An interesting slate of men's college hockey games this weekend, including a high-profile matchup in the WCHA, a clash of relative newcomers in Hockey East and four of the top teams in ECAC Hockey squaring off in central New York.
North Dakota at Denver FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
Hockey fans have had this series circled on their calendars since the season started. Unfortunately, the storyline for this matchup featuring the Fighting Sioux, second in this week's Inside College Hockey Power Rankings, and the third-ranked Pioneers centers on who might not be playing. The returns of DU goaltender Marc Cheverie and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch from injuries aren't a given; NoDak rearguard Chay Genoway, meanwhile, didn't make the trip west.
Scoring goals shouldn't be a problem for either side, but keeping pucks out of the net could be an issue for the Pioneers if Cheverie can't go. Freshman Adam Murray enters the weekend with a 4.15 goals-against average and a .840 save percentage in four appearances this season. He was yanked in his last start, a 7-3 loss at Alaska Anchorage two weeks ago.
Merrimack at UMass Lowell SATURDAY
Has Hockey East gone mad? The Warriors are the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging four goals a game while the River Hawks are tied with UMass for second in scoring offense at 3.7 goals per game. Lowell's got great balance -- seven players have eight or more points through 10 games. Merrimack, meanwhile, has sensational rookie Stephane Da Costa, who missed his team's season-opening series at North Dakota because of an eligibility issue but still leads the Warriors in goals and points.
Princeton/Quinnipiac at Colgate/Cornell FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
As Joe Gladziszewski mentioned in his ECAC Hockey rundown, central New York is the place to be for that league's best action this weekend. Colgate and Cornell each host Quinnipiac and Princeton; all four are in the top half of the ECAC Hockey standings and all currently reside in the INCH Power Rankings. The team or teams able to emerge from the weekend with two wins gets an early leg up in the race for the conference regular-season title.
Boston University vs. New Hampshire FRIDAY (at UNH) AND SATURDAY (at BU)
Which is more amazing: the fact that Boston University ranks 36th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 2.56 goals per game, trailing such offensive juggernauts as Lake Superior State and Alaska, or that New Hampshire is tied for 54th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of four goals per game? Something's gotta give, right? Right?
How many WCHA teams played their final game of the 2008-09 season at Mariucci Arena? Answer: Three -- St. Cloud State, Denver and Minnesota Duluth, which lost to Miami in the NCAA West Regional final. The high-scoring Bulldogs return to Mariucci this weekend to face the host Gophers. A couple of neutral-site games in the CCHA this weekend as Michigan and Bowling Green meet in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday and Michigan State and Notre Dame play in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Sunday. Wisconsin has won five of its past six, but all of those games were at home. The Badgers start a stretch of eight games, all but two of which are on the road, this weekend at St. Cloud State.
For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.