A mixed bag for the Big Ten: three things on a snowy Monday morning

The Big Ten went 2-3-3 in nonconference play, a real mixed bag.

1. B1G teams need to learn to play with a lead. Four of the eight games played by Big Ten teams went to overtime, and in three of those games, B1G teams surrendered the lead. In addition, in its 3-2 loss to Boston University Friday night, Michigan led 2-0 until the third. That’s an 0-2-2 record for the weekend in games in which Big Ten teams led in game in which they couldn’t secure the win.

Michigan State played two of those games. The Spartans lost to Michigan Tech in overtime Saturday, 5-4, before tying the Huskies 4-4 on Sunday. The good news is that the Spartans’ offense continues to roll. The bad news? Well, nine goals against.

2. B1G teams need to capitalize on nonconference momentum. The league was improving in nonconference play relative to how it fared in 2014-2015, but this weekend was a definite step backward and the Big Ten as a whole looks like it may finish 2015-2016 the way it did last season — with a wretched record against out-of-conference opponents and only one team in the NCAA tournament.

Kudos to Michigan for splitting on the road with Boston University, bringing the Big Ten’s record against Hockey East to 7-9-1. The Wolverines lost 3-2 Friday, but Saturday’s 4-2 win was the Wolverines’ first ever in Agganis Arena and the Terriers’ first home loss of the season.

3. B1G teams need to figure out the NCHC. The NCHC owns the Big Ten. Last season, the Big Ten went 2-15-0 against NCHC schools; so far this year, the record is 1-8-1.

Kudos to Wisconsin for doing its part. The Badgers tied Denver, 3-3, Friday before losing to the Pioneers, 6-2, on Saturday. Trailing 1-0 at the start of the second in the tie game, Wisconsin scored three goals within a span of just over five minutes early in the middle period to take the lead for a while.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 20-22, 2015

The Big Ten has been competitive in nonconference play so far. How competitive have Drew Claussen and I been?

Last week
Drew: 5-3-0 (.625)
Paula: 6-2-0 (.750)

Drew: 31-16-8 (.636)
Paula: 32-15-8 (.656)

Poor Drew. It isn’t often that he’s bitten by the wrong-way split. I can sympathize.

This week

There are four teams in action this weekend. Minnesota and Ohio State have bye weeks.

Denver at Wisconsin

Drew: Looks like I have to start putting some more thought into picking Wisconsin games. Denver’s losses this year have come when both teams score 7-10 goals, so the Badgers should look to open up the offense. I don’t think they can go in with a defensive mindset and pick up a win. I want to predict a win for Wisconsin this weekend, but I can’t. The win over North Dakota definitely gave the young Badgers’ team some confidence, but it also served as a reminder to future opponents not to take they lightly.

Paula: The Pioneers are riding a four-game unbeaten streak into Madison (3-0-1) after defeating and tying Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, 3-0 and 1-1. The Badgers are returning from a bye week, having last split a pair of 3-1 games with North Dakota on the road, Nov. 6-7. These teams last met Nov. 22, 2014, a 3-2 home win for Denver. This weekend, Saturday’s game will be the 150th time these two programs have faced off. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. and is televised by American Sports Network; Saturday’s starts at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by the Wisconsin Channel.

Drew’s picks: Denver 3-1, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 4-2, Denver 2-1.

Michigan at Boston University

Drew: Both of these teams are giving up some goals this season (BU is averaging three goals per game and Michigan is at 3.29), so that means we should get a couple high-scoring games. BU’s opponents have scored either four or five goals in its three defeats this season, so Michigan is probably going to have to continue that trend to see success. I think the Wolverines will grab a win this weekend, but (and I feel like a broken record here) their goaltender, whoever it may be, will have to play better than he has this season.

Paula: The Terriers are defending a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) after a pair of ties against Providence last weekend, 1-1 on the road and 3-3 at home. The Wolverines beat Niagara 7-3 Nov. 13. The Wolverines are 14-11-0 all-time against the Terriers, but UM is 2-4-0 against BU on the road and 0-3-0 in Agganis Arena. Drew’s right about the goaltending — but also about Michigan’s overall team defense, which needs to be much more secure. The Terriers haven’t lost at home yet this season. Friday’s game begins at 6:00 p.m. and is televised by American Sports Network and NESN. Saturday’s game starts at 4:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, Boston University 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Boston University 4-3, Michigan 6-4.

