Current Rankings (Week 11):
- Boston College
- North Dakota
- Boston University
Match-up of the Week: #4 North Dakota @ #8 Wisconsin, Sat. 12/8 @ 3:05 PM E.T. & Sun. 12/9 @ 3:05 PM E.T.
This WCHA clash will be the first series between these two teams this year. In a couple of different ways, they are polar opposites. Wisconsin, usually considered to be one of the nation’s elite teams, is having a down year in comparison. On the other hand, what North Dakota lacks in history, they make up for in potential; they are one of the country’s rising competitors. Wisconsin relies on goaltending and a solid defensive core to win games, while North Dakota’s ability to fill the net is what has carried them on their current seven-game win streak.
Each team will want to be able to control the puck in order to win this weekend, something that they both have had trouble doing consistently so far this year. The Badgers will want good performances out of their top players this weekend, but they’re also going to need their second line players, like Blayre Turnbull and Madison Packer, to show some finishing ability. North Dakota needs consistent pressure from their forward lines, in order pin the Badgers back and prevent them from getting many scoring opportunities. The real key to this series could be the neutral zone. Whoever owns the neutral zone and keeps play flowing away from their own end will have a very good shot at winning.
Top-10 Teams in Action
#1 Minnesota @ Bemidji State, Fri. 12/7 @ 8:05 PM E.T. & Sat. 12/8 @ 5:05 PM E.T.: The Gophers will put their 26-game win streak on the line this weekend against the Beavers. Bemidji State has seen better years; they currently have a 3-11-2 record. They’re still looking for their first home win, however. Will they be able to pull off a monumental upset and earn their first win in their own building? Anything goes once the puck is dropped, but with the pure depth and dominance that Minnesota has at every position, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them losing this weekend.
Syracuse @ #5 Clarkson, Fri. 12/7 @ 7:00 PM E.T.; #5 Clarkson @ Syracuse, Sat. 12/8 @ 3:00 PM E.T.: The Golden Knights will hope to bounce back from their loss against Colgate last week in this home-and-home series with Syracuse. They come into this series as pretty heavy favorites, and they’ll want to use this weekend to just get back to the basics and re-assert themselves as a dominant team nationally.
Providence @ #6 Harvard, Fri. 12/7 @ 7:00 PM E.T.; #6 Harvard @ New Hampshire, Sat. 12/8 @ 2:00 PM E.T.: The Crimson face off this weekend against two of the most interesting teams in Hockey East this year. Providence has adjusted admirably well after losing a lot of leadership and talent to graduation. They were able to score seven times last weekend against Boston University, but it’s unlikely they’ll have the same offensive success against Harvard’s elite defense. The gritty Wildcats have been a handful for almost every team they’ve faced this year, and there’s no reason to think they’ll play any less competitively against the Crimson, so Harvard will have to be ready.
#7 Boston University @ Minnesota-Duluth, Sat. 12/8 @ 4:05 PM E.T. & Sun. 12/9 @ 4:05 PM E.T.: The Terriers will end 2012 with a very tough road series against the Bulldogs. Boston University has definitely lost an edge lately after their hot start, so they’ll want to have a good showing in Duluth both as a confidence-booster and as proof that they can compete fiercely with anyone. This is also a great opportunity for Minnesota-Duluth to right the ship heading into the break. The fact that both teams have so much to lose or gain will make for a very interesting series.
#9 Mercyhurst @ Robert Morris, Fri. 12/7 @ 7:05 PM E.T. & Sat. 12/8 @ 3:05 PM E.T.: Mercyhurst will have some true competition to face this weekend as they visit Robert Morris. The Colonials are a very solid team, and will probably be looking to bounce back after last week’s loss to Syracuse. This is the first meeting between the two teams since Robert Morris upset the Lakers in the CHA Championship game last season, so that might make these games a little more meaningful for Mercyhurst.
Gabriella is now in her third season of covering NCAA and international women’s hockey for The Hockey Writers. She is the founding editor of At Even Strength, a website dedicated to providing full-time coverage and analysis of women’s hockey. She is currently working towards a degree in Communication at the University of North Dakota, and is also interning with UND Athletic Media Relations. She can be reached on Twitter (@gabfun) or via e-mail (gfundaro10 [at] gmail [dot] com).