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WCHA Preview: October 18th-20th

A preview of this weekend's action in the WCHA

Elsa - Getty Images

Minnesota-Duluth at Notre Dame Thursday and Friday

This series was moved up day so as not to conflict with Notre Dame's home football game against BYU on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs and Irish have a bit of a budding rivalry. They've met six times since 2004-2005, and have another couple meetings set up beyond this one.

Notre Dame goalie Steve Summerhays was given the starting role heading into this season, and his first two games last weekend helped solidify him in that spot.

Minnesota at Michigan Tech Friday and Saturday

This is the first meeting between these two teams since Tech assistant Bill Muckalt and Minnesota assistant Grant Potulny got into a heated exchange of words in the closing moments of the game. Muckalt probably pointed out that he's wearing a national championship ring because he assisted on a national title winning goal, while Potulny is wearing a national championship ring because Steve Piotrowski assisted on a national title winning goal.

The goal tending situation is still up in the air for Tech. Pheonix Copley and Kevin Genoe each got a start last weekend, and neither made a case that they absolutely had to get more playing time. NHL draft pick Jamie Phillips is also likely to see a start soon.

Alaska Goal Rush North Dakota vs. Alaska-Anchorage, Friday, Fairbanks, Alaska

All four of North Dakota's captains--Danny Kristo, Carter Rowney, Corban Knight, and Andrew MacWilliam-- are suspended for this game, along with Brendan O'Donnell. An injury to Michael Parks will keep him out for another two weeks. That means North Dakota is down to just 16 skaters on Friday night.

Anchorage Daily News hockey writer Doyle Woody isn't thrilled that UAA plays North Dakota in a conference series so soon after this game. Does that particularly matter?

Alaska Goal Rush North Dakota vs. Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage vs. Merrimack, Saturday, Fairbanks, Alaska

North Dakota's body count for this one looks like this: Danny Kristo, Connor Gaarder, Andrew Panzarella, and Stephane Pattyn. North Dakota isn't losing the same quality of players on Saturday, but with their bench so short, any bodies would help.

Know how you're in Alaska? The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article on UAA's chances at winning this tournament again contains this line: "However, the quest for the 2012 Brice prize is expected to be as challenging as driving on icy roads in Interior Alaska at this time of the year." It's mid-October. Also, the front page of the Anchorage Daily News shows a women at a protest holding up a sign that says 'Food Security'. I assume this relates to bears.

For Merrimack, it's been a tough week, losing former coach Chris Serino to cancer at the age of 63. Mike McMahon wrote a nice piece on his relationship with the coach.


Northern Michigan at Nebraska-Omaha Friday and Saturday

For all the talk about how Wisconsin disappointed in the opening weekend of the season, a lot of credit also has to go to Northern Michigan, who could end up being a pretty dangerous team this year. NMU earned Team of the Week honors from College Hockey News for their effort.

Mining Journal sports editor Matt Wellens reported via Twitter that Northern Michigan's Reed Seckel, Ryan Aynsley, Wade Epp, and Erik Higby were all limited in practice this week with minor injuries, but it seems like they should be good to go this weekend.

Omaha's Brock Montpetit is centering UNO's top line, and needs to be more consistent this year.

Lake Superior at Bemidji State Friday and Saturday

Bemidji opens up their season against a future conference foe. For as little credit as I've given the Beavers heading into the season--I had them 11th in the WCHA in preseason--I actually kind of like what they have on their roster. I think they've got a pretty good defense, and some pretty good freshman forwards including the tremendously underrated Cory Ward, Brad Robbins, and a potential sleeper in Phil Brewer. Brewer sat out last year, but I've heard some buzz that he might have a strong year this year. Somebody is going to have to finish near the bottom of the WCHA, and I still think Bemidji is one of the more likely candidates, but I also wouldn't be shocked if they finished much higher than I had predicted.

For Lake Superior, 6'6" forward Kellen Lain is questionable for this series with a groin injury. That would be a huge loss, literally and figuratively if he can't go.

RPI at Minnesota State Friday and Saturday

This is the home opener for Minnesota State, and after some dreadful attendance last season at the end of the Troy Jutting era, the Mavericks are going all out to bring people back to their arena. Some of their players made their own Gangham Style video parody to get people's attention, and before Saturday's game, they're hosting a party, complete with mechanical bull for fans.

Minnesota State's Chase Grant scored a hat trick, and added an assist in his first game last week after having season-ending hip surgery last season.

RPI has three Minnesotans on their team that will be making the trip back home this week in Zach Schroeder, Bo Dolan, and Andrew Commers. The Engineers got off to a pretty good start to their season last weekend with a win and a tie against Ferris State, and appear much improved over last year's team, which had talent, but struggled to put wins together.

Colorado College at Air Force Friday, UMass-Lowell at Colorado College Saturday

Colorado College is playing the rare home-and-home series with different opponents.Colorado College's Archie Skalbeck and William Rapuzzi are emerging as big scorers for the Tigers.

Three different Tigers have a dad that played in the NHL.

UMass-Lowell at Denver Friday, Air Force at Denver Saturday

Denver will be relying on an incredibly strong defense this season, to make up for all the goal-scoring they lost over the summer.

Head coach George Gwozdecky said each of his three goalies will get two starts before he makes any final decisions on a starter. Juho Olkinuora is suspended for the team's first four games, so Sam Brittain and Adam Murray will likely split games this wekend.

Alabama-Huntsville at St. Cloud Friday and Saturday

The National Hockey Center is undergoing a major renovation, that will keep the some of the bigger entrances to the arena closed for most of the year. With it being early in the season, and a lesser-known opponent, the smaller crowds this weekend should be a good beta test for just how big of a mess that will be for St. Cloud fans entering/exiting the building.

Mick Hattin at the St. Cloud Times reports that Joey Benik's cast for his broken leg will come off October 29th, with a return for SCSU's series against Minnesota-Duluth as a rough estimate for his return. Other than that, St. Cloud seems pretty healthy. Brooks Bertsch took a shot off the leg against New Hampshire, but should be healthy by this weekend.

This is the start of six straight weekends on the road for Alabama-Huntsville. They've got just an absolutely brutal schedule.