Michigan Tech at Michigan State

Drew: Where the Big Ten schedule is still half a month away, this will be Michigan Tech’s first game outside of the WCHA this season; schedules can be funny sometimes. I liked the effort Michigan State showed last weekend against Boston College and will be interested to see if it can seal the deal this weekend. I predict that Jake Hildebrand has a strong weekend and the Spartans use the home-ice advantage to pick up their second sweep of the season.

Paula: The Huskies split a pair of home games against Bowling Green last weekend, winning 2-0 and losing 3-2. The Spartans showed incredible resilience in coming back against BC on the road before losing 6-4. Tech swept State the last time the teams met, Nov. 8-9, 2013, 3-0 and 3-2 games in Houghton, and no one on this Michigan State team has beaten Michigan Tech in three meetings total. I can’t say enough about this Michigan State team. The defense is usually consistent and tight, and Hildebrand is having a good start to the season. If the offense continues to roll, the Spartans will be Big Ten contenders. Saturday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Sunday’s game begins at 4:00 p.m., and both games will be televised by Comcast.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-1, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 4-2, 3-2.

Penn State at Alaska-Anchorage

Drew: No matter who it is, the trip to Alaska seems to wreak havoc on opponents. That coupled with the fact that the Seawolves have gotten off to a decent start this year could make for a tough weekend for the Nittany Lions. I think Penn State will drop a close one on Friday and comeback with the win on Saturday.

Paula’s: Anchorage split a pair of home games against Ferris State last weekend, a 3-2 overtime loss and 5-0 win. Penn State is unbeaten (2-0-1) in its last three, having swept Sacred Heart last weekend, 8-2 and 3-2. The Seawolves and Nittany Lions have met once, a 3-3 tie in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush (Oct. 17, 2014). Games are at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Alaska-Anchorage 4-3, Penn State 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 4-2, 4-2.

Gophers fail to finish and Penn State gets back on track

Five B1G teams were in action this weekend with Wisconsin taking the weekend off. Here’s how the games played out:

  • Minnesota split a home-and-home series against Minnesota State with each team winning its road game
  • Ohio State swept Canisius at home
  • Penn State swept Sacred Heart at home
  • Michigan defeated Niagara on Friday
  • Michigan State was defeated by Boston College on Friday

And here are three things I saw this weekend:

1. Gophers fail to finish

After scoring some opportunistic goals on Friday in Mankato, Minnesota was three and a half minutes away from a great weekend on Saturday night.

Then Minnesota State’s offense woke from its slumber.

The Mavericks scored twice with the goaltender pulled to tie the game and Teddy Blueger netted the game-winner in overtime.

The loss proved that the young Gophers team still has some room to grow. There have been positive moments, like Friday’s win along with last week’s road win at Notre Dame, but this team is far from hitting its stride.

I do believe that the Gophers will be a tough team to deal with when the conference schedule rolls around and the underclassmen that are being asked to step into big roles are more comfortable. Eric Schierhorn also has the looks of a goaltender that can steal a couple games.

2. Penn State gets back on track

Any doubts that may have come with last week’s tie against Niagara may have been put to rest this weekend by Penn State. The Nittany Lions were able to pile up a bunch of goals on Friday night and then held on for a close victory on Saturday.

The goals against for Penn State this weekend is also a positive, you’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games if you only give up two goals per game.

3. Michigan State drops a heart breaker

I don’t like moral victories at all, but Michigan State could take a few positive points away from Friday’s road loss at Boston College.

The Spartans didn’t fold when BC extended its lead to 4-1 in the third period, and rattled off three goals in a row to tie the game with a little less than six minutes remaining. The Eagles scored the game winner with two minutes left and added and empty netter.

We will learn a lot about Michigan State the next two weekends when it plays a tough Michigan Tech team and a tougher North Dakota squad.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 13-14, 2015

Last week was another good one for the Big Ten. How did Drew Claussen and I fare?

Last week
Drew: 4-2-1 (.643)
Paula: 4-2-1 (.643)

Drew: 26-13-8 (.638)
Paula: 26-13-8 (.638)

This week

Five Big Ten teams play in nonconference action this weekend. After unseating North Dakota last weekend, Wisconsin has a bye.

