Oh January! You brought us our first MACtion of the hockey season, a continued WMU hot-streak, a potential BGSU standings jump that failed, and continued obscurity from UMass. You also brought us continued poor play from the Miami RedHawks, who have fallen from grace since being ranked #1 earlier this season. Tis was a good month (for hockey), and now we must say goodbye.
February will bring us many things: another (and the last) MACtion series when WMU travels to Miami next weekend, increased importance on every game as the season winds down, and intense jockeying for standings position as teams try to secure home-ice for the conference playoffs, or in the Minutemen's case, a spot in the Hockey East tournament altogether. Let's take a look at this weekend's game, starting with a pair of red-hot teams clashing in Kalamazoo.
Minnesota-Duluth @ #20 Western Michigan
I know, I know. Western Michigan bias. BUT IT'S NOT! Western Michigan is ranked and the Bulldogs are right on the cusp of ranking after a stellar weekend in the North Star Classic. After beating a solid Minnesota State team in the first round, they then took #1 Minnesota into overtime, losing the shoot-out that was just for the championship. That's pretty solid.
Meanwhile, the Broncos haven't lost a game since dropping the 2nd game against Minnesota-Duluth way back on December 14th. Since then, they've gone 2-0-1 against the #3 team in the nation at the time of the games, and 2-0-0 against then #13 Miami at home. They are fresh off of a bye week and return home to a rowdy Lawson Ice Arena.
This should be a VERY good series, and if either team can take 5 or 6 points, it'll be very hard-earned and huge. I think a split is more likely though, with some rust on the Broncos end coming out on Friday. UMD 3-2, WMU 2-1
Michigan Tech @ Bowling Green
Another weekend at home for the Falcons, who split with Lake Superior State last weekend when they could've jumped back up to 2nd place with a sweep. Oh well, back to the grindstone.
The Huskies currently sit in a 3-way tie for 7th in the WCHA right now, so they could use all the points they can get to secure one of the last few playoff spots in the WCHA. They are tied with Alaska and LSSU, both of the teams the Falcons have played so far in this home-stand. Pheonix Copley is the key to Michigan Tech's success, as when he is on, he is nearly unbeatable.
But looking at the road record, and you see a dismal 3-10-2 mark for the Huskies, and suddenly you trust the Falcons to beat a team that has never really gotten going this season. Ferris State is off this week and Minnesota State heads to play a sneaky tough Northern Michigan team, meaning the Falcons can sneak back into the WCHA Regular Season Championship picture with a sweep. Let's make it happen cap'n! BGSU 4-2, 3-1
Boston U @ Massachusetts
One game series on Friday for the Minutemen who would probably want to forget January after losing to AIC on the 14th. This is a huge game for both teams, as a win would temporarily move either one into the 8th spot in the Hockey East standings, which is of course the last team to make the conference tournament. However, Notre Dame is at New Hampshire this weekend as well, so that jump would be short lived.
If UMass wins, they'll stand alone in 8th, and a Notre Dame tie would actually keep them in 8th, so there's that. Boston U has yet to win on the road this season, and even though UMass isn't that good, they aren't as bad as the Jack Parker-less Terriers. UMass 3-2
Miami vs Bye
Oof. Miami has been ice cold lately, but should handle the bye week with ease. Joking aside, the RedHawks need this rest before hosting the Broncos next weekend. Enrico Blasi will hope to regroup his team before a final push to get back into the NCAA picture. It won't be easy though with the schedule he'll face.