Who’s coming out on top in Week 1?

By Ryan Stieg 

It’s that time again folks. Where I give you my predictions for each week’s CCHA games, and you tolerate my rock and roll metaphors. Well, I’m skipping the rock and roll stuff this year and just focusing on my picks. Maybe if the demand is strong enough, I’ll bring back the rock theme, but for now, the guitars have been unplugged and stored in the dressing room. 

Unlike the previous two years, the CCHA is truly up for grabs this year. Michigan Tech appears to be the consensus favorite after an NCAA Tournament bid and the return of the league’s top goalie in Blake Pietila. However, the Huskies have some stiff competition from rival Northern Michigan and a deep Bowling Green team that was my original pick for MacNaughton Cup winner, but after the drama around the time of CCHA Media Day, I’m wondering if the Falcons will have enough focus to even get home ice this year. I’m also going to go semi-bold this year and say St. Thomas will earn the final home ice spot in the playoffs. I think the Tommies are a year away from MacNaughton contention, but they’re still going to be fun to watch.  

Now, it’s time to discuss this week’s matchups and there are definitely some interesting ones on the slate. As always, I don’t predict St. Thomas games unless I’m not covering the games live. Since they have a home and home with St. Cloud State, the Tommies won’t be on the list this time. Minnesota State will also not make an appearance this week as it’ll be hosting Omaha in an exhibition. So, with that out of the way, let’s get going with my picks for Week 1 in the CCHA.  

No. 10 Michigan Tech at No. 17 Minnesota Duluth 

It’s just one game, but it’s a big one as two canines battle in the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame game. The major question here is can the Huskies can live up to their hype and start off strong. A win on the road against a Bulldogs squad on the rise would be a good start. It’s not an easy matchup as UMD is trying to build itself back into a dynasty. However, I think Tech wins a tight one, 3-2.  

Bemidji State at No. 3 Minnesota  

This is another one game affair, but involves two teams with very different storylines. For the Beavers, they’re trying to right the ship. They made the NCAA Tournament three years ago and just missed another bid in 2022, falling in the only CCHA Championship that ended twice. However, last year, the Beavers missed out on home ice and got bounced quickly in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers are hoping to shake off the nightmare that was last year’s overtime loss to Quinnipiac in the national championship and get back to the Frozen Four for the third straight season. I think Bemidji will be better this year, but the Gophers are just too good. Minnesota wins 4-2.  

Lake Superior State at No. 9 Michigan State 

Oh, Lake State, what happened to you? Three years ago, the Lakers were in the NCAA Tournament and last year, they plummeted down to dead last in the CCHA standings. It was a massive drop in a short period of time and LSSU hasn’t really done anything in the offseason to make me think it won’t be at the bottom again. However, upsetting a good Spartans team might start to change my mind. I’m not as high on MSU as other people are, but I do agree that this might be the year the Spartans start to turn back into the powerhouse it was a decade ago. I think the Lakers will get swept, but it won’t be as ugly as some might think. MSU wins 5-2, 3-1.  

Bowling Green at Robert Morris 

Well, this series certainly got more interesting in the last couple weeks. The main storyline is that the Colonials are back on the ice after not suiting up for the last two years, which is a fun occasion. However, now has another story thanks to the offseason baggage that the Falcons are bringing to Pennsylvania. A month ago, I would’ve said BG would roll to an easy sweep, but with all that’s happened, I think the Colonials steal a game. RM wins Saturday 3-2, but the Falcons win Sunday 6-2.  

Miami at Ferris State 

Here’s two programs that have fallen on hard times. The Redhawks have been struggling badly to contend in the loaded NCHC, while Ferris has been in the bottom half of the CCHA (and formerly WCHA) for quite some time. However, the Bulldogs took a step forward last year, climbing up from seventh place to sixth and getting some nice wins along the way. It’s an even matchup, but I think Ferris gets two wins. The Bulldogs win 2-1 Friday and 4-3 Saturday.  

Augustana at Wisconsin 

This matchup has the most interesting storylines. First, there’s the Vikings, who are playing their inaugural season as they begin their transition into the CCHA before becoming a full member. On the other side, there’s the Badgers who hired away longtime Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings to be their new bench boss. Hastings left the cupboard almost bare in Mankato, so I’m sure some Mavs fans are hoping Augie can pull off a major upset this week. I don’t think it happens though as the Vikings are too overmatched. The Badgers get an easy sweep, 5-1, 6-2.  

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