Canisius at Ohio State

Drew: I’m not sure I can confidently pick this series either way, both teams have struggled and a case could be made for a split or a sweep by either squad. That being said, I’m going to say Ohio State uses some confidence from its first win of the season and turns it into a nice little three-game streak.

Paula: This is the third year in a row that the Buckeyes and Golden Griffins are meeting, with Ohio State holding a 3-0-1 record in the previous four meetings. Canisius (2-5-0) dropped a single home game to Merrimack last weekend; the Buckeyes (1-7-0) registered their first win of the season last Saturday when they redeemed a home split against Mercyhurst. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 4:00 p.m. and neither is televised.

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

Michigan State at Boston College

Drew: The Spartans unleashed the offense last time out against New Hampshire, scoring a dozen goals over the weekend, but playing against Boston College in its house is a whole different animal. Jake Hildebrand gives Michigan State a chance to win every game, but I don’t see a victory for MSU here.

Paula’s picks: If this were a series, I’d give the Spartans a nod for one of them — but not in a single game, not in Boston. The Spartans (4-3-1) ride a three-game win streak into the Conte Forum to face the Eagles (8-1-0), who have a seven-game win streak of their own to defend. BC junior goaltender Thatcher Demko has insane numbers this season (.974 SV%, 0.67 GAA) and I have to wonder if the Spartans can solve him at all — or if anyone can, for that matter, as he has six shutouts this season. The Spartans and Eagles met last year in East Lansing, a 3-2 BC win (Nov. 14), after which BC coach Jerry York made a joke about the first banner he saw hanging from the rafters as he emerged from the tunnel into Munn Arena, the banner that commemorates Michigan State’s 2007 come-from-behind NCAA Championship … against Boston College. This is a Friday game that begins at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s pick: Boston College 4-2.
Paula’s pick: Boston College 2-0.

Minnesota vs. Minnesota State

Drew: I’m actually going to dust off the laptop and cover my first game of the season on Saturday. Both of these teams got off to slow starts and have been coming on in recent weeks. If one team does manage a sweep, I believe it would be Minnesota State winning at home on Friday and carrying that momentum over to Saturday, but I’m going to play it safe and pick a split.

Paula: Each of these teams picked up good road splits last weekend, with the Mavericks (5-5-0) losing to Ferris State 7-4 before winning 3-2, and the Golden Gophers (3-4-0) losing to Notre Dame 4-3 before winning 4-1. Minnesota is 35-11-6 all-time against Minnesota State with a 6-4-0 edge in the last ten meetings. Minnesota State hosts Friday’s game at 7:00 p.m., and the game will be televised by Charter Cable and Comcast 999; Saturday’s game in Minneapolis begins at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports North and Sports Time Ohio.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota State 5-2, Minnesota 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 3-2.

Niagara at Michigan

Drew: Niagara picking up a tie against Penn State last weekend should have served as a wake-up call for the Wolverines this week, not that Michigan needed much more motivation after getting embarrassed on its home ice by Robert Morris last time out. I think Michigan will pick up the win here; its goaltending needs to improve a lot before its trip to Boston, however.

Paula: I disagree that losing to Robert Morris is an embarrassment. The Colonials are a good team and were ranked when they went into Ann Arbor last weekend — and were it not for Michigan’s resolve on Friday night, RMU would have swept UM. This week, Niagara (0-5-2) should provide some redemption for Michigan (4-1-1). This is the 10th time the Purple Eagles and Wolverines will meet. The last meeting was Nov. 22, 2013, a 6-0 home win for Michigan, who holds an 8-1-0 record against Niagara. This single game Friday night begins at 7:30 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s pick: Michigan 5-3.
Paula’s pick: Michigan 3-2.

Sacred Heart at Penn State

Drew: Penn State proved last weekend that it isn’t a team that you can automatically pick to pick up a victory over a lesser team. The Nittany Lions face a Sacred Heart team that has gotten off to a decent 5-3-1 start this season. Penn State has gone 0-1-2 the past two weekends and could use some good results to think about during its trip to Alaska next weekend. I’m going to pick a tie on Friday, which never works out for me, but I’m feeling risky.

Paula: The Pioneers are 0-7-0 all-time against Big Ten schools, including a 2-1 loss to Penn State Nov. 8, 2013. The Nittany Lions (4-2-2) look to halt a three-game winless (0-1-2) streak. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 4:00 p.m. and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Tie 3-3, Penn State 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 3-2, 3-2.

