No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (0-1) at No. 5 Cal Poly (0-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m. PT
COYNE: This game has certainly become even more interesting after the Gauchos’ opener. Prior to the start of the season, it appeared that Cal Poly had graduated way too many high-end players to hang with an ascendant UCSB program marked by Mike Allan’s return. But after the postponement of the USC game and the overtime loss to Stanford, the Gauchos look more vulnerable. It may be a short-term issue for UCSB, but it has certainly ratcheted up the importance of this contest.
I’ve got an inkling this one will boil down to goalie play. Both Conrad Carlson (60.5 save percentage last year for the Gauchos) and Nick Czapla (59.4% for the Mustangs) were part of a platoon situation, but this year they each will be the top dog in net. Both are excellent, but I’ll lean to Czapla’s championship game cred (six saves in the first half against CSU) plus, perhaps, a little SLO home-field advantage. ‘Stangs flip last year’s script, 8-7 in overtime.
SCHOOLER: This is not the same Mustangs team we saw last season. Lots of talent is gone, but the same can be said for the Gauchos. Both are young teams and will see improvement as the season progresses.
Stanford was a wakeup call for UCSB. The Gauchos have the firepower despite all of the talent lost to graduation. They just need to figure out how to sustain their initial push and play a complete game. That game would have been a blowout had the Stanford goalie, Josh Giglio (18 saves), not played out of his mind. The shots were there and they need to fall in this next game. Can they get the ball past Czapla? I think so.
The hunger after a tough loss to the Cardinal on the road and the fact that Cal Poly has yet to play a game makes me inclined to pick the Gauchos (along with the fact that I have never picked against them). I have UCSB winning, 12-9.
Grand Canyon (0-0) at San Diego State (1-0) – Saturday, 2 p.m. PT
COYNE: This is a reasonable game for Grand Canyon to commence its Division I excursion. Even more so when you consider there aren’t a whole lot of games left on the schedule in which the ‘Lopes will be favorites. San Diego State was 5-9 last season, with two of the wins coming over D-II teams, and the Aztecs are now breaking in a new coaching staff. Again, this seems like a good place for GCU to start.
With Carson Barton (55g, 25a) and Matt Mountain (22g, 15a), the ‘Lopes will get their goals, but their challenge will be to stop them from going in on the other end. Andrew Hunter is no longer around, along with his brother, pole Richard Hunter. In addition, GCU no longer has Fred Whistle’s faceoff dominance to give Manny Rapkin’s troops an advantage at the dot. And if there’s one thing that SDSU is used to, it’s the Division I grind, as they have been doing it for a while. It’ll be closer than what the Grand Canyon-ites think, but the ‘Lopes will notch its inaugural D-I victory, 12-10.
SCHOOLER: This is the game. Is Grand Canyon going to be able to compete at the Division I level? I can safely assume that the ‘Lopes will not win the SLC, but placing themselves in front of the mid-tier teams early would be a great statement.
The season is young, but I think the coaching change will work wonders for the Aztecs. They have so much potential at that school and always seemed on the verge of a breakout season. They also have a lot of young talent on the team with at least a season under their belts. It is unclear how either team has done with recruiting, but if I had to bet, I would go with SDSU and its ability to draw from the plethora of talented local high schools.
The Aztecs will welcome the Lopes to their first real Division I game with a loss. SDSU, 14-10.
Texas State (2-0) at Texas A&M (0-2) – Saturday, 7 p.m. CT
COYNE: Did you know that Texas A&M has more MCLA tournament berths than Arizona State, Boston College or Florida State, and just one fewer than Oregon or Cal Poly? If you’re new to the association, probably not, because since its last tourney bid in ’08, the Aggies are a combined 33-37, including last year’s 5-12 mark. As its schedule is currently configured, A&M isn’t even eligible for an at-large bid to nationals this spring. Times have changed.
