Week 6 – College Hockey Preview: Conference Play is Here

Gophers Hockey NCAA

It’s Week 6 of the College Hockey season and almost everybody in Minnesota is back in action with only Bemidji on a bye. Unfortunately, EVERY SINGLE TEAM IS ON THE ROAD THIS WEEK. I’m not sure how that happens with this many programs in the state. Even the Wild are out of town, so it’s a road trip week! Well, it would be if there were a single place worth going to out of the teams that are playing.

Lord knows nobody from this state is going to Madison with the whole “better dead than red” schtick. Your other options are in the worst parts of Michigan (outside of Detroit) or the southern suburbs of Toledo. You’re probably thinking, “But Veech, what about Colorado Springs?” I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a wonderful place. One of the best in the United States.

That being said, I’m not going to pay for a plane ticket, hotel, games, food, and rental car just to watch the number 1 team in the nation destroy a team having a down year. Take the cliff notes on that one and go back in the Spring to enjoy the scenery.

College Hockey

Enough of my travel recommendations. There will be more on that later, but let’s get into it. To this point in the season, there’s been A TON of inter-conference series. This is not only true for the Minnesota teams, but college hockey as a whole.

This week, that all changes. Long-term conference play is heating up for just about everyone that hasn’t had it start already. That means closer opponents, familiar rivalry matchups, and games that just mean more. Unlike college football, nearly every team has a real chance to win every night.

Ok, maybe not EVERY team, but I expect all of the conference games to be fought hard on both sides.

Explaining My Rankings:

No two ways about it, I let you down last week. With a 6-2 record in predicting games, I matched my season low. I expect more out of myself as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run.

Get on board and start betting College Hockey anywhere you can find it. It’s got to be the most lucrative sport to bet on outside of Russian Billiards. Allegedly.

  1. St. Cloud State – Huskies
    • Bye Week – Nothing bad happened and they’re rested up just in time to come back with a couple easy wins.
  2. Minnesota State – Mavericks
    • As expected, they handled the beginning of their CCHA schedule with ease. The Mavericks posted wins of 4-2 and 7-0 while dominating puck control, physicality, and every other aspect of the game. Dryden McKay finally passed Ryan Miller’s NCAA Men’s Hockey shutout record by grabbing his 27th. I cannot write enough about how big of an accomplishment that is and expect it to grow from there! If he doesn’t hit 30 by the end of the year, I’ll eat a stick of butter. At my advanced age, that’s basically a death sentence.
  3. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
    • Bye Week – No doubt that Sandelin had the boys watching film and describing how important the next three weeks are for the program. First and foremost, have to focus on the game Friday.
  4. University of Minnesota – Gophers
    • The Gophers stopped their slide by grabbing two big wins over a ranked conference opponent in Notre Dame. Yes, they were favored. Yes, they were at home. Does that mean it wasn’t important for them? No. All that it means is that the betting was easy. You’d know if you followed me on Twitter, just sayin’.
  5. Bemidji State – Beavers
    • Split their series with Bowling Green, 1-1. They lost the first on Friday and won Saturday. Each game was tight, ultimately being decided by just one goal. Unlike in college football, losing to this team doesn’t mean your season is over. Bemidji has got to be careful when they come back from the bye if they want to maintain their national rankings. I’d expect them to fall out of 20 with other border teams likely to earn wins this weekend, but I believe they’ll have the opportunity to climb back in throughout the year. Six games against the #1 and #2 team in the country and six games against a combination of St. Thomas and Ferris state. Just have to capitalize.
  6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
    • The boys in purple and white got crushed two nights in a row, losing both to Arizona State by scores of 2-5 and 2-4. Couple of private school kids go to THE party school of the USA and got distracted by the talent in the stands. A tale as old as time.
Sometimes, the bets just make themselves.

CCHA Games

St. Thomas @ Bowling Green – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

college hockey Bowling Green vs St. Thomas

I’ve written about Bowling Green a lot already this year, so it’s hard to say more than what has already been said. However, being a part of 10k, it’s my journalistic responsibility to do it anyways. This college is one I always confuse with the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs.

Then again, a part of me also confuses The Waterboy with Happy Gilmore, thinking that Bobby Boucher was a Hockey player to start with. All this to say that I’m an idiot and associate this team with nothing more than fist fights and slapshots. With wins against Miami, Bemidji State, and RPI this year, they’re clearly a little more well rounded. In the last five seasons, this Bowling Green team has the 4th most wins in college hockey.

*Sighs heavily* Now on to St. Thomas. I honestly don’t like talking bad about the Tommies week after week. It pains me to be the first person on the planet to tell these golden children that they’re not god’s gift to the world.

I don’t know about you, but it was rough when someone broke that news to me! Yeah, I was like 3 years old, but that’s besides the point. Until the Tommies beat someone who’s not Ferris State, this is the treatment they’ll be getting. I want to believe, so make me.