What a good(ish) nonconference showing for the Big Ten

This was the kind of weekend of nonconference play that the Big Ten needed. While the Golden Gophers and Badgers would have loved a sweep and Penn State would have liked a win, a 4-2-1 weekend nonconference record — when six of those games were against Hockey East and the NCHC — is a mighty good sign.

1. Those Spartans are showoffs.

And I am not complaining one bit. A dozen goals in a weekend? Against New Hampshire? Michigan State extended its win streak to three games with a sweep of the visiting Wildcats, 5-0 and 7-4. For a little perspective, heading into the weekend the Spartans were averaging 2.17 goals per game through their first five contests. For more perspective, you have to go back to Dec. 14, 2014, when the Spartans beat Clarkson 6-4 to see the last time Michigan State netted more than four goals, and in 2014-15, the Spartans hit five or more goals in a single game just twice. The last time Michigan State scored a dozen goals against a single opponent in a weekend was when Princeton played in Munn Arena Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2013.

Kudos to a trio of juniors who are having a fast start for the Spartans. Forwards Joe Cox, Mackenzie MacEachern and JT Steinglein are off to set personal records. Cox had two goals against UNH to bring his total to three in eight games this season, two shy of the five he scored in 35 games last year and half of what he scored in 36 contests as a freshman. MacEachern had a goal in Saturday’s win and has four in eight games after scoring 11 goals in 35 contests in 2014-15. Steinglein, though, extended his goal-scoring streak to three games after netting one each night against New Hampshire and now has five goals in eight games — two more than he had in the 38 games he played combined in his first two seasons in East Lansing.

And kudos to a trio of freshmen who scored their first collegiate goals for the Spartans: Mason Appleton, who had the game-winner for his first goal Friday and another goal on Saturday; Brennan Sanford, who had the game-winner for his first goal on Saturday; and Cody Milan, who had the fifth goal Friday night.

2. Those Badgers had themselves a three-game win streak.

And I’m not complaining at all, even though the streak ended Saturday.

The Badgers did the near-unthinkable when they went into Ralph Engelstad Arena last Friday night and delviered then-No. 1 North Dakota its first loss of the season, 3-1. Even more unthinkable is that they came from behind to do it — and then came from behind in the second period of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to make a really good game of it again. Wisconsin last registered three consecutive wins at the end of 2013-14, when the Badgers beat Michigan State (Mar. 15, 2014) before sweeping their way into the inaugural Big Ten playoff title.

More perspective: Friday’s Wisconsin win brought North Dakota’s seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) versus UW to an end. The last time the Badgers had beaten North Dakota was Oct. 22, 2011.

I’m liking this UW freshman goaltender, Matt Jurusik (2.66 GAA, .913 SV%), who made 29 saves in the win and 35 in the loss. I’m loving that junior forward Grant Besse has four goals in 10 games after scoring 11 in 32 last year. Besse had the only goal in Saturday’s 3-1 loss. And there are two more junior UW forwards who deserve a nod: Jedd Soleway, whose three goals in 10 games are five fewer than he scored in 70 games total his first two seasons as a Badger, and Corbin McGuire, whose first goal of the season Friday night was his third career goal.

3. Those Golden Gophers earned themselves a road split.

And who can complain about that, especially when the opponent was then-No. 18 Notre Dame? After losing 4-3 Friday night on a late third-period Notre Dame goal, the Gophers scored three third-period goals Saturday to win 4-1, breaking Notre Dame’s five-game (3-0-2) unbeaten streak.

The Gophers have another freshman goaltender I really like, Eric Schierhorn (2.31 GAA, .925 SV%), who has seen every minute of play in the Minnesota net this season. Schierhorn made 62 saves on the weekend.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 6-7, 2015

Last week was a bit rougher than the previous weeks — for Drew Claussen’s picks and mine, that is.

Last week
Drew: 2-5-0 (.286)
Paula: 3-4-0 (.429)

Drew: 22-11-7 (.636)
Paula: 22-11-7 (.636)

This week

Four Big Ten teams play this week and we’re still a few weeks away from conference play. Michigan and Ohio State have bye weeks.

Minnesota at Notre Dame

Drew: The latest and final (pending postseason play) installment of the father Lucia vs. son Lucia series will go down in South Bend this weekend. The Gophers took some strides with their sweep over Northeastern and it will be interesting to see if they’re able to use having last weekend off to their advantage and put together an impressive performance against the Irish. I’m going to take the easy way out and predict a split.

