Cold weather brings great hockey

Most of the college hockey-playing country is in the grips of winter weather -- snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, Arctic air or some combination thereof. It's perfect pucks weather, though, and Inside College Hockey is here with our picks for the four best matchups of the weekend.

UWWisconsin at North DakotaNorth Dakota FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

It's the battle of an unstoppable offense against a stingy defense. Surprisingly, it's the Badgers who pace the WCHA in scoring at four goals a game and the Sioux who share the league lead in scoring defense at two goals a game -- but NoDak is tied with Wisconsin for that honor, so it appears some things never change.

Anyhoo, the outcome of this series may be defined by who doesn't play. North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway is still sidelined by the lingering effects of a concussion suffered weeks ago, and top forward Chris VandeVelde was shelved for last Saturday's loss at Minnesota Duluth. He could go this weekend, however.

Among the Wisconsin wounded is goaltender Brett Bennett; he was hurt in practice this week and won't make the trip to Grand Forks. Scott Gudmandson will go both nights for Bucky.

UMMichigan vs. Notre DameND FRIDAY (at UM) AND SATURDAY (at ND)

Two teams whose first halves have not gone according to script meet in a home-and-home series this weekend. The Wolverines have rallied from last month's five-game losing streak to win four of their past five. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is 2-4-3 in its past nine games.

Scoring has been the Fighting Irish's big problem -- during the aforementioned nine-game stretch, they have netted a total of 16 goals and have scored two or fewer goals in seven of those matches.

PrincetonPrinceton at UMass LowellLowell FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

Another candidate for "What Happened To?" honors in the first half of the season is Princeton. The Tigers, who were one win away from the Frozen Four in April, are in the throes of a five-game losing skid and six-game winless streak.

The problem? Not scoring enough and letting in too many -- Princeton has been outscored in its past five by a 22-9 margin.

UMass Lowell snapped a three-game mini-slide last Saturday by beating UMass at Tsongas Arena.

CCColorado College at St. Cloud StateSCSU FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

Despite its strong start, we've viewed Colorado College with a healthy dose of skepticism to date because of the Tigers' relatively soft schedule and preponderance of home games. On the flip side, we've given St. Cloud State the benefit of the doubt because its first-half slate ranks among the toughest in the country and it has played the bulk of his games on the road.

The Huskies are two games above .500, but they've got a road win against Denver and those three-point weekends against Union and Minnesota Duluth back in October are looking pretty good right now.

The Tigers, who played 10 of their first 14 games at World Arena, embark on a stretch during which eight of their next 10 are on the road.

Also …
More ECAC Hockey-Hockey East crossover as Rensselaer heads east for a game against reeling Boston University and St. Lawrence travels to Vermont. … Maine started the season 1-5-0, but is 7-2-1 since. The Black Bears host Northeastern on Saturday. … Minnesota Duluth hosts Denver in a key WCHA series.

For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.