Several key conference games make this mid-January weekend particularly relevant in terms of league standings. We also highlight a cross-regional matchup between teams heading in opposite directions.
Miami at Ferris State (Friday-Saturday)
The odds-on CCHA preseason favorites meet up with this year’s surprise story this weekend with plenty to decide in the standings. The RedHawks and Bulldogs enter the weekend tied for first place with 34 points in 14 conference games. Momentum will be the story in Friday’s series opener as the RedHawks enter the game on the heels of dropping two games to lightly-regarded Robert Morris while Ferris State dominated the third period in each of its two wins last weekend over Notre Dame.
These teams met two months ago in Oxford, Ohio and couldn’t settle things after 65 minutes of hockey each night. The visiting Bulldogs earned bonus standings points through the shootout after each tie and some Ferris State fans described the weekend as a sweep. This weekend on home ice they’ll get the opportunity to pursue such an achievement in a more traditional manner.
Wisconsin at Colorado College (Friday-Saturday)
It’s a chance for the homestanding Tigers to get back on track after last week’s sweep at the hands of Minnesota Duluth, and for the Badgers to solidify their chase of the MacNaughton Cup. CC won six straight games in November, but is just 2-5-2 since then.
Wisconsin is five points behind first-place Denver with two games in hand, and is just a point behind fourth-place CC despite having played two fewer games. This will be the first meaningful hockey for the boys from Madison since winning the Badger Showdown title two weeks ago. Last week’s slate included an exhibition against the US NTDP Under-18s and several key Badgers rested for that one. They will get a boost in the lineup as Derek Stepan, John Ramage and Jake Gardiner return to the lineup after winning gold for the United State at the World Junior Championship.
Massachusetts vs. UMass Lowell (Fri. at UMass; Sat. at Lowell)
This in-state rivalry doesn’t get the notoriety of BC-BU or UNH-Maine within Hockey East circles but it means plenty to the fans, students, alumni and teams that are involved. This weekend it also means a great deal in the Hockey East standings. Since almost nothing was determined in the first half of the Hockey East season, this is a big chance for one of these teams to make a big jump in the standings and get some quality wins in terms of NCAA Tournament criteria.
These teams are currently tied for fourth place in Hockey East with 14 points, though UMass Lowell has played one fewer game. They met once earlier this year, a 5-3 win for Lowell on home ice that saw the River Hawks rally from a two-goal deficit.
St. Cloud State at Quinnipiac (Friday-Saturday)
This is a classic meeting of teams headed in different directions. The St. Cloud State Huskies have put together a solid run of four straight victories and are 7-1-1 in their last nine contests. They’ve vaulted to third place in the WCHA and have outscored their opponents 19-7 in their four-game win streak. Of course, those four wins came against Brown and Michigan Tech. This week’s tests at Quinnipiac will be tougher, even though the Bobcats are skidding. After starting 12-1-0 and moving into the top 10 of the national polls, Quinnipiac is just 1-6-1 since then and has lost six straight conference outings to lose their grasp on first place. This weekend’s games against St. Cloud State and next week’s tilts against Niagara are a good opportunity for the Bobcats to right the ship before the home stretch in ECAC Hockey play.
Also: One of the WCHA’s best rivalries resumes in Minneapolis when North Dakota visits Minnesota for two … Boston College hosts Maine Friday night in a meeting of top teams in Hockey East … Union, atop ECAC Hockey, hosts travel partner Rensselaer Saturday in a highly-contested rivalry that has already featured three very good games this season … Michigan State and Notre Dame will play a home-and-home in the CCHA and Michigan hosts Alaska for a pair at Yost.