Jonny Brodzinski and his Huskies face #5 (PWR) Omaha in St. Cloud (Photo Prout)
Here’s a listing of key matchups in college hockey for the weekend of February 20/21.
- Harvard University Crimson (13-8-3 / PWR #15) @ Saint Lawrence University Saints (16-11-3 / PWR #21) (Friday) – This is a huge weekend for both squads. The once promising season for the injury riddled Crimson is on the verge of total collapse. At one point in the season Harvard was sitting on an eight game winning streak. Since January 1, the Crimson are 3-7-1 but made progress last weekend defeating Colgate 4-1 and tying Cornell 3-3 in overtime. Currently at #15 in the pairwise, there is little margin for error making this weekends games vs St. Lawrence and Clarkson “must wins”. However, this is easier said than done as St. Lawrence will be looking to recover from a miserable weekend losing to league leader Quinnipiac in a crucial league game 2-1 and then skating to a 1-1 overtime tie with last place Princeton. As is the case with Harvard, this is a must win situation for the Saints who then face Dartmouth on Saturday. Prediction: Skating at home, I expect the Saints to get back on track and post a Friday win over the Crimson. Harvard is a beat up team and simply not the team they were earlier in the season. Combine that with a tough road trip to the north country and I see a two-goal loss to the Saints.
- Yale University Bulldogs (15-7-3 / PWR #14) @ Quinnipiac University Bobcats (20-8-2 / PWR #10) (Friday) – Five dollars worth of gas (RT) from New Haven, CT and a $15 ticket will get you one helluva entertaining night of hockey on Friday as rivals Yale and Quinnipiac square off in a key ECAC game. These teams don’t like each other and they will have to do their best to keep their emotions in check. Forget the ECAC title as QU has that wrapped up. But, at #14 in the PWR, Yale obviously needs a successful outing versus the Bobcats.They tied in their first head to head meeting 2-2 on January 31 and that was an accomplishment for Yale who has lost seven of their last eleven meetings. Both squads have been stingy defensively and this will no doubt be a close, tight checking, low scoring contest. Prediction: QU rose to the occasion at home last Friday in a close win over St. Lawrence and I suspect they’ll do the same this weekend against Yale. I’m giving the Bobcats a one-goal win with the GWG by Sam Anas.
- Notre Dame University Fighting Irish (13-15-4 / PWR #36) @ Boston University Terriers (19-5-4 / PWR #3) (Friday/Saturday) – Fifth place Notre Dame is struggling to survive. An awful month of January (3-5-1) put them on their heels and they’ve been trying to recover ever since. They’d be giddy if they were to salvage a three-point weekend similar to their trip to Maine two weekends ago. However, it’s going to be a tough task facing a Boston University squad that has won seven of their last eight games and have only lost three games at home this season. The Terriers simply have too much firepower and the Irish team defense has been too suspect to expect much success this weekend. Prediction: Expect Eichel and Rodrigues to pad their stats this weekend against an average Notre Dame defense. Boston University will win both games for a weekend sweep.
- Northeastern University Huskies (14-11-4 / PWR #20) @ University of Maine Black Bears (12-17-3 / PWR #41) (Friday/Saturday) – Northeastern will attempt to continue their outstanding run of success as they travel to Orono, Maine to battle the Black Bears. One of the hottest teams in college hockey, the Huskies are 11-2-3 since December 1 and this has elevated them to #20 in the Pairwise. Even so, they are still looking in from the outside but still holding hope for an at large bid with three games versus Boston University to end the season. Above and beyond that, they want to continue to play outstanding hockey as they head into the playoffs. Last weekend they totally dismantled Connecticut 9-0 and 6-1 in an impressive show of offense. Since January 1, Maine has been good with an 8-4-2 record. They certainly won’t be a pushover for the high-flying Huskies. Prediction: Both teams have momentum and Maine has the advantage of being at home. I’m handing Maine a slight upset win on Friday but Northeastern recovers for a Saturday win in a weekend split.