Paula: Notre Dame swept Connecticut last weekend and the Fighting Irish are defending a four-game (2-0-2) undefeated streak against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota, coming off a bye week, looks to build on momentum from the sweep of Northeastern Oct. 23-24, the Gophers’ first wins of the season. Minnesota swept Notre Dame last season in Minneapolis and the Gophers are 3-0-0 versus the Irish in the last three meetings. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. and is televised by American Sports Network and NESN; Saturday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be carried by NBC Sports Network.

Drew’s picks: Notre Dame 4-2, Minnesota 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Notre Dame 3-2, Minnesota 3-2.

New Hampshire at Michigan State

Drew: After a decent opening weekend, the Spartans have stubbed their toes the last two weekends and have a few more tough nonconference series on the horizon. On the other side of things, New Hampshire started slow with two losses during its first three games and has come on as of late, going 2-0-1 in its last three.

Paula: The Spartans are returning from a bye weekend after splitting with Lake Superior State Oct. 22-23, and the Wildcats played a single game on Halloween, a 4-2 win over Merrimack. These teams split in New Hampshire Nov. 7-8, 2014, with Michigan State earning the 4-3 win to start the series. This is a Friday-Saturday series, with each game beginning at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s game is carried by Fox Sports Detroit.

Drew’s picks: New Hampshire 4-2, Michigan State 3-1.
Paula’s picks: New Hampshire 3-2, Michigan State 2-1.

Penn State at Niagara

Drew: Niagara is 57th in the nation in both offense and defense, averaging 1.67 goals per game while giving up 4.50. It is also near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to special-teams play. Penn State should be motivated after a tough weekend last week and it should win rather easily.

Paula: The Purple Eagles (0-5-1) are looking for their first win of the season after dropping two to Cornell last weekend. The Nittany Lions will need to respond well to a home tie and loss to St. Lawrence last weekend. This is a single, untelevised game that begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday between two teams that have never met previously.

Drew’s pick: Penn State 6-3.
Paula’s pick: Penn State 4-2.

Wisconsin at North Dakota

Drew: Congrats on the sweep last weekend, Wisconsin, but there’s no chance I pick anything but a North Dakota sweep here.

Paula: North Dakota (6-0-2) is currently ranked No. 1 after having swept Colorado College on the road last weekend. The Badgers earned their first wins of the season — the first win, period, since Feb. 20 of last season — with a sweep of Arizona State last weekend. This is a long and storied series, with Friday’s game being the 167th meeting between the teams. North Dakota is 6-0-1 against Wisconsin in the last seven meetings. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:00 p.m., and both are televised by Midco Sports Network.

Drew’s picks: North Dakota 4-0, 5-1.
Paula’s picks: North Dakota, 4-2, 3-1.

Mixed results for the B1G on Halloween weekend

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween weekend. Mine was pretty great, considering it was spent staying home and watching sports. Four of the six Big Ten teams were in action this weekend with Minnesota and Michigan State taking the week off.

Here’s how things panned out:

  • Penn State tied St. Lawrence 2-2 on Thursday night and lost 4-2 on Saturday night.
  • Wisconsin swept Arizona State at home.
  • Ohio State and Mercyhurst split a series at Ohio State.
  • Michigan and Robert Morris split a series at Michigan.

Here’s my three things from the weekend:

1. Penn State was brought back to earth

With 52 shots on goal, Thursday’s tie has to be a tough pill to swallow for the Nittany Lions. I got my first chance of the season to watch Penn State on Thursday, thanks to the fact that they’re streaming their nonconference games, and they looked good. St. Lawrence goaltender Arthur Brey was better on Thursday. Penn State losing its touch on the power play and going 0-7 didn’t help, either.

The loss on Friday made Thursday’s tie hurt that much more, but I  still saw signs of a team that could do some damage when it comes to conference play.

Side note: Both of the teams I’ve focuses on in the columns I’ve written this season have gone to have winless weekends after I wrote about them. If it happens again we might have a curse on our hands.

2. On Wisconsin

The Badgers waited until the end of November last season to pick up their first victory of the season, they improved that mark by about 30 days this year. Sure, it was two wins over a team that is in its first year playing Division I hockey, but that doesn’t always equal wins (ask Alaska-Fairbanks, or the 2012-13 Badgers).

