Friday, January 22, 2010

New WCHA Preview Weekend

The Bulldog schedule rolls on outside the WCHA this weekend. The opponent is Bemidji State who will be on the UMD schedule next year as a member of the 12-member WCHA. University of Nebraska – Omaha is the other newcomer for next year. A home and home series will start tonight in Bemidji and move to the DECC Saturday.

The Bulldogs are truly on a roll after the new year. Since the start of 2010 UMD is 5-1-0 and 4-0-0 in the WCHA winning their last 5 conference games. Meanwhile the Beavers started out fast, but have run into some bumps over their last six games going 2-3-1 highlighted by being swept at home by Minnesota State University – Mankato, tying Western Michigan and losing their first CHA game last weekend to Niagara.

With the diverging routes of the two hockey teams meeting this weekend in Northern Minnesota, I have to say that UMD will sweep BSU. Until UMD shows me different, I can’t see them losing. They are on that type of roll that could go for many games. That being said, one must be guarded to not overlook the nonconference opponent (they are more than just nonconference as they are #7 in the PWR). Wisconsin is the next WCHA opponent who is also a hot team, but it is BSU first.

A Look Into the Future. An article came out this week discussing the new 12 team WCHA playoff format on USCHO. The Final Five name will live on is the current plan. So six teams in the Final Five like 11 teams in the Big Ten? It is explained that it will be the Final Five games, thus eliminating the 3rd Place Game as has been requested for years by WCHA coaches. The story goes on to say two games would be played Thursday with the top seeds getting byes to Friday when two more games will be played before the Championship is played Saturday. We will have to wait for final word, but this is likely the best for the WCHA.

Around the WCHA this Weekend:

Denver at Wisconsin: This is the marquee match-up of the weekend. Denver is trying to regain first place from the Bulldogs and Wisconsin is attempting to continue their rise in the standings. It should be a good series with teams that will likely meet again in the playoffs sometime. This time we will see a split.

Colorado College at Alaska – Anchorage: CC will get back on track this weekend with the possibility to tie UMD in the standings. This looks good for CC on paper, but with it in Alaska, this will be a 3 point weekend for CC.

Saint Cloud State and Minnesota (home and home): If SCSU wants to prove that they belong in the upper half of the WCHA, this is the weekend to make that statement. With their rival neighbor for a series, stakes and emotions will be running high. The other obstacle for the Huskies is the Gophers are on quite a streak of their own going 8-2-1 in their last 11, but those teams all are all in the lower halves of their conferences. This one has all the makings of a split, but look for each team to win on the road.

North Dakota at Cornell: It is getting late for the usual North Dakota second half push. Playing outside the WCHA may get them on the winning track, but it doesn’t help them move out of 6th place in the WCHA. The Sioux will continue the WCHA nonconference success with a sweep.

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