In state rivalry, at least for Minnesota Duluth, will commence for the last time in WCHA play this weekend at Mariucci.
The Gophers are a strong team but have had their hiccups this season in league play, both home and away. Their non-conference record is a perfect 8-0-0 and includes wins over Boston College and Notre Dame.
But in the WCHA, the Gophers are 12-6-4. Their losses include Michigan Tech and Wisconsin. It is now late in the season and teams are gearing up playoff runs. It is becoming less likely that top teams will slip up against lower half teams.
The Bulldogs certainly fit the lower half team criteria with an overall record of 10-16-4 and a current seven game winless streak. But what UMD has going for them is they have not been swept on the road since early November at Omaha.
Certainly fans should not expect a sweep here, but UMD has been playing good enough to take at least one point in road series. While one point last weekend at Bemidji is very disappointing, the same result this weekend would be a positive sign. Not to mention it would further damage the Gophers’ chances at the MacNaughton Cup.
Special Teams Not So Special. Power play, once a strength for UMD, now seems to be a detriment. The Bulldogs are a horrid 1 for 18 on the PP in their last four games while allowing 7 on 17 during the same time. The penalty kill has been decent, but not as strong as the power play, but now both are suspect at best.
|Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, WCHA, Gopher|
- While UMD takes the third most penalty minutes nationally on average, UMTC takes the eighth least. Teams that play UMD have on average taken 17.3 minutes of penalty time.
- Special teams will be a big factor in the series. UMD has to find a way to stay clean and convert when able.
- Although the goals for differential is huge, the first period goal production of the teams are fairly close with Gophers with 38 and Bulldogs with 32. After the first period, the stats diverge greatly.
Outlook. What can UMD expect this weekend? They have to show up, play well, and hope for some bounces to get a point in the series. A win would be huge and could propel the Bulldogs to a good finish to the year. But the Gophers will be ready and this will likely be a a lost weekend for the Bulldogs.
Around the WCHA and Picks by @afiskness. The best defense is really a good offense. Even though the Bulldogs put up a lot of shots against the Beavers last weekend there never was a feeling that UMD was going to control the game. The puck control and turnovers are too many, resulting in more losses than UMD fans have been accustomed to seeing the last few seasons. I expect to see the Bulldogs put up a good effort on Friday. I am concerned if the outcome isn't friendly for the Bulldogs on Friday what will be Saturday's effort. This Bulldog team is just too up and down to expect two good games back to back.
There are only three conference series this weekend and all three series are teams in the bottom half playing teams in the top half. Upsets will bunch the middle of the pack, but Denver could finish anywhere from 3rd to 7th when the weekend is done. Wins by the top half could really tighten the race for the MacNaughton Cup.
Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota Twin Cities: The Bulldogs now own the longest winless streak in the conference and are facing the Gophers who are probably upset for letting two points get away from them last weekend in Chicago. The Olympic sheet generally isn't kind to UMD, but they did sweep up in Anchorage so they have some positive results this season. The best chance for a UMD win should be Friday, but I will go with a Gopher sweep.
North Dakota at Denver: North Dakota is the better team of these two, but the Pioneers might be desperate to get back into the top half of the conference standings. I Like North Dakota to continue their 5 game unbeaten streak. North Dakota sweep.
Saint Cloud State at Colorado College: The Tigers are in the midst of a 5 game unbeaten streak, and the Huskies look to control their of destiny in the race for the cup. The Huskies have been a very good team ever since being swept by Wildcats of Northern Michigan at the Beginning of January. The Tigers give up a lot of goals if the scores stay low they well get a least 1 point this weekend. Huskies win and tie for 3 points.Non-Conference
Penn State at Wisconsin: Penn State has played better this year than I guessed, but Wisconsin's defense is too solid for the first year team. The Badgers should prevail with a sweep.Future NCHC
Miami at Lake Superior State
Notre Dame at Western Michigan