Here’s a handful of key games to keep an eye on this weekend:
- #3 QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY BOBCATS (13-0-2) #1 PWR @ #10 YALE UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS(5-2-2) #11 PWR (Fri) – This is a great college matchup and a huge rivalry considering the two are in the same conference and the schools are 10 miles apart. This game features Yale with some gaudy defensive numbers (1.67 GAPG) vs the highly potent offense of the Bobcats (3.80 GPG). Both teams are posting ridiculous special teams numbers as well with Quinnipiac (27.5% PP | 89.1% PK) and Yale (25.6% PP | 91.3% PK). Head to head, Quinnipiac has had Yale’s number as of late on the Bulldogs home ice with a 3-1-0 record since November 6, 2010 – the last time Yale has defeated QU at home. Also, since January of 2006 Quinnipiac carries a 6-3-1 edge over Yale. This game is what college hockey is all about. The “Whale” on Yale’s campus will be rocking and this will be an emotional, highly charged contest. It’ll be a tight game and despite being on the Bulldog’s home ice I still give the edge to the Bobcats.
- #13 SAINT LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY SAINTS (8-3-2) #10 PWR @ #15 CORNELL UNIVERSITY BIG RED(6-1-2) #9 PWR (Fri) – Wow, another fantastic ECAC grudge match between two up-state New York teams. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the Pairwise and are getting outstanding performances out of their goaltenders. SLU’s Kyle Hayton (.938 SV% | 1.82) and Mitch Gillam (.937 SV% | 1.73 GAA) are primary reasons for the excellent start of both squads. Both teams feature a balanced scoring attack with the Saints scoring an average of 3.23 GPG vs Cornell at 3.00. Scoring against either team is tough with SLU holding opponents to 1.85 GAPG vs the Big Red at 1.78 GAPG. With the exception of SLU’s power play (7.4% ) special teams have been outstanding. St. Lawrence has won the last two games between the two but Cornell has been dominant on their home ice with a 4-1-1 record since January of 2010. These are both solid teams that will certainly get after each other on Friday. I give a one-goal edge to Cornell due to the home ice advantage.
- MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY MANKATO MAVERICKS (8-6-2) #24 PWR @ #14 BOWLING GREEN UNIVERSITY FALCONS (9-3-3) #21 PWR (Fri/Sat) – As was the case last year, there are essentially three teams in the hunt in the WCHA, maybe four if you include Ferris State. As such, this weekends games between the Mavericks and Falcons are crucial if they are to keep pace with Michigan Tech. Neither squad is putting up elite stats on paper and Mankato’s team offense ( 2.25 GPG) and team defense (2.44 GAPG) are downright average. Yet, they are doing what’s necessary to win games in conference. The Falcons bring an 11 game unbeaten streak going back to last season on their home ice. Both teams are getting solid play out of their goaltenders with BG’s Chris Nell leading the WCHA at .94 SV% and 1.55 GAA. First-year goaltender Jason Pawloski unseated veteran Cole Huggins and has a 1.73 GAA and .902 SV%. Since becoming members of the “new” WCHA, the teams have split all three of their series. It’ll be no different this weekend as I see a split and a disruption of the Falcons home ice unbeaten streak.
- #6 OMAHA MAVERICKS (11-2-1) #5 PWR @ #7 ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES (11-3-0) #4 PWR (Fri/Sat) – There are two prominent series in the NCHC this weekend and this is one of them. This series pits two potent offenses and two high performing goaltenders in a battle to secure the leadership position in the NCHC. This game features a number of forwards netting a bunch of goals lately including Jake Guentzel (8-14-22) and Austin Ortega (12-6-18) of Omaha and David Morley (7-10-17) and Judd Peterson (9-4-13) of St. Cloud. David Weninger (.948 SV% | 1.91 GAA) and Charlie Lindgren (.931 SV% | 1.89 GAA) have been lights out in goal and it will take a lot of rubber on each to beat them this weekend. On special teams, the two teams couldn’t be more diverse. SCSU strength is on the power play at 29.8% whereas Omaha is struggling at 13%. On the PK, Omaha is shutting down 86.4% of the opponents opportunities while the Huskies need to improve their 75% penalty kill. These teams know each other well having played each other six times last season including two games in the NCHC quarterfinals. SCSU won 4/6 last year and are 9-2-1 all-time in St. Cloud. There will be a lot of eyes peeled to this series this weekend and rightfully so. Despite the Huskies dominance on their home ice I still have a tough time envisioning a SCSU sweep. Omaha is just too good of a squad to pick anything other than a split.
- #9 DENVER UNIVERSITY PIONEERS (7-3-2) 13t PWR @ #4 UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS (12-2-2) #7 PWR (Fri/Sat) – This is the other prominent NCHC series this weekend. These teams historically just haven’t liked each other and I expect a highly entertaining series for all the fans in Grand Forks this weekend. This is the third road series in a row for Denver and despite an unimpressive 3-3-2 road record it’s included some tough opponents in Boston College, Boston University and UMD. Fortunately, they had a weekend off to get some rest from their travels. This game will feature some truly high-end forwards in UND’s Drake Caggiula (11-10-21) Nick Schmaltz (2-19-21) Brock Boeser (8-8-16) and DU’s Danton Heinen (5-5-10). The Pioneers defense is very talented with Will Butcher (3-9-12) and Nolan Zajac (1-9-10) sitting at #1 and #3 in points for their squad. I expect this to be a physical and high energy series. There’s a lot at stake here and again, I can’t see a sweep by either team. Denver hasn’t been great on the road this season but are undefeated in conference play thus far. Denver wins Friday and North Dakota on Saturday.
- #16 MERRIMACK COLLEGE WARRIORS (6-2-4) #15 PWR vs #1 PROVIDENCE COLLEGE FRIARS (9-0-3) #3 PWR (Fri/Sat) – The defending national champs are proving they are a formidable force in college hockey again this season. They place their undefeated record on the line in a home and home vs a very tough opponent in Merrimack College. Providence lost a lot from the cupboard after last season but are still finding a way to stay on the winning track with players like senior Mark Jankowski (7-9-16) sophomore Jake Walman (10-8-18) and senior Nick Saracino (4-11-15). Goaltender Nick Ellis has stepped into the starter role and has excelled with a .929 SV% and 1.98 GAA. Merrimack is not an offensive juggernaut scoring only 2 GPG but they are difficult to play against and are getting quality goaltending out of sophomore Collin Delia ( .922 SV% | 1.93 GA). The Warriors power play is incredibly non-existent at 5.4% but their PK at 88.6% is very good. With a strength of schedule ranked 31st in the country and having only one top 20 team among their nine wins the question is obvious, Can the Friars beat the upper echelon teams? This weekend will be a good test for Providence and I expect their offense to best the Merrimack defense. I expect a win on Providence’s home rink and a tie at Merrimack.
Enjoy the games!