- UMass-Lowell River Hawks (17-10-4 / PWR #18) @ Boston College Eagles (18-10-2 / PWR #11) (Friday) – Lowell has imploded in the past month dropping 6 of 9 games since January 18th. Once a sure bet for post-season play, the River Hawks now need to prove to themselves that they belong. They’ve dropped to #18 in the PWR and they need to recover quickly in their last three games of the regular season facing Boston College and Vermont. However, they’ll be facing a Boston College team that’s lost only three times since December 1. Goal scoring hasn’t been a problem for the River Hawks this season. But, keeping the puck out of their net has been the issue. At #11 in the PWR, Boston College can’t afford to drop games they should win and this is a game they should win. Prediction: I can’t see a let down by the Eagles in this single game. On home ice and facing a struggling Lowell squad should lead to a two-goal win for Boston College.
- University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (18-11-1 / PWR #4) @ Miami University RedHawks (18-9-1 / PWR #6) (Friday/Saturday) – Two squads sitting comfortable in the pairwise faceoff this weekend in Oxford, OH. Since December 1 both teams have compiled a 5-4-1 conference record in the grueling NCHC. Give the defensive edge to Miami and the offensive edge to Duluth in this matchup. The teams split three months ago in Duluth and it should be no different this weekend. Prediction: This is a weekend split with Miami winning on Friday and UMD on Saturday.
- University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (17-8-3 / PWR #5) @ St. Cloud State University Huskies (13-14-1 / PWR #19) (Friday/Saturday) – I expect the Huskies have had this rematch circled on their calendar since their last meeting in Omaha in December, The Huskies were swept 3-2 and 5-3(EN) but the series was not without controversy. Early in the third period on Friday with the game tied at 2-2, leading scorer, Jonny Brodzinski was ejected in a highly controversial call for contact to the head. Omaha subsequently scored on the PP and held on for the 3-2 win in a game where they were badly outshot 49-23. On paper, this matchup is very close. The Huskies have finally cracked the top 20 in the PWR and control their destiny for post season play with Omaha, North Dakota and Denver on the schedule to finish the season. At #5 in the PWR, the Mavericks are a pretty much a lock for an at large NCAA berth. SCSU has finally found some chemistry in their lineup and have scored 28 goals in their last 6 games. Prediction: This will be wide open hockey and these teams tend to light it up when they meet. I’m confident the Huskies will explode offensively in one of these two games in a weekend split. A sweep is possible but Charlie Lindgren will have to stand on his head in game two. Can they keep Austin Ortega off the board? Probably not.
- University of North Dakota (20-6-3 / PWR #2) @ Western Michigan University Broncos (12-12-4 / PWR 23) (Friday/Saturday) – North Dakota travels to Kalamazoo to face the Broncos and the Lawson Lunatics. Western has been pretty good since the first of the year with a conference record of 4-3-3 and will present problems for the visiting North Dakota squad. Certainly the key to this series for WMU is to slow down the UND offense and get a good series of goaltending out of Lucas Hafner. NoDak is 5-2-1 in conference play since January 1 and can score in bunches. This is the first meeting between the two this season. If the Broncos can play a tight physical game like they are capable of this could be an interesting series. Prediction: Home ice and the Lawson lunatics will be of advantage to the Broncos. North Dakota will win Friday but WMU will clamp down on UND defensively on Saturday and pick up a weekend split.
- University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-9-3 / PWR #13) @ Penn State University Nittany Lions (15-9-4 / PWR #25) (Friday/Saturday) – The Gophers survived a brutal January going 3-5-2 and emerged beating up on conference foes to propel themselves into a tie for first in the BIG 10 standings. They dominated Michigan last weekend outscoring the Wolverines 8-2 in the series sweep. The result is they’ve moved up to #13 in the Pairwise with eight conference games left to make up more ground. They visit an unpredictable Penn State squad that will be chomping at the bit to slow down the Gophers. Penn State will be looking to recover from being swept by Michigan State last weekend. No doubt PSU will throw a lot of rubber at Adam Wilcox – that’s what they do. But most importantly, Penn State needs their goaltending to be stout and they can’t afford to allow the Gophers 29% PP to take over the game. Prediction: The crowd will be loud at Pegula and the home squad will play disciplined enough hockey to edge the Gopher’s on Friday. The Gopher’s rebound for a three-goal win on Saturday.