NCAA Preview Jan. 28-Feb. 4
By Ian Beachy
Welcome back for another fast paced, action packed week in the NCAA. Some changes have been made in the most recent top 20 poll so be sure to check it out, and lets get the ball rolling.
#1 University of Quinnipiac- The Bobcats have a lone game on the schedule as the Big Green from Dartmouth University head down to Hamden, CT. QU is #1 for a reason and that’s why I’m taking them in this one.
#2 University of North Dakota- The Fighting Hawks are Kalamazoo, MI. where the Western Michigan Broncos await for a weekend series. However this North Dakota team is firing on all cylinders right now with guys that spent time at the World Juniors are picking up where they left off. The Fighting Hawks are tested both nights but still pull out the sweep.
#3 St Cloud State- The Huskies are taking part in the North Star College Classic along with #20 Minnesota, #19 Minnesota St-Mankato, and Bemidji St. With this being a tournament I will not be making picks on any of these games.
#4 Providence College- After a split last week vs UMass-Lowell, the Friars now get set to welcome the UNH Wildcats to town for a weekend series. Providence continues to show that making it to the Frozen Four last year was no mistake, and they are hoping to make the journey back there again this spring. While UNH sits in the basement of Hockey East, they still pose a threat to make a run late. I’m still taking Providence for the sweep in this one.
#5 Boston College- The Eagles have a bit of an unusual schedule this week. Friday night they will be out in South Bend, IN. to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Then Monday night it is time for a great Boston sports tradition-The 64th Annual Beanpot. This great event dates back 1952, it is a two round tournament played now at the TD Garden and features four of Boston’s elite college hockey schools- Boston College, Boston University(defending champion), Northeastern University and Harvard University. This year in the first round BC will take on Harvard, with both teams not only in the top 20 poll but inside the top 10 as well. I’ll take the Irish over the Eagles on Friday, not picking the Beanpot because anything can happen.
#6 University of Michigan- Big Blue has a Thursday-Saturday home-and-home with Penn State. Michigan has the three highest scoring players in the Big Ten, with a combined 58 points among their leading scorers. However on the flip side Penn State’s netminder has a conference leading 1.97 Goals Against Average. So this weekend it will come down to who cracks the other first-Michigan and their high scoring offense, or Penn State and their tough minded goal tender. I’m calling a split with the home squad taking the decision both nights.
#7 Harvard University- The Crimson have the same schedule as BC, with the Fri. and Mon. slate. Friday the Crimson welcome the Princeton Tigers to Cambridge, MA. Then Monday the Crimson take on BC in the first round of the 2016 Beanpot. I like Harvard on Friday over Princeton.
#8 UMass-Lowell- After splitting a home=and-home with Providence last week, UML welcomes the newest Division 1 member to the Tsongas Center as the Sun Devils from Arizona State roll into town for two. ASU has struggled to pick up wins this year-just five as of today. And this is a Riverhawks team that has shown as the season winds down and the games get more and more meaningful they know how to win. Riverhawks sweep the Sun Devils.
#9 Boston University- Another Fri./Mon. scheduling with the Beanpot Tournament on hand. Friday night BU welcomes a slumping Merrimack College to the Aggainis Arena. Before heading to the Garden on Monday to defend their Beanpot title from last year. I’m picking the Terriers on Friday.
#10 University of Notre Dame- Just a lone game on the schedule this week for the Irish. They welcome #5 Boston College to South Bend. After coming off a weekend road sweep of UNH, this is an Irish team that is looking to build on their successful weekend in a game that will certainly get the Compton Family Ice Arena rocking. I’m taking the Irish, sorry BC fans.
#11- Yale University- The Bulldogs have two home games on tap this weekend, both being conference tilts. On Friday the Union Dutchmen roll into town to try and tame the Bulldogs, then Saturday its’s #16 RPI that gets a crack at them. This Yale squad sits in a tie for third with, you guessed it, RPI. They are only a single point behind conference leader Quinnipiac, so these are four huge points on the line this weekend for the boys of Yale. I like them to take Friday night by a pair, Saturday night I’m going to go with a tie-so 3 out of 4 possible points.
#12 University of Nebraska-Omaha- Rocky Mountain high is calling the Mavericks. Colorado College awaits UN-O for a pair of games in Colorado Springs. This Omaha team came up short twice last weekend against Miami-Ohio, 3-1 and 7-3. Traveling this week may just be what this Maverick team needs to rebound and get back on track. I’m going with a sweep of CC for UN-O.
#13 University of Denver- The Pioneers are off to Miami-Ohio this weekend for a pair with the Redhawks. Miami is coming off a sweep of UN-O last week in Nebraska and is returning home with a bit of momentum. However they have a DU team that has 5 wins in their last 6 games- with a tie in there as well, which is good for 11 out of a possible 12 points. I’m taking the hot hand and going with the Pioneers to take both in Oxford this weekend.
#14 University of Cornell- Three loses and a tie. That’s what the Big Red have done in their last four games. This weekend it’s time for a road trip-first stop is at Clarkson to take on the Golden Knights before it’s off to Union to meet up with the Dutchmen. Clarkson has picked up wins in two of their last three, while Union on the other hand has struggled to put W’s in the win column as of late. I’m picking the Big Red of Cornell to grab both this weekend.
#15 Penn State University- The Nittany Lions are set to meet up with Michigan this weekend in a Thurs./Sat. home-and-home. As I pointed out earlier this is a Michigan team leading the way in the Big Ten owning the top three spots in scoring, while PSU is setting the bar high on their end with a 1.79 Goals Against Average. I’m taking the home team both nights- only difference is that they both have one on their own ice.
#16 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute- The Engineers have a conference ECAC Connecticut road trip this weekend. Brown University awaits them on Friday, and Saturday they have a date with the boys of Yale. RPI IS 2-1-3 in their last six games, and finds themselves in a tie with Yale for third in the ECAC. I’m going with RPI on Friday, and then a tie on Saturday .
#17 Michigan Tech- The Huskies and Bowling Green get set to meet up in Bowling Green this weekend as Tech enters this week in a #17-#18 battle. Tech split a series last week with Minn. St-Mankato. The Huskies sit in a tie for third with Ferris State and are four points behind this Bowling Green squad for second. Big four points on the line for both sides. I’m going with the weekend split in Ohio.
#18 Bowling Green State University- The Falcons are welcoming Michigan Tech to town this weekend in a huge tilt as the second half of the year gets down to crunch time. BGSU sits four points up on this Michigan Tech team for second, and trails Minnesota St-Mankato for first by three. And with Mankato playing in the North Star College Classic this weekend it’s a huge chance for the Falcons to gain some ground and maybe even possibly move ahead into first. Points are at a premium here that’s why I’m going with the split.
#19 Minnesota St-Mankato- In this all Minnesota squad tournament being played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the Mavericks look to add their names to the list on champions in what people like to relate to as “The Beanpot of Minnesota college hockey”. This is going to be an exciting weekend of hockey in the North Star state.
#20 University of Minnesota-The last team in the poll to be covered will also be taking part in the North Star College Classic. After losing the “reigning champions” inaugural title to Bemidji St last year this Gopher team is looking to show folks that after a bit of a slow start to the season it is locked and loaded to get things going to make a push for the NCAA Tournament.