College Hockey Series Of The Week: No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 7 Minnesota Duluth
The NCHC is often talked about as the best conference in all of college hockey and this weekend features two top seven ranked conference foes in their second series of the season.
The Western Michigan Broncos have surprised quite a few people this season going 16-5 so far this campaign.
Recently the Broncos swept one of the most prestigious programs in the nation and conference rival in North Dakota State.
Earlier in the season, Western Michigan swept one of the favorites to go back to the Frozen Four in St. Cloud State. They outscored the Huskies 10-2 in that series, proving to the masses that they are a legit threat in the NCHC and to the nation at large.
Western Michigan is an extremely well-built team with senior Ethen Frank tied for the nation's lead in goals with 17 in just 21 games played.
The team still manages to have balanced scoring with four of its players having at least 21 points. As a unit, Western Michigan is fifth in the nation in goals per game with 3.75.
The Broncos also boast a strong goaltender in Brandon Bussi who has a very solid .9223 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average.
The bottom line is Western Michigan has a well-balanced hockey team with legit aspirations of a national championship.
Minnesota Duluth on the other hand was a team once ranked at the top of the nation but has since slipped a bit.
The Bulldogs have won just two of their last six matchups, struggling against the stiff competition their conference has to offer.
Unlike Western Michigan which has surrounded its nation-leading scorer with a handful of co-stars, Minnesota Duluth has completely committed to depth scoring.
Eight Duluth players have at least 12 points, but no player has over 18. Senior captain Noah Cates has still done a strong job leading by example and is second on the team in points with 17.
Minnesota Duluth has arguably seen even better goaltending than its opponent this weekend.
Junior goaltender Ryan Fanti has been tearing it up in net with a goals-against average at just 1.688 and four shutouts to his name.
Fanti could be a major contributing factor to deciding which team feels better about themselves coming out of this series.
If Frank cannot get going for the Broncos and Fanti remains stellar in goal, Duluth may find an upset that sets them back on track for trying to win a national championship.
It is hard to see one of these two teams coming out with anything but a competitive sweep this weekend. However, hockey is a sport of randomness and momentum, and one or two bounces could flip the series on its head.
Needless to say, this weekend should provide one of the series of the year between two of college hockey’s top contenders.
Maclain Young is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.