The wins were also important because Wisconsin is in for some tough sledding over the next four weeks.

Side note: Ohio State also picked up its first win of the season this weekend. No more winless teams in the B1G.

3. Michigan looks shaky

The Wolverines split with a team they probably should have swept at home this weekend. Michigan has been giving up more goals than it probably wants to so far this season and we witnessed what happens if that trend continues and the offense goes stagnant during Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Robert Morris.

All that being said, the Wolverines are still off to a 4-1-1 start. Its offense looks solid, but the cliché doesn’t say that offense wins championships.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Oct. 30-31, 2015

Penn State tied St. Lawrence, 2-2, Thursday night, bringing the Nittany Lions’ record to 4-1-1. Let’s see how Drew Claussen and I are doing so far.

Last week
Drew: 8-2-3 (.731)
Paula: 9-1-3 (.808)

Drew: 20-6-7 (.712)
Paula: 19-7-7 (.689)

This week

Four Big Ten teams are playing nonconference games this week. Last night, PSU freshman defenseman Vince Pedrie netted his first collegiate goal to tie the Nittany Lions’ game against St. Lawrence, 2-2, at 6:26 in the third period. SLU and PSU play their second game tonight; Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin are in action Friday and Saturday nights.

St. Lawrence at Penn State

Drew: Until Penn State’s offense shows signs of slowing down, it’s going to be hard to pick against the Nittany Lions. If PSU can shore up its defense, which should happen with three rookie defensemen becoming more comfortable each week, it has a real shot at being one of the top teams in the conference. St. Lawrence should provide a tough test, and a split is probably the logical choice here, but I’m thinking sweep.

Paula: I, too, was thinking that the Nittany Lions would sweep — and I, too, am not picking against them until they lose. Tonight’s rematch begins at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s pick for Friday: Penn State 4-3.
Paula’s pick for Friday: Penn State 3-2.

Arizona State at Wisconsin

Drew: A coin flip may actually be a good way to pick this series, so that’s what I did. Heads was Wisconsin and tails was the Sun Devils. Results were heads first and then tails, so my prediction is a split.

Paula: The Sun Devils (3-4-0) are 1-4-0 against Division I opponents, having earned their first program win, 2-1, against Alaska in the Kendall Hockey Classic Oct. 10. Last weekend, Arizona State swept a D-III opponent, So. New Hampshire, 9-2 and 7-1. So far this season, 15 different Sun Devils have combined for the team’s 21 overall points. Three different goalies have seen time in ASU’s net. The Badgers tied Ferris State, 5-5, last Friday before losing to the Bulldogs 2-1. Both of these games begin at 7:00 p.m. and neither is televised.

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

Mercyhurst at Ohio State

Drew: I just feel like Ohio State has to break through and get one this weekend. Mercyhurst played pretty well against Michigan a couple weeks ago, and already has racked up two sweeps this year, but I think Ohio State wins on on Friday.

Paula: The Lakers swept Army last weekend and the Buckeyes are still looking for their first win of the season after having been swept by Providence. The teams met Jan. 2-3, 2015, in Erie, Pa., where OSU won 6-3 and tied 2-2. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 4:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, Mercyhurst 4-1.
Paula’s picks: OSU 3-2, Mercyhurst 3-2.

Robert Morris at Michigan

Drew: Robert Morris has scored 13 goals in its two wins this season, so if the Wolverines play shaky defense the Colonials have some players on the team that will make them pay. Michigan also has had a potent offense so far this season, averaging 4.75 goals per contest, so even if one of both of these games turn into a track meet I’m pretty confident in the Wolverines playing at home.

Paula: That’s the issue with the Wolverines. Michigan is allowing nearly as many goals as it’s scoring, but the undefeated Wolverines are still staying a step ahead of opponents. The undefeated Colonials (2-0-2) tied and defeated Niagara last weekend, 3-3 and 8-2. These are the first games between these teams. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m., Saturday’s at 3:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, 5-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-3, 4-3.

Finally, a better showing: Sweeps, ties and strength in loss, too

At the start of the year, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said that his team was focused on a little redemption this season. I suggested that perhaps the entire league needed to embrace that word. In the third week, Big Ten teams made progress toward that end with a 6-4-2 showing in nonconference play.