Prediction: Bowling Green is a better college hockey team than people give them credit for, myself included. St Thomas leaves a bottom 15 state with another two losses on the record.

#2 Minnesota State @ Ferris State – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

college hockey MSU @ Ferris State

Two weeks ago, I predicted that Ferris State would surrender one game to St. Thomas, and (as usual) was proven to be right. It’s well documented that they’ve got the worst bulldog mascot in College Hockey. On top of that, they’re the 4th best team in their own state, which is the 3rd best state in college hockey, at best.

They haven’t always been bad and they won’t always be bad, but they are right now. While they strangely always seem to play the Mavericks tough, I don’t expect much of a fight this time around.

Minnesota State is eager to get back to number one in the nation. There’s no doubt in my mind that the locker room feels slighted at being #2 despite winning HUGE on Saturday. It will be hard to jump much in the rankings this week no matter what they do.

They’re favored by a billion against Ferris State and St. Cloud has a similar spread in their matchup this weekend. If the Mavericks can win each game by 5 and/or get Dryden McKay another shutout (or two) this weekend, that is about the only way I see it happening. If we’re talking in the circle of trust here…they’ve got a shot.

Prediction: Mavs go in and destroy the team with the worst Bulldog logo in the NCAA, walking away with two easy wins.

NCHC College Hockey Games

#3/4 UMD @ #10/11 Western Michigan – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

college hockey UMD @ WMU

The spotlight of College Hockey is back on UMD once again. No, that’s not just the homer in me talking. This matchup is pegged as the “Game of the Week” for both the NCHC and USCHO overall. Pat Fershweiler (Western Michigan Head Coach) sat down with the guys at USCHO where he was quoted as saying, “They’re a little more talented version of ourselves”.

I’m not sure if he’s just trying to put a chip on the shoulder of his players with that kind of comment or if he’s just got no filter. For the record, I don’t disagree.

The Bulldogs are getting consistent goaltender performances, have a handful of deeply experienced leaders, and are getting regular points from their younger players like sophomore (hometown hero) Blake Biondi.

This Western Michigan team knows how to play tough and has proved that on a number of occasions already this year. They beat the national sweetheart and big brother Michigan in their first matchup (BADLY) and then took them to OT where the Broncos dropped the second.

If that wasn’t enough to get some eyes on and buzz around the team, they battled back from a daunting 5-0 deficit against Colgate on the road last weekend to win 6-5 in regulation! This team has got grit and while they might not be a “traditional powerhouse” in college hockey world, they’ve got some serious potential this season.

Combine that with the “Lawson Lunatics” fan section at their home barn and it’s a really tough place to play.

A Burning Question

There is, however, one thing that concerns me about the Broncos. This time, it’s not just some trivial and irrelevant piece. It’s something that truly affects the university and all of it’s students. Just kidding, you knew we were talking about the goddamn logo. What’s the deal with the change this year?

To go from a unique color scheme and good logo/mascot to a plain block “W” is an atrocious decision. Not only is it boring as hell, it definitely resembles a certain controversial professional football team. How can you trust a university to provide a top level education when they’re making decisions like this? The NCHC isn’t the Big 10…you can’t get away with that.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, way to out yourself as a non-hockey watcher. Yikes. Kidding, welcome to the best sport in the world. You can click here for a synopsis on the change and why it was made or just google it yourself. I, for one, will be refusing to acknowledge that kind of betrayal exists and continue to use the old (better) one.

Prediction: Tough wins for whoever is going to grab them in this matchup. Let the record show that I want to take the easy way out with a split. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. These teams each swept on home ice last year, but the Dogs have what it takes to steal one on the road.

Voice of the people…of Michigan (Western)
Way to go, you ruined everything.

#1 St Cloud State @ Colorado College – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

college hockey SCSU vs Colorado College

If UMD vs W. Michigan is the NCHC’s game(s) of the week, this is the one to forget. Sounds funny to say with the Huskies being the number one team in the nation, but it’s true. Colorado College always wins a few games a year that they shouldn’t, but that’s not happening this weekend against this monstrous St. Cloud team.

Most years I’d be a strong believer that if the Tigers were in another conference, they’d be competitive. Unfortunately for them and their fans, they’re not. They’re in the NCHC and this might be one of their “weaker” groups in recent memory.

Starting your season with losses to teams like Air Force, Northeastern, and ST. LAWRENCE only to kick off your conference play with the top team in the country has to be demoralizing. Sure, they beat Boston College which always feels good, but for lack of a better word…yikes.

College Hockey

One of the only things worse than their play on the ice, is the logo Colorado College is rocking. Lots of logo talk this year, but after chastising Western Michigan, I will not let them sneak by without bringing up this horrible and unoriginal monstrosity.

