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College Hockey:
Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 24-25, 2014

We have the second game of the Michigan-Michigan State series, the new North Star College Cup, Ohio State at Wisconsin and Penn State hosting Boston College for a single game. First, let’s see how Drew and I are doing. We’ll include last night’s game between the Spartans and Wolverines in next week’s results.

Last week
Drew: 3-1 (.750)
Paula: 3-1 (.750)

Season
Drew: 60-27-8 (.674)
Paula: 60-27-9 (.672)

This week

The Michigan-Michigan State series concludes tonight. For our thoughts on that, check out yesterday’s blog.

Ohio State at Wisconsin

Drew: The Buckeyes looked good last Friday in the outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium, though they fell 1-0 to Minnesota, the game I cursed them in by picking them to win. Ohio State also looked good during the first part of Saturday’s game against the Gophers, until Sam Warning rattled off a natural hat trick and Minnesota eventually took the game 4-2. The Badgers have won nine of their past 10 and rolled in their last series against Michigan. Alaska-Anchorage, yes that Alaska-Anchorage, is the only team to defeat Wisconsin at Kohl Center this season.

Paula: Ohio State does play disciplined, organized hockey and the Buckeyes have some talented guys up front. In fact, the Buckeyes and Badgers are tied for fourth nationally in scoring (3.55 goals per game), and so this series may come down to defense and goaltending — and in that case, my money’s on Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel. The last meeting between these teams was in the now-defunct Lefty McFadden Hockey Invitational in Dayton, Ohio (Oct. 13, 2007), a 5-3 decision for the Buckeyes. Friday’s game begins at 8:00 p.m. and is the Big Ten Network’s second game of the night; Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Wisconsin. Times are local.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 5-2, Ohio State 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, 4-2.

North Star College Cup

Paula: This new tournament features four teams from Minnesota. Games are played in St. Paul’s Xcel Center at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. each day and the games featuring the Gophers are slated to be televised on Fox Sports North. For Minnesota coach Don Lucia’s thoughts on the tournament, check out my Big Ten column from Wednesday of this week.

Drew: Say what you want about the Big Ten conference, but in my eyes the North Star College Cup is one good thing that was a result of the conference shuffle. The tournament should have been named something else, but that’s beside the point.

What will help the tournament out in its first year as it tries to gain some footing is a top-five matchup Friday evening. No. 5 St. Cloud State will take on the No. 1 Gophers. St. Cloud will bring a 12-4-4 record to St. Paul; recently the Huskies tied and lost to Western Michigan. The tournament will be played on an NHL-sized rink, something that has hindered the Gophers in the past.

The winners of Friday’s matchup will face the winner of Minnesota State-Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday at 7 p.m. Mankato is coming off of a home sweep of then No. 2 Ferris State last weekend and has been energized since senior Zach Lehrke returned to the team.

Paula: Once again, I respectfully disagree with my partner-in-writing. I love the name of this tournament. It has all the romance of old-time hockey, like when the NHL was divided into the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell Conferences, when we named things after people and places and objects rather than just “east” and “west” because we have lost our ability as a culture to grasp subtlety and hold metaphor in our heads.

But I digress.

Every one of these teams will be keen to capture this tourney’s first title and the competition should be first rate. Once again, I’m loathe to pick against the Gophers until they lose. And — like Drew — I’ll pick the whole field for this one, just because I can.

Drew’s picks: Mankato over Duluth 5-3, Minnesota over St. Cloud 4-1. Saturday; St. Cloud over Duluth 3-1, Mankato over Minnesota 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota State over Duluth 4-2, Minnesota over St. Cloud 3-2; St. Cloud over Duluth 4-3, Minnesota over Minnesota State 3-2.

Boston College at Penn State

Drew: It’s David vs. Goliath, except in this instance Goliath already played David earlier in the season and won 8-2. The Nittany Lions have had close losses to Minnesota and Michigan State in the past couple weeks, but I’m not going to predict an upset.

Paula: I am with Drew on this one. I saw Penn State play hard last weekend, but I don’t think they have what it takes to upset the Eagles, either, even though BC played two games last weekend and a Tuesday contest — three wins in a row in which the Eagles outscored opponents 17-7. This is a Saturday night game that begins at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s pick: Boston College 6-2.
Paula’s pick: BC 4-1.

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