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College Hockey:
Pickin’ the Big Ten, Oct. 11-12, 2013

Hey! It’s a big new world! It’s a B1G new world!

Okay. I’ll stop now.

This season, Drew Claussen and I are sharing Big Ten Hockey duties and every Friday, one or the other of us will post our picks. Drew is new to this game, so he doesn’t have a record from last year.

You know I do. You also know it isn’t very good.

Last season

Drew: NA
Paula: 130-100-29 (.557)

So far this season

Drew: 0-1-0 (.000)
Paula: 0-1-0 (.000)

I think you can see where this is going.

This weekend

There are eight games involving Big Ten teams this weekend. We’ll deal with the Tuesday Ohio State-Bowling Green tilt next week. The IceBreaker, the Ohio State-Miami and Northern Michigan-Wisconsin series are Friday-Saturday. Army plays Penn State in a single game Friday; Michigan plays RIT in a single game Saturday.

The IceBreaker Tournament

Drew: There’s nothing like predicting a tournament to start the season. Minnesota is hosting and appearing in the Ice Breaker Tournament for the third time; the Gophers won the tournament when it was played at the Xcel Energy Center in 2007. The Gophers have a combined 17-2-0 all-time record against the three other teams in this year’s Ice Breaker field (Mercyhurst, New Hampshire and Clarkson).

Paula: I like this field — and I like it for Minnesota’s chances. The Gophers and the Wildcats each won in exhibition last week while the Lakers lost in exhibition; these will be the first games for Clarkson. For more information on each team, check out Drew’s Minnesota preview, Chris Lerch’s take on Mercyhurst, Nate Owen’s Clarkson preview, and Dave Hendrickson’s New Hampshire season preview.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota defeats Mercyhurst, New Hampshire defeats Clarkson. Gophers over Wildcats in the championship game. (Shameless plug: I’ll be at Saturday’s championship game. Follow @drewclaussen on Twitter for live updates.)
Paula’s picks: Minnesota over Mercyhurst, 4-2; Minnesota over either Clarkson or New Hampshire, 4-2.

Miami vs. Ohio State

Drew: New head coach Steve Rohlik and his team will be tested right away during their home-and-home series with the Redhawks. Miami will return 20 players from last year’s team, including CCHA Player of the Year Austin Czarnik who had 40 points last season. The Redhawks also had the CCHA’s Rookie of the Year last season, Riley Barber. The series will be the first time the Buckeyes and Redhawks play each other as members of different conferences since 1979. The two played five times last season, Miami went 3-1-1 in those matchups.

Paula: While I love my new home state of Michigan, a series between the RedHawks and Buckeyes makes me wish that I could bend the space-time continuum, suspend my life as I know it, and live only for these two games this weekend. People outside of the former CCHA have no idea of the intensity of this rivalry. Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of good, old-fashioned hockey hatred! As Drew noted, the RedHawks are still loaded. As I said in my preview, the Buckeyes may get a bounce from their new head coach. Matthew Semisch has the skinny on the RedHawks.

Drew’s picks: Miami sweep.
Paula’s picks: There’s no way I’m picking a Miami sweep. No way. Of course, these two teams have been known to split by winning in each other’s barns, but I’m calling home wins. Miami 4-2, Ohio State 3-2

Northern Michigan at Wisconsin

Drew: A matchup between an old WCHA team and a new one. I’m interested to see how the Badgers start off this year. In the recent past they’ve been a team that has tended to get off to slow starts, but with the amount of experience in this year’s team there is really no excuse for that this season.

Paula: It’ll be interesting to see how both of these teams fare with very unfamiliar schedules this season, as they are both prone to starting slowly. The Wildcats have two exhibition wins already this season with five players accounting for six goals and two goalies splitting the games. The Badgers are playing their first games this weekend. Matt Wellens previews the Wildcats here, and Drew looks at Wisconsin, the team picked by the coaches to finish first in the Big Ten.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin sweep.
Paula’s picks: It’s the third straight year in which Wisconsin opens its season against NMU, and the Wildcats are 3-1-0 in those games, having swept the Badgers in that series last season. Wisconsin 3-2, NMU 3-2.

Army at Penn State

Drew: With the government shutdown problem solved, in terms of college sports teams at least, Penn State will get to open up its new arena as planned. Army is a perfect first opponent for Penn State to open up a new building on national television too; the Black Knights have 12 wins over the last two seasons. In the battle of less-than-stellar team against less-than-stellar team, I see Penn State using the excitement level of playing in front of a large home crowd for the first time to its advantage.

Paula: When this game was threatened with cancellation, I knew that the idiots we have in Washington had gone too far. (Did you know that Asteroid Watch, NASA’s Twitter feed to alert us for objects coming too close to earth, is closed until the government decides to go back to work? We are doomed! Doomed! But I digress.)

The Nittany Lions are a wildcard in nearly every way this season. Mostly freshmen and sophomores, semi-tested last season, no one can predict what will happen in Happy Valley this year … with the exception, perhaps, of this game. I’m with Drew on this one. I think the excitement of opening Pegula Ice Arena will carry PSU past Army. Here’s my Penn State preview, and to read about Army, here’s what Dan Rubin says about Army.

Drew’s pick: Penn State 3-2
Paula’s pick: Penn State 3-2

Michigan vs. RIT

Drew: I doubted Michigan on Thursday, and it responded with an impressive 3-1 victory at home. RIT fell 4-1 to Colgate on Thursday. Michigan looked good in its early-season statement game; Luke Moffatt had two power-play goals on Thursday night. The Wolverines’ defense also played really well against a strong Boston College squad. Steve Racine only faced 21 shots in the game.

Paula: I, too, underestimated the Wolverines Thursday … and I feel great shame. It was a fantastic hockey game, with freshmen shining for both teams and a Michigan squad that outplayed BC. (Who knew?) My concerns in preseason were Michigan’s young defense and inconsistent goaltending; last night, the defense did not look young and the goaltending from Steve Racine was stellar. I was impressed — very impressed. And J.T. Compher? Look out.

Drew’s pick: Michigan 4-0
Paula’s pick: Check out Chris Lerch’s RIT preview for the good on the Tigers. This game has been sold out forever and the rabid RIT fans will make this a rockin’ good time. Michigan 3-2.

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