It's a busy travel for most of the new WCHA this weekend. Seven teams from the league are on the road this weekend, while just two will host on their home ice. Contrast that with the NCHC and Big Ten, where every team in action this weekend will play at least one home game, and you start to get a better picture of how this realignment is going to work.
Being on the road isn't all bad, however. Sometimes an early season road trip can give a team an opportunity to gel and find an identity. Plus, with the RPI rankings now being weighted to give more emphasis on non-conference road victories, there's a big opportunity for the new WCHA to make a statement about how strong this conference will be this year.
Here's a look at this weekend's action:
Minnesota State at Providence
Providence and Minnesota State were two of the bigger surprises in college hockey last year, with two of the best freshmen goalies in college hockey in PC's Jon Gillies and MSU's Stephon Williams. This year, expectations are much higher for both programs, making this a very big series for both teams. The Mavericks swept Providence in Mankato last year, but the Friars were without Jon Gillies, who was playing with the US World Junior team, meaning it should be a much different series this year.
Our Jeff Cox(@JeffCoxSBNation) will be in Providence this weekend to cover both games of this series.
Michigan Tech at Minnesota-Duluth
We'll have Matt Christians(@Matt_Christians) at Amsoil Arena in Duluth covering both games this weekend. Check his preview of the series here.
Alabama-Huntsville at Northeastern
Northeastern hasn't lost to a team currently in the WCHA since 2001, and hosting Alabama-Huntsville this weekend, that streak doesn't seem likely to snap this year.
Our Evan Sporer(@ev_sporer) will be at Matthews to cover the action this weekend.
Northern Michigan at Wisconsin
The Wildcats open their season against Wisconsin for the third straight year. On paper, the Wildcats look outmatched by their Big Ten foe, but the Wildcats have actually won three of the last four in this series.
Our friends at Bucky's Fifth Quarter have a preview of this series here.
Bemidji State at St. Cloud
As important as these games are for Bemidji State, Friday will be all about celebration for St. Cloud, as they raise the banner from their WCHA title and Frozen Four run last year, and play the first game in their newly-renovated arena. The Huskies also debuted a new hockey anthem this past week. Ok, maybe they won't be celebrating everything.
Bowling Green at Union
The Dutchmen swept Bowling Green at Bowling Green early last year. Now, it is the Falcons turn to try and return the favor on Union's home ice. Union starts the year ranked 15th in the preseason polls, so Bowling Green should have their hands full.
Robert Morris at Lake Superior
The Lakers opened their season with an exhibition loss to the NTDP U18s, though Lake State used the exhibition as an opportunity to give some younger guys some ice time, while having some line-up regulars, including senior Chris Ciotti sit out. They'll hope Ciotti's insertion into the line-up gives them enough enough offensive punch to handle Robert Morris.
Kendall Hockey Classic
The Kendall Hockey Classic this year will feature Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska, Quinnipiac, and Air Force. There was some question if Air Force would be able to play this weekend, but they received clearance and are good to go. Facing off against last year's national runner-up in the first game of the tournament should provide a good early indication of just how improved this Alaska-Anchorage team is under new head coach Matt Thomas. Expect red-shirt freshman Michael Matyas to get the start in goal for the Seawolves.