Weekend play offers a bit of everything
Whereas last weekend's Four-cast was a nonconference series lover's delight, this edition has a little bit of something for everyone. Want a lot of goals? That most likely can be arranged. How about two traditional heavyweights trying to retool after an offseason rife with departures? Check. Or maybe conference rivals jostling for position even at this early stage of the year? You got it. Heck, we even know where you should go for a weekend filled with two hockey games, JoePa and Barack Obama.
North Dakota at Maine (Friday-Saturday): What's the best way to get a slumping goalie untracked? For North Dakota's Brad Eidsness -- he of the .811 save percentage -- the solution is probably not heading to Orono for a two-game series with the high-scoring Black Bears, who've scored 17 goals in four games. Not that Maine's netminders are in for a night off; the Shawn Sirman-Dan Sullivan-Martin Ouellette trio and their combined .880 save percentage get to face a Fighting Sioux attack that has scored 18 goals in four games. It should be noted that Sirman, a sophomore, is 1-0-1 with a 2.60 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan (Friday-Saturday): What used to be a pretty healthy CCHA rivalry is now a nonconference battle as Nebraska-Omaha heads to Ann Arbor for a weekend series. The Wolverines are historically among the nation's highest scoring teams; the Mavericks are the nation's highest scoring team at 5.5 goals per game. We're interested to see how UNO goalie John Faulkner performs when the heat is really on. Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick, who was virtually unbeatable down the stretch last season, has an even better save percentage this season but just one win and two ties to show for it.
Wisconsin at Denver (Friday-Saturday): The Badgers haven't really been challenged since losing to Boston University at the IceBreaker Tournament in St. Louis. The Pioneers, meanwhile, were swept last weekend by a Boston College team playing at a level beyond anyone else in the game. A few things to keep an eye on -- Wisconsin's power play is the nation's third best, while DU's penalty kill ranks fifth in the country. Only Clarkson and Colgate have power plays worse than the Pioneers (4.8 percent), but Wisconsin's penalty kill has a middling success rate (79.2 percent, 30th in the country) and the Badgers are the nation's second most-penalized team.
Alaska at Michigan State (Friday-Saturday): Another early conference series of some import, the Nanooks and Spartans enter the weekend feeling pretty good about their respective starts to the season. Alaska has won three of its first four, including victories over Union and Colorado College by identical 2-1 scores in Fairbanks last weekend. Michigan State opened the year with a tie and win against Maine. It's the start of a crucial CCHA stretch for UAF; the Nanooks host Bowling Green next weekend, which is followed by visit from Michigan and a trip to Miami.
Also: Top-ranked Boston College goes to Notre Dame for a single game Saturday. The last time these two schools competed athletically on a Saturday night, things didn't go so well for the Eagles. Nice little non-league intermingling in the Capital District this weekend if you're so inclined, as Atlantic Hockey members Niagara and RIT visit Rensselaer and Union. The Purps are at Union and the Tigers take on the Engineers on Friday. The teams swap opponents saturday. If you're a Minnesota State fan, best be buying tickets for this weekend's series in Mankato against Colorado College. It's the last home series for the Mavericks until Dec. 3-4. Finally, St. Cloud State goes to Minnesota for a Friday-Sunday series. The finale was originally scheduled for Saturday, but an early kickoff for the Penn State-Golden Gophers football game (11 a.m. local time) and a mid-afternoon political rally on campus headlined by President Barack Obama scuttled those plans.
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