The Mavericks are off this weekend and will return to play Thanksgiving weekend at Wisconsin. Locally, the MSU women play at No. 1 Minnesota, while the Gustavus teams will play St. Thomas
The MSU men have practiced all week, following their two losses to Denver, and it should be interesting to see how they come out of the bye. Between now and Christmas they will play at Wisconsin, home against Bemidji State, home against Anchorage and at Nebraska Omaha. Based on the old sweep-at-home, split-on-the-road mantra, a 6-2 record in that stretch would be ideal. Can it be done?
As for this weekend, eight WCHA teams are in action. Here's a look:
Wisconsin at Minnesota: The Badgers are reeling a bit with the injury to Mark Zengerle and the unexpected departure of assistant coach Bill Butters, so they're retooling their lineup this week against their Big Ten rival. Beat writer Andy Baggot points out that another problem the Badgers have is their failure to close out games. ... As for the Gophers, star forward Erik Haula may be a native of Finland, but he's all Minnesota. Minnesota also has a blossoming star from Wisconsin in Nate Condon.
Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota: The Bulldogs are looking for a little chemistry from some freshmen after a slow start that has included a five-game winless streak. Ending that run will be no easy task at The Ralph. For UND, Dillon Simpson is emerging as a top defenseman after playing alongside some pretty good blueliners in his first two years of college hockey. Also in Grand Forks, they're thinking of another rivalry, that with Minnesota, which will not take place next year due to the upcoming conference shakeup.
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: Remember when the Huskies beat Minnesota and were 2-1-0? Five losses in a row later, and coach Mel Pearson is calling his team desperate. To be fair, he's saying the same of the Beavers, who were swept last weekend at Colorado College. Bemidji State is hoping to get things rolling now that Jordan George appears to be heating up.
Denver vs. Colorado College (home and home): The Gold Pan rivalry begins tonight in Colorado Springs where two of the hottest teams in college hockey, the No. 14 Tigers and the No. 2 Pioneers will square off. The Pios are finding much success by recruiting in-state talent. There are seven Coloradans on this year's team.
Read the USCHO weekly WCHA notebook here.
Just a thought ... While the bye week may come at a good time for MSU, the Mavericks, Anchorage, Omaha and St. Cloud State are all idle this weekend. Three of those teams (MSU, UAA, SCSU) will play league series over Thanksgiving weekend, while UNO will play nonconference games, as will four other WCHA teams. Seems like this would be a good weekend to play league games while giving Thanksgiving weekend as an option for a bye week or tournaments or nonconference games. There are too few weekends in which all 12 WCHA teams are in action against each other, and the league is better served when that happens. The fewer "games in hand" fans have to calculate late in the season when trying to follow the race for the McNaughton Cup or home ice, the better.