Nothing has really changed with the Bulldogs except for a new number in front of the team’s name. Being #1 in both major college hockey polls is nothing new to UMD who owned the ranking for three weeks around this same time last season prior to winning the national championship. Don’t look for a change in the Bulldogs, but expect one from the opponents.
This week the Badgers play host to UMD in Madison and it is not new from them to host a top ranked team. So far this year UW has hosted North Dakota, then #5, and swept them. Later the Badgers hosted then #1 UMTC Gophers and the series was a split. In all, the Badgers are a respectable 7-3-1 at home and a miserable 0-5-1 on the road. Yeah, leg two of this road trip will be a tough one for the Bulldogs.
Their D is Really O. Badger defenseman Justin Schultz is on a scoring tear this year. He is currently first in the nation for defenseman in scoring at 7-18-25. He is also tied for second in the WCHA for power play points with 4-8-12. The ice sheet at Kohl Center is nearly Olympic sized, and all of it needs to be defended especially when Schultz is on the ice.
Streaks. The Bulldogs sport a nation leading 12 game unbeaten streak including a seven game winning streak. During the current unbeaten streak, UMD has played all of their road games amassing a 4-0-2 record. Last season UMD went 3-1-0 against Wisconsin that included a Bulldog sweep at Madison from two overtime games.
StatPack. Bulldogs and Badgers by the numbers. From the comparison, it looks really one sided for UMD. But we know that the Badgers can win at home and one player on UW can change the whole game. Here is this week’s StatPack:
|Images via Wikipedia (Bulldog and WCHA). Badger.|
Prediction. This is arguably the toughest road trip of the four the Bulldogs are currently in. The Badgers are not a good team, but they play really well at home. The key will be goaltending and special teams. If Kenny Reiter adds more shutouts to his career stats, it will be a good weekend and Kenny with UMD D-corps can do that. These games will be close and competitive. UMD is the better team here, but the games are in Madison were UW plays well, good enough for a split this weekend.
Around the WCHA. Things are really starting to shake out in the conference. You will see that in this week’s picks with many more “seeps” than the alternatives.
Denver at Bemidji State: The Beavers had a successful weekend at SCSU and scored a bunch of goals. Denver seems to have found some stability in net with Olkinuora and their high power offense will be too much for the Beavers resulting in a Denver sweep.
Alaska – Anchorage at Colorado College: UAA played well at Mankato in their last road trip only to get swept the following weekend at home by North Dakota. CC had a big emotional win over Denver on a penalty shot in overtime and will likely be riding high. CC should sweep at home.
Michigan Tech at Minnesota – Twin Cities: The Huskies are much improved since last year, but are not at the level of the WCHA elite teams. The Gophers played good enough, and right enough, to get a sweep at home against Mankato. Their team effort wasn't the greatest in both games, but they have a few players that can carry the whole team. UMTC will sweep at home.
Nebraska – Omaha at North Dakota: UNO lost to UAH for the Chargers only win this season. It is hard to know what the team's mental character will be for a rematch of Dean Blais' squad in Grand Forks. UND appears to have righted the ship and has found some scoring. It would be easy to say that this is a split, but my picks haven't been as good recently. UND will continue with the scoring from more than one line and get goalie play that is good enough to take a chance and pick a North Dakota sweep.
Alabama – Huntsville at Minnesota State – Mankato: What will the reprieve of the Chargers program do to the heads of the UAH players? It must be a huge lift, or it may be a huge sigh of relief. The chargers come in red hot after getting a win the previous weekend against the other WCHA Mavericks team. MSUM looked a lot better last weekend than they did when they play UMD. MSUM may have figured a few things out in the losses in Minneapolis, enough to earn 3 points this weekend. I basically said the same thing when UAA took 3 points. It will probably be a split, but I will go with the 3 points for Mankato.