1. Sweeps week.

The Golden Gophers earned their first wins of the season with sweeps of Northeastern, 4-0 and 4-3, with rookie Eric Schierhorn in net both nights and junior Hudson Fasching scoring his first three goals of the season — a very good development, indeed.

Penn State also swept American International, outscoring AIC 13-6. While I’m sure that coach Guy Gadowsky would like his team to allow fewer goals, averaging 5.60 goals per game through the first five games is more than merely promising. Freshman forward Chase Berger notched three goals in the series, and he now has five goals in five games.

The best thing about these sweeps is that these are teams that the Gophers and Nittany Lions should have beaten — with no offense to Northeastern and American International. Good teams find a way to defeat the teams they should.

2. Fighting for ties.

Both Wisconsin and Michigan had to come from behind to fight for a tie after leading an opponent, and for each team, this is a sign of positive development.

The Badgers were leading Ferris State 4-2 after the second period of Friday’s 5-5 tie, but the Bulldogs scored three third-period goals to take the lead. With the Wisconsin net empty at 19:40 in the third, Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Tim Davison netted his first goal of the season — his third career goal — to bring the score to 5-5. The Badgers dropped the Saturday rematch, 2-1.

The Wolverines led the Dutchmen 4-3 midway through the third period Friday when Union scored two goals four minutes and eight seconds apart, giving them a 5-4 lead. With the Michigan net empty at 19:30 in the third, senior Justin Selman scored to tie the game, his second goal of the season. Selman had 11 goals last year and didn’t register one until his sixth game of 2014-15. Michigan went on to defeat Rensselaer Saturday, 5-2.

3. Strength in loss.

The Spartans bounced back from a 4-2 Thursday loss to Lake Superior State with a 2-0 win Friday. It was the first shutout of the season for senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who stopped 21 shots in the game, and it was also Hildebrand’s 10th career shutout.

Ohio State was swept by No. 3 Providence — but not without a fight. The Buckeyes lost 2-1 and 6-4, and in Saturday’s game, sophomore Matthew Weis and freshman John Wiitala scored two goals 31 minutes apart late in the third to cut the Friars’ lead in half. Weis also had the five-on-three power-play goal that OSU scored Friday, and Wiitala’s goals was the first of his career.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Oct. 22-24, 2015

In the first two weeks of the season, the Big Ten has struggled in nonconference play. This is how Drew Claussen and I are doing after the first two weeks.

Last week

Drew: 9-3-0 (.750)
Paula: 8-4-0 (.667)


Drew: 12-4-4 (.700)
Paula: 10-6-4 (.600)

I will take the moral victory of having picked a Notre Dame-Penn State split, even though the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions each won on the nights opposite of what I predicted.

This week

Everyone plays this week, starting with series that begins tonight between old CCHA foes, Lake Superior State and Michigan State.

Lake Superior State at Michigan State

Drew: It’s rare that we can look at a previous result for a nonconference series that’s from the same season, but with the Spartans and Lakers meeting at the IceBreaker Tournament we can do just that. MSU downed LSSU, 4-1, two weekends ago and will want a couple of similar results to help right the ship after getting swept at Denver last weekend. Sweeps are hard to get in college hockey, but I think the Spartans will get one this week.

Paula: The Lakers (1-3-0) split a series with Northern Michigan last weekend, losing 6-3 and winning 4-0; freshman goaltender Nick Kossoff made 19 saves in that shutout, his first collegiate start. The Spartans are 70-34-14 all-time against the Lakers, 37-11-6 over LSSU in Munn Ice Arena. Under Tom Anastos, the Spartans are 3-1 in home openers. MSU is still dealing with injuries. This is a Thursday-Friday series, each game begins at 7:00 p.m., and neither game is televised.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-1, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: MSU 3-1, 3-1.

American International at Penn State

Drew: American International is 0-3 and is averaging more than six goals allowed per game. All three losses have come on the road so the Yellow Jackets are definitely road weary. It won’t get any easier playing at Penn State. I see the Nittany Lions sweeping.

Paula: The Nittany Lions are 1-1-0 all-time against the Yellow Jackets. PSU is averaging 5.00 goals per game; AIC is averaging 2.33 goals per game. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday’s game begins at 3:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 4-0, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: PSU 4-1, 4-1.

