No. 10 Virginia Tech (4-0) at No. 4 Colorado (4-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
COYNE: Virginia Tech is a good team, and is the odds-on favorite to win the SELC title, but they are going against two hurdles this weekend. The first is the altitude. I know a lot of people pooh-pooh the concept, but Michigan went out to Denver three days early each time they went to Denver. That kind of tells me there’s something to it, even if it’s just psychological. The Hokies will be getting off their plane on Friday night and playing their opening game in Boulder less than 24 hours later. Not good.
Second, Tech will have to deal with Brad Macnee, Colorado’s netminder and the best keeper in the country. Last year, I wouldn’t be quite as concerned because the Hokies were scoring goals. They are struggling so far this season to produce on the offensive end, and that’s trouble against Macnee, who is probably going to rob you of at least four markers. Virginia Tech will be in this game because they are good team, but they can’t fight these obstacles. Buffs, 10-6.
SCHOOLER: Props to the Hokies for finally making a trip out West. The RMLC has the best teams in the league and hopefully they can steal a win in the Rockies, but I don’t see that happening.
You never know what you are going to get with the Buffs early in the season, but they pulled out an impressive win against the Ducks last week. Even with the return of Matt Giannelli for his final season, coach Galvin and his defense will be able to shut down the one dimensional Hokies. CU wins, 12-9.
No. 11 Sonoma State (2-0) at No. 8 Oregon (5-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m. PT
COYNE: It wasn’t much of a trip, but the road win for ‘Noma against California was a big deal. It showed that the Seawolves could match some of the preseason hype that was surrounding them. I’m sure it also gave them a good confidence boost, along with a pivotal WCLL win. However, now Sonoma is on the brink of the Top 10 and is heading to play No. 8 Oregon on the road. I’m afraid it’ll have to prove itself again.
Trey Norris (70-for-114 on faceoffs) has been a weapon all season for the Ducks, and he should dominate once again versus the Seawolves. And while Cal’s Dan Cohen and Sean Hayden are a dynamic one-two punch on attack, Oregon’s Matt Johnson (16g, 15a) and Benton Souers (17g, 6a) have proven it against some of the top teams in the country. Sonoma won’t get embarrassed, but they’ll struggle to keep up with the Ducks for four quarters. UO, 10-7.
SCHOOLER: This will likely be the best game the weekend has to offer. I think these are evenly matched teams. I have heard a lot of good things about Sonoma throughout the offseason. Until they took down Cal, that’s all it was…talk.
The Ducks have a strong attack while Sonoma has a strong defense. So get ready for a battle. I see another overtime game with the Seawolves coming out on top. 10-9.
No. 12 Texas (6-1) at No. 6 UCSB (4-2) - Sunday, 1 p.m. PT
SCHOOLER: Texas came through Santa Barbara in 2010, but was too scared to play the Gauchos. They plays FSU instead, taking the W and setting the tone for their whole season. All kidding aside, I really wish I could have seen the ‘Horns take on the Gauchos. Three years later, I’ll have my chance.
I dog on Texas and the LSA a lot, but I actually have a lot of respect for the Longhorns. They have stepped up their game over the last few seasons and elevated themselves above everyone in the conference. The Gauchos have no trouble coming out hot against teams. Their issue is sustaining that fire for all four quarters. I can see UCSB going up early and Texas clawing back. But I have the Gauchos holding on for the 10-8 win.
COYNE: If Texas had pulled out the win over Boston College on Monday night, I would have been more inclined to take a flyer on them in this game, but it should still be competitive regardless. I won’t build up the suspense — UCSB will win — but this game, along with Tuesday’s matchup with Sonoma State, are important for the development of the UT program under new head coach Andy Garrigan. Not only does it put the program on a different plane in terms of respectability, but just making this West Coast swing will be good for a seed or two at nationals, regardless of the outcomes.
Nick has it spot on with the flow of this game. The Gauchos will jump the ‘Horns early, and then coast home for the win. UCSB, 11-8.
No. 18 Cal Poly (2-3) at No. 7 Chapman (4-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m.
COYNE: Is there really a chance that this Cal Poly team can go down to Chapman and knock off the Panthers? Absolutely. I know the nine-goal loss to UC Santa Barbara sticks in everybody’s mind, but the Mustangs were neck-and-neck with Duluth in an overtime game and gave ASU everything it could handle. This team isn’t very far off. Plus, this Chapman edition isn’t quite as complete (yet) as it has been in the last couple of years.
If this game is played in SLO or even at a neutral field, I’m take Poly in an heartbeat. Alas, Chapman is traditionally a much different team at home than on the road, and that saves the Panthers here. Chappy, 9-8.
SCHOOLER: Chapman has had some crazy and close games this season. Take last weekend for example. They beat ASU by a goal then turn around and barely beat a lesser Grand Canyon by a goal. Earlier in the season, they crush San Diego then lose to Oregon. What team are we going to get?
While Cal Poly has improved since they were stomped by the Gauchos (you knew I would have to bring this up), they have improved. A two goal loss to ASU is commendable, but not enough to convince me that they can put together what is needed to beat Chaptown. Panthers win, 12-8.