Looking for a fresh start in CCHA Week 12

Monday was Christmas, a day where kids all over the world wonder if they’ll wake up with presents under their tree, a lump of coal in their stockings, or something even worse depending on the country you’re from. Unfortunately for me, I got my coal one week early.  

Two weeks ago, I gloated about completing a perfect week and performed a lengthy guitar solo. I also wanted to perform that song as it would probably be the last time I’d get to do it given the CCHA’s inconsistent play this year. Well, I’m glad I did play that ballad because I was booed off stage after last week’s performance.

Yes, that’s right. One week after going unbeaten, I went a horrendous 0 for 4 with my picks and one of those losses I definitely didn’t see coming. That was the Minnesota State-Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute series, which I thought should be an easy sweep for the Mavericks. Instead, Mankato lost in overtime the first night before forcing a split the next night. Things got worse from there as Bemidji State swept Bowling Green, Augustana split with Alaska Fairbanks and Lake Superior State blew out Ferris State over the weekend. Yikes. I need some spiked eggnog or mulled wine to help forget that nightmarish weekend. Ahhh. Much better.  

Anyway, now that the winter holidays are behind us, the second half of the college hockey season is about to get underway in a couple days. I’ve dusted off my crystal ball, so here’s my picks for Week 12 in the CCHA and I’ll start with a tournament that I’ve covered in person eight years ago but definitely isn’t what it used to be.  

Great Lakes Invitational: Alaska vs. Michigan Tech (Thurs.); Ferris State vs. No. 7 Michigan State (Thurs.), games continue Friday 

I covered this tourney back when it was at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and it was a fun time. However, now it’s in Grand Rapids, doesn’t have the hoopla of the past and Michigan doesn’t bother competing in it anymore. The games should still be fun though, especially the first one. The Nanooks let a sweep slip away two weeks ago against Augustana, but they’re still a good team. Alaska is solid at both ends of the ice and if it stays playing at the level it’s currently at, it could make it into the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies, on the other hand, have been underachieving this year, but maybe the week off will help them get to where they were expected to be. It’ll be a tight game, but I’m giving the edge to the Nanooks. Alaska wins 4-3. 

The other semifinal has the makings of a blowout. The Bulldogs have had their moments this year, but they’re by far the worst team in the conference. Meanwhile, the Spartans are going through an impressive turnaround and although I haven’t bought into all of the hype yet, MSU is definitely talented and has one of the best offenses in the country. The Spartans win easily 5-1.  

As far as Friday’s games go, Tech is the better team compared to Ferris, so I’ll say the Huskies win 5-2 and, in the championship, the Spartans top Alaska in a close one, 4-3.  

Ledyard Bank Classic: Lake Superior State vs. Dartmouth (Fri.), winner to take on No. 8 Maine-No. 18 Rochester Institute of Technology (Sat.) 

A tournament name like that just screams excitement, doesn’t it? It definitely has an odd format that’s for sure. If Dartmouth loses Friday, it’ll still play the late game Saturday because it’s the host school. So, the third-place game will somehow become the main event of the evening. Say what you will about the GLI, but at least if the host loses its first game, it won’t play the next evening.  

Okay, I’ll stop making fun. The Lakers are looking pretty good coming off dominant wins over Bemidji and Ferris, so they’re obviously rolling into New Hampshire with some momentum. Since the Big Green only have two wins this year and those came against weak opponents, I’m giving LSSU the edge here. The Lakers win 4-1.  

In the other semifinal, the Black Bears have been one of the pleasant surprises in college hockey this year and are on a four-game winning streak. Maine has also beaten top-ranked Boston College this year, so it’s definitely a tough team to keep up with. RIT has also had an impressive first half and looks to be the team to beat in Atlantic Hockey. I think this will be a close one, but the Black Bears take it. Maine wins 3-2. 

During Saturday’s early championship (sigh), Maine appears to be on a mission this year and it tops the Lakes for the title. The Black Bears win 6-3 and in the third-place evening game, the Tigers roll to a 4-2 win.  

No. 14 St. Cloud State vs. Bemidji State (Friday at Bemidji, Sunday at St. Cloud) 

Two Minnesota teams are set to tango this week and it should be entertaining. The Beavers are holding a slim one-point lead for first place in the CCHA standings, and they appear to be back on track after sweeping BG in their last series. The Huskies, on the other hand, are exactly where I thought they’d be at this point. Nationally ranked and in contention for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. I’ve watched them in person and they’re a tough team to beat. Nonconference rivalry series are hard to predict, so I’ll go with a split with each team winning at home. The Beavers win Friday 2-1 and the Huskies win Sunday 4-3.  

Augustana at Notre Dame (Sat. Sun.) 

After an impressive start to their season, the Vikings’ ship appears to have collided into something. It’s not sinking yet, but it’s clearly been hit hard. Augie has split its last two series against Northern Michigan and Alaska, but the Fighting Irish are a different kind of team and have more talent than the Vikings’ previous opponents. ND has lost three straight, but those were all against quality, ranked teams, and I think it gets back in the win column this week. The Irish sweep the series, winning 4-1 Saturday and 6-2 Sunday.  

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