Welcome back MACtion. Oh how we've missed you.
After about 10 months of waiting, a full post-season, off-season, and half of another season, two MAC foes collide as the #13 Miami RedHawks head to take on Western Michigan, a former CCHA foe themselves. The two are now part of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the summation of "the best" of the WCHA (North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha) and the two CCHA schools meeting in Kalamazoo this weekend.
Miami and WMU both come into the 2nd half of the season limping in from a conference stand point. Both are 3-5-0 (9 points) in conference play, and haven't really found their legs in the difficult league. However, Miami should be OK, as they have played the top 4 teams in the conference. Western Michigan has played the bottom 4 teams (of 6, not counting themselves or the RedHawks).
The RedHawks are led by stellar junior-sophomore duo Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber. The two are tied for 6th in the nation with 28 points in just 18 games, and their 1.56 points/game average is good for 4th in the nation. They'll go up against Shane Berschbach, who has been red-hot for the Broncos this season with 23 points in 20 games. Berschbach also has one of the nation's best defenses behind him as the unstoppable force of Miami meets the immovable object of Western Michigan.
The Broncos will also have the Lawson Lunatics on their side. The rowdy student section is regarded as one of the nation's best, in any league. However, it won't be Miami's first encounter with the Lunatics, so the intimidation factor isn't as high. Still, this is a younger Miami team that is 3-4-2 on the road this season.
When it comes down to it, this series will be decided by special teams, and that heavily favors Miami. The RedHawks are converting 22% of their power-plays, good for 11th in the nation. Conversely, WMU is only converting 12.5%, good for 50th (of 59). The Broncos also are the 4th most penalized team in the nation with just about 16 penalty minutes per game. Still, I think the Broncos are able to steal one at home, especially after their strong defensive showing at the Great Lakes Invitational. WMU 3-2, Miami 4-2
Bowling Green Returns Home
The Falcons are back home as they too take on a former CCHA foe in the Alaska Nanooks. While Bowling Green seems to be hitting their stride, even against weaker opponents, their opponents are not as the Nanooks sit in second to last place in the WCHA, only ahead of 1-win Alabama-Huntsville (who actually have beaten the Falcons). The Falcons actually garnered a vote in last week's USCHO poll (as did WMU), so a sweep could bolster them up the standings. They should do that easily against a potentially jet-lagged Alaska team. Plus, BG is 6-2-1 at home. Yep. Sweep City. BGSU 3-1, 3-2
UMass Desperate For Wins, Chances Coming
The Minutemen have struggled most of the season, and will be finishing up their non-conference schedule this weekend and early next week with a game Friday against a solid Cornell team and lowly American International on Tuesday. Cornell has the 3rd best power-play in the nation, and the Minutemen are 53rd and 46th in the nation in scoring and scoring defense respectively, so don't expect much from UMass on the road. However, AIC is awful, with the worst scoring defense in the nation, and plays in the weak American Hockey Association, where all 4 of their wins are. Cornell over UMass 3-1, UMass over AIC 5-3