend. Not only in Minnesota, but probably the biggest across the country. The things this game has going for it should have any hockey fan salivating. It’s a top-five ranked matchup. A long-standing in-state rivalry, dating back to the glory days of the old (pre-big10) WCHA. The (unwarranted) “big-brother” mentality that the Gophers perceive themselves having over the Bulldogs. The war for maroon and gold. The original battle of Minnesota!

The Gophers got a taste of what playing an NCHC team is like last weekend. After giving up a ton of goals to Mercyhurst to start their official season, the Gophers were able to keep it tight with the Huskies last weekend. They’ll have to find a way to do that again for two games against the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, that’s the style of gameplay the Dogs are wanting to play. They’re not a high-flying and puck handling team. They’re more like a boxer that hits you with shot after shot for hours on end, waiting to get an opening for a finishing strike. In what seems like the longest-standing rivalry in hockey (no bias here) I’m looking forward to some PHENOMENAL games and I’d bet my non-existent pension that we’ll get it.

When you’re looking into betting lines on the weekend, there’s some clear and easy favorites to make money on, like Michigan. Then you get into some coin-flips like the UND vs Quinnipiac and Denver vs Providence matchups. What blows my mind is the Gophers being significantly favored over UMD. All-time, sure the Gophers may have the edge in the matchup. If you’re looking at recent history, however, the dogs have OWNED the other maroon and gold team from Minnesota. Without putting too much on a series being played in October, this is a must-win series for both clubs to stay near the top of the rankings.

Prediction: Boring, but likely 1-1 split. What do you want me to say, they’re back-to-back for a reason. It’d be a shame if they did, in fact, split and had to stay at these same rankings for another week. A real shame.

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