On the flip side, Texas State is starting the Mike Brand era with an ambitious (by LSA standards) slate featuring ranked foes Boston College, Connecticut and Northeastern. As competitive as the Bobcats hope to be in ’13, they are still in Texas’ rearview mirror within the conference and several recruiting classes behind the top guns in the MCLA. So will this be a competitive game? Normally I’d think so, but Texas State smashed the Aggies, 15-3, last spring, and I’m not sure that much has changed to flip the result. B-cats, 12-7.
SCHOOLER: There is nothing tougher than picking the outcome of a game between two teams from the LSA at the beginning of the season. It is usually a toss-up. Jac has probably chatted with the coaches and studied their rosters closely, but as a fan, I do not have the resources (or time) to do that.
As a general rule, I root against any Texas team, but in this instance I don’t have that luxury. So it looks like Texas A&M has been off to a rough start and we know that Texas State has experienced some success in the past. For that reason, I am going with the Bobcats, 16-8.
No. 13 California (0-0) at No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (0-1) – Sunday, 1 p.m. PT
SCHOOLER: I didn’t want to pick two UCSB games, but the Gauchos have a great back-to-back weekend, including this home opener against the Bears on Sunday. How did I get suckered into a weekend of skiing when I could be enjoying it by the ocean for the first game to ever be played at the….the…well, we will have to come up with a name for the new field?
This game has me a bit worried. Both teams have lost a lot of talent. While I am not familiar with the Bears’ rookies, I know that UCSB has a talented group of freshmen from all over the country. Several of these rookies are starting and will only get more comfortable with the more games they play. The-difference maker will be Conrad Carlson in goal for the Gauchos. He once split time with Andrew Noto, but with his departure, it opens up a whole new door and I expect Carlson to shine.
This will be an excruciating game to follow for me on Twitter during a long car ride back from Mammoth Mountain in the Sierras, but it will be well worth it when the Gauchos come out on top, 13-12.
COYNE: You know it must be one helluva ski trip if our boy Nick is going to miss this contest, or perhaps he’s just boycotting the team now that “The Pit” has been retired. Either way, he’s missing out on a gem of an early season game. If the two teams were playing under similar conditions, I’d just punch in the Gauchos at home and move on. However, UCSB will be coming off a huge road rivalry game the day before against Cal Poly while the Bears will have chipped off the rust with a ‘friendly’ against Division II Pepperdine.
Cal would probably benefit from a UCSB win against Poly as the Bears would have the whole “let-down” thing going for them, but either way, the they have a very good shot to pull this out. Cal lost some key ingredients from last year like John Hofinga (35g, 5a) and goalie Casey Keenan (59.4 sv%), but head coach Dan Nourse had a sanguine outlook for his team when I spoke to him in the offseason. This one will be a grinder, but in the end, the Gauchos will lean on their defense to save the day. UCSB, 6-4.
Boise State (0-0) at Utah (0-0) – Sunday, 2 p.m. MT
COYNE: This is an important season for both the Broncos and the Utes. Boise State is a program trying to break into the next level of the MCLA, and showed a flash of brilliance last year with the upset victory over Simon Fraser. Utah is desperately trying to hold onto its upper-tier status within the RMLC after posting a 6-8 mark in ’12 where the six wins came against teams with a combined 22-48 record.
Last year, the Utes raced out to a big first half lead and coasted home against the Broncos for a 12-8 win. I’d be more willing to go out on a limb on this contest if not for the fact that Boise State will be playing Brigham Young on Friday night. While the weekend excursion to the Beehive State will be beneficial for the Broncos, Sunday’s contest against a fresh Utah squad will be a bit too much for this young team. Utes, 13-10.
On a brief aside, if you haven’t seen this video about what Boise State did for a local family, take a peek. You’ll become an instant BSU fan.
SCHOOLER: Give me a break. There is no question here. Utah is like the NBA’s former best sixth-man, James Harden. If you put the Utes in a different conference, they would make the tournament every year. The same cannot be said about Boise State.
I see this as a light appetizer for Utah as they head into a more challenging conference schedule. Utah wins, 15-7.
For more: http://www.laxmagazine.com/college_men/club/2012-13/news/020613_schooling_schooler_can_teams_survive_the_move