University of Minnesota forward Nick Bjugstad - Minnesota Athletics
Two teams with six game unbeaten streaks headline a weekend featuring all 12 WCHA schools in conference play. Other series include North Dakota traveling to Colorado College, a national televised contest between Denver and Wisconsin and St. Cloud State goes to Alaska to face the Seawolves.
#13 Nebraska-Omaha at #3 Minnesota (8 p.m. ET Friday & Saturday on Fox Sports North/FCS)
Both UNO and Minnesota (9-2-2, 4-2-2 WCHA) look to make a statement this weekend at Mariucci Arena as they face their toughest opponent this season. While each is on a six-game unbeaten streak, neither one has so far played against the top teams in the WCHA.
The Gophers are coming off of a road sweep of Vermont while Nebraska-Omaha (8-3-1, 4-1-1 WCHA) defeated Alabama-Huntsville twice at home. Each has an offense that is nationally ranked in the top-ten and scorers like Minnesota's Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers), Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) and Mavericks' forwards Ryan Walters (undrafted) and Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh Penguins). This weekend's difference maker might be which goalie between Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) and John Faulkner can shut down the opposing offense.
For a full series preview, check out SB Nation Minnesota.
#7 North Dakota at #18 Colorado College (8:35 p.m. ET Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET Saturday)
This weekend's other WCHA match-up featuring two ranked teams is just as interesting with the two teams tied for 5th in the conference with 8 points.
North Dakota (6-4-2, 3-1-2 WCHA) is going on the road for the second straight weekend after splitting against Notre Dame. Things haven't been easy for UND (and they don't get any easier with Denver at home next weekend) yet they have been able to rely on transfer goaltender Clarke Saunders, who leads the WCHA with a .934 save percentage. At the same time, senior forward Danny Kristo (Montreal Canadiens), who has points in each of his last five games and nine of ten, is beginning to emerge as a Hobey Baker contender with 14 points (6G-8A).
Colorado College (7-6-1, 4-2-0 WCHA) went 0-1-1 at home last weekend; losing to Yale in overtime a night after tying New Hampshire. The Tigers have been able to use their offense to win games - they are 5th in the nation averaging 3.71 goals per game - and 3 players, Scott Winkler, Rylan Schwartz and William Rapuzzi have more than 7 goals. North Dakota, in comparison, has none.
Wisconsin at #5 Denver (10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Net, 9:00 p.m. ET Saturday)
As mentioned in our national TV preview, Badgers freshman Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks) is making his collegiate debut after serving a ten-game suspension handed down by the NCAA. The timing couldn't be better given Wisconsin's 1-7-2 start and leaving some to ask what is wrong. If there is a weekend for them to turn things around, now is the time against a team who they took to the brink in last year's WCHA playoffs.
Denver, meanwhile, is coming off of a weekend that saw a pair of crushing non-conference defeats. After Yale won in overtime Friday, the Pioneers blew a 3-0 lead (which happened in the first 9 minutes of the game) against then-#3 New Hampshire. They remain on top of the WCHA, however, and with the chance to play a nationally televised game this could be a showcase for Nick Shore (Los Angeles Kings), Joey LaLeggia (Edmonton Oilers) and the rest of the top offense in college hockey.
While coach George Gwozdecky will continue to split his goalies with Sam Brittain (Panthers) Friday and Juho Olkinuora Saturday, DU will be down to 17 skaters this weekend.
#14 St. Cloud State at Alaska-Anchorage (11:00 p.m. ET both nights)
The Huskies make the long trek up to Anchorage this weekend and hope to take four points from the Seawolves. Alaska-Anchorage (2-4-4, 0-3-3 WCHA) is winless and in the WCHA cellar but have tied against North Dakota and Minnesota. St. Cloud State (7-5-0, 5-3-0 WCHA), meanwhile, is currently tied for second in the conference with 10 points alongside Minnesota.
Bemidji State at Minnesota State (8:35 p.m. ET Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET Saturday)
Minnesota State (5-5-2, 3-5-0 WCHA) is coming off of their first-ever sweep of Wisconsin in Madison and the Mavericks have an opportunity to make some noise the next couple weeks. They face off against Bemidji State (3-5-2, 2-4-2 WCHA) and Alaska-Anchorage at home the next two weekends and a good showing in each could catapult them into position to challenge for home ice.
One reason for last weekend's sweep were forwards Eriah Hayes (2 goals) and Matt Leitner (2G-3A) stepping up and scoring. It's nothing new - Hayes has scored in each of the last four games - but that coupled along with special teams (MSU-M's penalty kill only allowed one goal versus the Badgers) makes them better.
Bemidji State, who are tied with the Mavericks in the WCHA (both teams are tied for seventh alongside Michigan Tech with 6 points), won for the first time in five games against Alaska-Anchorage last weekend. Despite that, they have made life difficult for their WCHA opponents. Jordan George leads the Beavers in scoring with 9 points (3G-6A) and has a point in each of the last four games.
Minnesota-Duluth at Michigan Tech (7:00 p.m. ET both nights)
The Bulldogs looked like the Minnesota-Duluth (3-7-2, 1-5-2 WCHA) of old last Friday against the Huskies before getting blown out Saturday 5-1. While they have been looking to replace lost offense, a pair of freshman forwards have begun to step up in Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley. In addition, a third freshman, defenseman Andy Welinski (Ducks) has six points from the blue line. The more they continue to adapt to college hockey, the better for Minnesota-Duluth. However, they are facing a Michigan Tech (4-6-0, 3-5-0 WCHA) team on the road that is coming off a bye week in which they have had time to prepare for the Bulldogs.