The most important series of the weekend, at least as far as national rankings are concerned, takes place in St. Cloud this weekend when #6 Colgate takes on #7 St. Cloud State.
The Huskies are coming off the best two years in program history, with back-to-back regular season league titles, and three wins in the NCAA tournament in two years. The Raiders, meanwhile, are coming off their first 20-win season since 05-06, and first trip to the NCAA tournament since the year prior, and return much of the talent from last year's team.
The Huskies swept an early-season series against the Raiders last year at Starr Arena in Hamilton, though the Raiders were a much different, better team in the second half of last season.
I'll be in St. Cloud this weekend covering both games. Here's what you need to know about both teams to get yourself ready for the weekend.
For St. Cloud:
-The Huskies come into this game a bit shorthanded, despite it being their first game of the season. Forward Ryan Papa is out for at least half the season after double hip surgery. Freshman defenseman Mika Ilvonen will have to sit out both games as the first two of a five-game NCAA suspension for playing on a team with a professional player in Europe.
-Charlie Lindgren is likely to start in goal for St. Cloud. Lindgren started four games last year as a freshman, and relieved Ryan Faragher in a handful more, but this will be his first start as the bona fide starter in St. Cloud, rather than the back-up. That carries some extra responsibilities and pressures. The Huskies start the season with a stretch of really good non-conference games, beginning the weekend, and they'll need Lindgren to be sharp.
-Junior forward Jonny Brodzinski is fourth among active NCAA players in career goals with 43. The three players he trails--Robert Morris' Cody Wydo(65), Bentley's Alex Grieve(50), and Minnesota's Kyle Rau(47)--are all seniors this year.
-Sophomore goalie Charlie Finn will be the starter for Colgate this weekend. Finn split time with senior Eric Mihalik for the first half of last season, before establishing himself as the starter at the midway point of last season. Finn helped anchor a very strong second half for the Raiders. His stat line was obscured a bit by giving up a combined 13 goals in his first two collegiate starts, but from January 1st of last year on, he put up a 1.95 GAA/.929 SV%. Finn was recently named to the watch list for this year's Richter Award.
-The Colgate offense is led by identical twins Tyson and Tylor Spink. Tyson led the Raiders in scoring last year, while Tylor finished second, though Tylor led the Raiders as freshmen, with Tyson finishing tied for second in team scoring. The twins play play together frequently and are very effective together.[UPDATE: Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times is reporting that Tylor will miss both games this weekend with an upper-body injury suffered in the team's exhibition last weekend.]
-On the blue line, the Raiders will look to get offense from senior defenseman Spiro Goulakos. There's no questioning the toughness and dedication of Goulakos. As a sophomore, Goulakos played the second half of the year in between chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Last year, with his cancer in remission, Goulakos returned to the line-up at full strength and was the top-scoring defenseman for the Raiders with 9 goals and 11 assists, including five goals on the power play with his above average slap shot.