This iteration was unveiled in February of 2020 and is an obvious improvement over the past version, but what a low bar to set. When your logo is being mocked (and nearly replicated) by a child with Microsoft Paint, you have no choice but to make a change.

Unfortunately they’re too far along with the Tiger Mascot to pivot away from the most abused mascot in college (and professional) sports. How places like Colorado, Detroit, and Missouri landed on Tiger, I’ll never understand.

Prediction: Huskies take another step forward, sweeping the Tigers 2-0 on the weekend that’s essentially a bye week.

college hockey tiger logos
Tigers…real original

Big 10 College Hockey Games

#5 Minnesota @ Wisconsin – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

college hockey border battle between minnesota and wisconsin

The border battle is back. If the Gophers faithful really hated Wisconsin as much as they pretend to, this would be the biggest game of the calendar year. I love to poke fun at the Gophers, but I too will always root against the Badgers. It’s not my alma mater, so I won’t be making the trip to Madison to cause a scene, but you should!

With convincing wins here, the Gophers can continue their climb back up the rankings. Sure, Wisconsin is unranked so it doesn’t seem like much, but with a big win against Michigan last weekend, this could be important for the pairwise later on.

It’s already been a bad week to be a Badger with their messiah, Cole Caufield, getting relegated from Montreal and sent down to the Laval Rocket. Don’t underestimate how much of a mental blow to the locker room that could be. When the best college hockey player to come out of Wisconsin in recent memory takes one to the chin like that after such a hot start, it gets talked about.

The guys that had played with him and kept up thought they were capable of following in those steps to some extent, and now they’re getting a reality check. Confidence might not be at an all time low, but it’s definitely taken a hit.

Richter Hangover?

Unlike Dryden McKay of Minnesota State, Jack LaFontaine has yet to record a shutout on the year. His play has been a bit surprising this year after being awarded the Richter just this past spring. I don’t necessarily expect that to change this weekend in a rivalry matchup, but he’s certainly got a chance.

The Badgers are not be the scoring team they were last year. The Badgers have already been shut out once and scored just one goal in four other matchups. If the gophers defense can step up and Jack can get back to 90% of what he was last year, that’s all it would take here.

Prediction: Gophers continue to bully their Big 10 “competition”, beating the Badgers in both on the weekend. Better dead than red.

Other Games to Watch

#3/4 Michigan vs Michigan State – Big 10 (Home & Home) – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

The boys from Ann Arbor are sliding and need to get back on track. After losing 2 of their last four and needing OT to get a win in another, it’s creating a bit of a panic. Now, the hockey team is tasked with getting revenge for John Harbaugh and his incompetent football team. The way that team chokes in a big game every single year is so impressive and unlikely that it defies all statistics. If they really want to consider themselves among the other “hockey schools” like their fans online claim, the barn HAS TO be packed. Sometimes you’ve got to walk the walk too, Michigan.

#11/13 Denver @ #8/10 North Dakota – NCHC – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

How is North Dakota still rated so highly? Don’t get it twisted, they are absolutely a blue-blood and NCAA Hockey royalty. You won’t hear those kinds of statements coming from me often, so soak it up. That’s as nice as I’ll ever be to the F’ing Hawks. Given their history, they’re always going to get some extra attention, but if anyone else had the same losses as this team, they’d be outside of the top 10, easily.

When spring comes around, both of these programs are going to be contenders for the playoffs. Neither of them have played their best hockey of the year yet, but they’re also highly regarded by every NCAA hockey mind on the planet and play in the toughest conference. I would be SHOCKED if four teams from the NCHC don’t make the tournament at the end of the year. If I had to put money down I’d be betting on five while thinking that six are deserving.

#7/8 Providence vs #12 Massachusetts – Hockey East (Home & Home) – Fri & Sat Nov 5-6

I’m no John Buccigross, and against every fiber of my being I’ve found myself promoting a Hockey East matchup. Let me finish before I get all the hate mail, I already hate myself enough.

This matchup will be huge for the Pairwise at the end of the year. Mankato has played and beaten both of these teams and UMD has beaten Providence as well. With UMD and Mankato set to meet on New Years weekend, this will be one of the few common opponents they have all year.

The other two matchups being St. Cloud State (NCHC) and Northern Michigan (CCHA). Providence has also beaten Denver in a tight game this season, so they’re building a sneaky strong schedule for a Hockey East team.

I expect every program mentioned in this preview to be vying for a spot in the NCAA playoffs this year. That is, every team exception of Northern Mighigan of course.

If Providence sweeps, then it improves the strength of the UMD and Mankato wins. If the Massholes sweep, it weakens UMD’s bid but still helps the Mavericks. Even if the two split, there is a one game matchup waiting in January to decide it all.

Everything is intertwined now that the Pairwise and inter-conference play is back this season. When everyone is trying to sort it all out at the end of the season, this will be one of the critical knots in the middle.