Hoping for a early birthday gift in CCHA Week 18

By Ryan Stieg 

Valentine’s Day is next week, a time when people all over the country hope that someone special will give them love and/or a nice present. My birthday is also next week, the day before V-Day, so I’m also hoping for a nice gift from the people closest to me.  

Well, the CCHA teams are no different than the rest of us except they want their gifts to come in the form of league points or maybe even a rise in the Pairwise rankings. The latter might be wishful thinking though as right now, the only way a CCHA team is making the NCAA Tournament is if it wins the Mason Cup. However, I’m sure whatever early present they receive this weekend will be much appreciated.  

Last week, I didn’t get an early birthday present or a valentine, which would’ve been a perfect week, but I did come close. I was right that Bemidji State would split with Augustana, and my special rule helped me get another win as Northern Michigan picked up a win and a tie against archrival Michigan Tech. However, just when I thought I might achieve perfection, Bowling Green swept Ferris State and caused me to finish 2-1 for the week.  

This week, I get another chance at perfection, but it’ll be harder to achieve as there’s four CCHA matchups instead of three. Still, I remain confident that I’ll receive that early birthday present and go undefeated in Week 18. So, let’s get started. I’ll begin this week’s picks with a series in Sioux Falls.  

St. Thomas at Augustana 

Right now, the Tommies are sitting pretty in first place and they looked very good in their series with Minnesota State last week as they picked up a win and tie over the rival Mavericks. However, they’re probably not happy with who they get to face this week and that’s CCHA newcomer Augustana. You see, the Vikings aren’t a full league member yet, so UST can’t pick up any points to pad their slim lead in the standings. However, it is an opportunity for the Tommies to stay fresh, so there are some positives in playing Augie this point in the season. The Vikings looked decent last week in their split with Bemidji, and I think they’ll get another win this week against the banged-up Tommies. UST wins Friday 4-1, but Augie wins Saturday 3-2.

Minnesota State at Michigan Tech 

St. Thomas will miss out on league points this week, but the Mavericks have a good chance to pick some up. Mankato only trails UST by two points, so any type of victory would put it back in first. However, it won’t be easy as it’s Winter Carnival weekend up in Houghton and the Huskies tend to play well during the Carnival. Tech is coming off a disappointing weekend against NMU and is starting to tumble out of MacNaughton Cup contention, so it’s desperate to get back on track. I think it’ll be a tight series that concludes with a split. The Mavericks win Friday 3-1, but the Huskies win Saturday 4-2.  

Bemidji State at Northern Michigan 

Last week, I said that February is when NMU started to make its run toward the playoffs last year and it appears that it might have a big surge again after earning five points against Tech last week. I’m not sure why it is, but the Wildcats seem to kick it into gear this time of year during the Grant Potulny era. This week, the Beavers come to Marquette and they finally get to play for points again after having to deal with Augie last week. Bemidji is tied for fourth with Tech, and Northern is just two points behind them, so there’s a lot on the line this week in the race for home ice. I picked NMU to sweep the Huskies last week and even though it didn’t pull it off, it came close and looked good both nights. So, I’m trying it again. The Wildcats sweep the series, 4-3 and 2-1.  

Lake Superior State at Bowling Green 

A few weeks ago, this would’ve been a series to ignore, but now, things have gotten interesting. The Lakers were off last week, but they’re only six games out of first. Other than St. Thomas, Lake State is probably the biggest surprise of the CCHA as it’s had quite the turnaround going from last place last season to being in the hunt for the MacNaughton Cup. Meanwhile, BG might’ve finally gotten its act together. For the most part, this has been a season to forget for the Falcons. However, with last week’s sweep of Ferris, BG is just three points out of fourth place and the final home ice spot. It’s another series with teams trying to get closer to clinching home ice, so I’m picking a split. BG wins Friday 5-4, but LSSU wins Saturday 3-2.  

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