Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend—Sunday morning at 2 a.m., to be exact—so we must remember to turn our clocks back one hour or risk being late for work (like really late, as opposed to the typical five or so minutes late) Monday morning. But while we can’t forget to fall back, outcomes of some key hockey matches during this fall weekend could help the winners spring forward. Confused? Just read on, and don’t forget about that clock thing.
North Dakota at Minnesota (Friday-Saturday): Over the past decade, this series has been more even than you might expect—North Dakota holds a 20-15-3 edge since the start of the 2001-02 season. Fighting Sioux fans would say that statistic is somewhat deceiving since four of the Gophers’ 15 wins during that span came in 2001-02; Gopher boosters would say they’ve out-national championshipped NoDak 2-0 over the last 10 years, so you can have those four wins.
At 7-1-0, Minnesota is off to its best start since that magical 2001-02 campaign (please note that based on winning percentage, 7-1-0 is better than the Gophers’ 5-0-3 start in 2008-09) and the Gophs lead the WCHA in scoring offense, scoring defense, and power-play and penalty-kill success. North Dakota, meanwhile, ranks 10th in the Dub in scoring offense and scoring defense and has the circuit’s seventh-best power play and penalty kill; scoring balance, goaltending, and across-the-board consistency have been concerns for the Fighting Sioux thus far.
As clichéd as it sounds, this is one of those rivalries where records don’t matter and in the recent past we’ve seen the struggling team manage a sweep or a win and tie. All signs point to a big weekend for Minnesota, but North Dakota is arguably the best backed-into-a-corner team in the nation.
Western Michigan at Michigan (Friday-Saturday): With five wins and three ties in its first eight games, Western Michigan is off to its best start since 1973-74 when, in its first season of varsity hockey, the Broncos reeled off 16 in a row against the likes of Algoma and Henry Ford Community College. This weekend, they’re off to Ann Arbor where WMU has won just 12 times in 51 tries.
The Broncos and Wolverines actually match up quite well. Shawn Hunwick gives Michigan an edge in goal, but Western probably has the better defensive corps with Dan DeKeyser, Garrett Haar, Matt Tennyson, and Luke Witkowski. U-M has more balance at forward, but WMU has been slightly better on special teams. The games could hinge on which team gets off to a better start—the Broncos have outscored foes in the first period by a 14-3 margin, but if the Wolverines jump out to the lead first, Western could start to press knowing full well of their woes at Yost.
Colgate at Yale (Saturday): Colgate, rated 13th in the most recent INCH Power Rankings, is an interesting team. Not Dos Equis man interesting; curious is probably a better choice of words. Every Raider game has gone down to the wire—their 4-2-1 record includes three one-goal wins, two of them coming in OT, and a pair of one-goal losses. They’ve beaten some quality opponents (Miami, Nebraska-Omaha) and had some head-scratching results (tying Army, losing at home to Niagara). They’re not a particularly high-scoring team, nor are they a lock-down defensive club. A visit to Ingalls Rink should serve as a measuring stick. Also, Saturday’s match gives fans the chance to see two of country’s top senior forwards—Yale’s Brian O’Neill and Colgate’s Austin Smith.
Minnesota Duluth at Denver (Friday-Saturday): Despite a loss and tie at Michigan Tech last weekend, the Pioneers enter this weekend with optimism. First, forward Beau Bennett, who missed the series in Houghton with a hand injury, is listed as probable this weekend. Second, goalie Adam Murray, who was hurt 10 minutes into Friday’s loss to the Huskies and sat out Saturday, returned to practice this week and should be full go. Third, freshman goalie Juha Olkinuora acquitted himself nobly in Murray’s stead, allowing three goals in 110 minutes of work. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have three wins and a tie in their last four games after starting the year with a win and three losses. Senior forward Jack Connolly is on the verge of three career milestones—his next goal will be his 50th, he’s two assists shy of 100, and is three points short of 150.
Also: Maine is 3-2-1 with losses to Merrimack and North Dakota. We should have a better read on the Black Bears after this weekend’s games at Boston College and New Hampshire. … Seems odd, but Colorado College has never played at Nebraska-Omaha. The second-ranked Tigers trek to the Qwest Center this weekend. … Northern Michigan is 3-0-1 at home and 1-3-0 on the road. The Wildcats, who play three of their next four series in Marquette, host Notre Dame. … Welcome to the dance, Harvard! The Crimson, the last team in the country to start its season, hosts Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend. Saturday’s contest against Harvard is Quinnipiac’s 11th game of the season.