Week 16: Lakers and Wildcats go another round; Western Michigan hosts top-ranked Denver

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What’s on tap around the Mitten this weekend? We have two struggling Big Ten teams facing daunting tasks on the road in conference play; two of the UP’s teams playing the back end of their de facto doubleheader, if you will; and the No. 1-ranked team in the land makes a trip to Kalamazoo.

It’s all happening in our Week 16 preview.


FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS (7-13-3, 6-8-2 WCHA)

What seemed like a favorable match-up for the Bulldogs did not go as planned. They traveled up to Anchorage, AK and could only muster an 0-1-1 record and two points thanks to a shootout win in the latter game of the weekend series.

It’s another Alaskan team on the docket for Ferris this weekend, but it’s back at home and the Nanooks of AK-Fairbanks make a visit down south. This will be the first action for Alaska (6-14-2, 5-9-2 WCHA) since New Year’s weekend. They have lost three straight overall, which includes back-to-back games being shut out. But give ’em some credit, they’re a much better team on the road (3-4-2) then at home (3-9).

These two teams are 2-2-2 in their last six meetings HTH, with Ferris winning the most recent series. But they haven’t beaten the Nanooks at home since November of 2013. These games are on Friday and Saturday at 7:07 p.m. ET can be heard on 97.3 FM WDEE.

LAKE SUPERIOR STATE (9-12-1, 6-9-1 WCHA) vs. NORTHERN MICHIGAN (5-17-2, 3-12-1 WCHA)

These two upper peninsula WCHA rivals split last week’s meetings, with each winning their respective game at home. In the scoring department, the Wildcats edged the Lakers 8-7 overall, thanks to a 6-spot in their victory at home.

So as they say in baseball, “Let’s play two!”

It’s a double dip of Lakers/Wildcats action this weekend. Friday’s game will take place in Marquette, then the scene will shift to Sault Ste. Marie (say all that three times fast…) on Saturday. Both games are scheduled for a 7:07 p.m. ET puck drop.

Oddly enough, that was the first home victory for North Michigan this season in ten tries. But it should not come as much of a surprise, LSSU is just 3-9 away from home this year. The win for the ‘Cats stopped a five-game losing skid in which they scored two goals or fewer in all five. We know the Lakers rarely have trouble scoring, they still rank in the top-20 nationally in total goals, including three or more in three straight games.

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (8-9-1, 1-3 Big Ten)

Michigan is also back in action after a near two-week layoff, but they will have one of their tougher tests of the season when they hit the road and play a top-10 Minnesota team that’s as good as anyone right now.

A ho-hum season for the Gophers (11-5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), they too will be playing in their first action since the turn of the calendar to 2017. And they’re one of the hotter teams in the country having won four straight and seven of nine overall. What’s equally as impressive is that they’ve scored four goals or more in seven of those nine games. This isn’t our first look at Minnesota, they rolled Michigan State a few weeks ago in East Lansing, sweeping them with identical 4-2 scores in the two games. And last week, they blitzed both Mercyhurst and UMass by a combined score of 9-2.

You can catch the Wolverines and Gophers on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network, then on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports North Plus (for those in the market). Both games can also be heard on AM 1050 WTKA. Minnesota has the slight 8-6 edge in recent history going back to 2014, but Michigan has the most recent victory, a win in the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game last March.

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (4-13-1, 0-4 Big Ten)

Just when one thinks that things can not possibly get any worse for Michigan State, they create a new watermark of disappointment on the ice.

Another series loss last weekend, this time on the road against Wisconsin, extends their winless streak. You have to go all the way back to Thanksgiving weekend for the last time MSU won a hockey game that counted. By technicality, they did win an exhibition against the U-18 USANDT in early December. But that’s not eight straight in the loss column and things are not going to get any easier.

Their five-game road swing continues this weekend when they travel across Big Ten country and play No. 4 Penn State (14-2-1, 3-1 Big Ten)…. woof. The Nittany Lions are coming off a split at Ohio State, another top-15 ranked Big Ten club. The only thing MSU has really going in this match-up is the all-time series, which they¬†currently lead 6-5-3, but are winless in the last four HTH. The Spartans got whooped by Bucky 10-2 combined last weekend. On paper, this should be far worse. PSU is top-5 in scoring and has allowed the third-fewest number of goals. MSU meanwhile is tied for the sixth-worst scoring team and ranks 9th among the most goals allowed this year…. again, woof.

Both Friday’s and Saturday’s games are 7 p.m. puck drops. Saturday’s games can be seen on Big Ten Network, and both games can be heard on AM 750 WVFN.

MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES (14-9-3, 11-3-2 WCHA)

Here’s a Michigan team that continues to play well after a sluggish start. Michigan Tech earned themselves a hard-fought and dead-even split on the road at No. 12 Notre Dame last weekend. They got five goals from five different players, including junior Joel L’Esperance getting his seventh, tying him for the team-lead and T-2nd in points.

The Huskies head back home now for a couple weeks, where they have won five of seven overall. First up is a date with Alaska-Anchorage (5-14-3, 4-9-3 WCHA), whom we just saw last weekend when they hosted Ferris State. Anchorage is still struggling mightily to score, they are tied for the fewest amount of goals this season. Should bode well for the MTU defense and goaltending that’s allowed one or fewer in two-thirds of their last 18 contests.

It should be a good and very favorable series for Michigan Tech to keep gaining momentum. They are slated for Friday and Saturday at 7:07 p.m. ET up in Houghton. Both games can be heard on 93.5 FM WKMJ.

WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS (10-5-3, 4-5-1 NCHC)

The Broncos deserved their week off after an impressive showing in the Great Lakes Invitational two weeks ago. It’ll prove to be beneficial, or at least in theory it could be, when they welcome in top-ranked Denver (14-4-4, 6-1-3 NCHC) to Kalamazoo this weekend.

No doubt the Pioneers have earned that No. 1 ranking. They’ve ranked in the top-3 nationally virtually the entire season so far, with exception of a two-week period back in October. And even during then, they were in the top 10. A combined 11-2 thrashing of independent Arizona State vaulted them to No. 1 this week according to USCHO. It also snapped a mini three-game winless streak. A top-20 showdown in K-Zoo is definitely one of the more intriguing series this weekend across college hockey.

Here’s the broadcasting schedule for the juicy weekend tilt – Friday’s game is slated for 6:35 p.m. ET and can be seen on the American Sports Network. Saturday’s game starts a half hour later at 7:05 p.m. ET. Both games can also be heard on the radio on 96.5 FM WKZO.

 

**All stats and rankings courtesy of USCHO.com


2016 DSN MICHIGAN COLLEGE HOCKEY POWER RANKINGS

[Last week’s ranking]

  1. Western Michigan [1]
  2. Michigan Tech [2]
  3. Michigan [3]
  4. Lake Superior St. [4]
  5. Ferris State [5]
  6. Northern Michigan [7]
  7. Michigan State [6]