Michigan vs. Union and Rensselaer

Drew: Michigan looked okay last weekend against Mercyhurst, but I’m interested in seeing the improvement from Week One to Week Two. Scoring nine goals on the weekend was a good thing for the Wolverines; giving up six was not. I believe that Michigan is still the Big Ten’s best chance at having a team that is one of the top in the country, but if its inconsistency in net persists it will be destined to being a team ranked between 10-20 and fighting for a conference title. Even so, I think the Wolverines’ offense will be enough to carry them this weekend.

Paula: Michigan and Union have met once, Nov. 27, 2011, in Yost Ice Arena, a 6-3 win for the Dutchmen. Union is 2-0-2 after a low-scoring tie and win at home against Maine last weekend, 1-1 and 2-0. Like the Wolverines, the Dutchmen have two capable goaltenders; junior Alex Sakellaropoulos registered the tie last weekend, and freshman Jake Kupsky stopped 26 shots in the shutout, his first collegiate start. The Engineers are 1-3-0 after losses to both Alaska teams in the Gold Rush last weekend. RPI is 7-5-1 against Michigan, but the last meeting between the two squads came in the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational, a 4-3 RPI victory. Friday’s game at Union begins at 7:30 p.m. and is untelevised; Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. start at Rensselaer and will be carried by Time Warner Cable Sports in New York State.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 5-3, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: I’m with Drew. A lot depends on consistency in the Michigan net. Michigan 4-3, 4-3.

Northeastern at Minnesota

Drew: The good news for the Gophers is that they’re playing a team that is also struggling to score so far this season. The bad news is that Northeastern’s struggles have resulted in five goals in three games and Minnesota has only lit the lamp once. Both teams got swept last weekend. Minnesota fell to a highly ranked Minnesota-Duluth squad and the Huskies dropped two to Bentley. As I said in the blog last Sunday, this series will tell us a lot about the Gophers. If they get swept again there will be a sense of panic in Gopherland. I think a Minnesota sweep is more likely than a Northeastern one, but a split seems more likely.

Paula: The Gophers are 8-6-0 all-time against the Huskies, 7-2-0 in Minneapolis. Most recently, Northeastern beat Minnesota, 3-2, at home Nov. 29, 2014. I’m banking completely on freshman UMN goaltender Eric Schierhorn, and I will call a Minnesota sweep. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports North Plus; Saturday’s game starts at 8:00 p.m. and is televised by Fox Sports North.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, Northeastern 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 2-1, 2-1.

Ohio State at Providence

Drew: I have had a soft spot for Ohio State since I started covering this conference and Steve Rohlik has always been one of the nicest coaches to talk to, so it’s tough to see the Buckeyes have a start that is this rough. The law of averages says that OSU will pick up a win sooner or later; it’s rare to see a team start 0-6, but it’s hard to pick anything but a Providence sweep this weekend. Ohio State hasn’t shown anything that points towards it being able to go on the road, play the No. 3 team in the nation, and win.

Paula: These teams opened the 2014-15 season against each other in Columbus, each coming away with overtime wins: OSU 5-4 (Oct. 10), Providence 2-1 (Oct. 11). Once again, there’s little more to add to what Drew has said. The Buckeyes are 0-4 — all four losses coming against their former Ohio foes, Bowling Green and Miami — and the 2-0-1 Friars defeated and tied Miami on the road Oct. 9-10 to open the current season. The games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, and each is televised by Ocean State Networks.

Drew’s picks: Providence 4-1, 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Providence 4-2, 4-1.

Wisconsin at Ferris State

Drew: It’s not the same as going over to Boston and playing at Boston College and Boston University, but going to Ferris State and winning is still a tall task. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Wisconsin was able to pick up a win this weekend, however. Matt Jurusik put in a strong goaltending performance against the Terriers, even though he did give up four goals, and I think he’ll carry the over to Friday and help the Badgers knock off the Bulldogs.

Paula: The Bulldogs are 1-2-1 after splitting at home last weekend against Michigan Tech. This is the first trip to Ewigleben Arena for the Badgers, but Wisconsin is 3-2-1 all-time versus Ferris State. The teams met last year in Madison, resulting in a 1-1 tie Nov. 28 and a 5-3 Wisconsin win Nov. 29 — the first two non-losses of the season for the Badgers in 2014-15. Games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 2-1, Ferris State 3-0.
Paula’s picks: FSU 3-1, 3-2.

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