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Pickin’ the Big Ten: Oct. 10-12

Both Drew Claussen and I began the season on a high note, each choosing Ferris State for the win over Michigan last week, so we’re each 1-0-0.

This week

There are two nonconference series and two tournaments. Four Big Ten teams are playing this weekend.

IceBreaker Tournament

Notre Dame hosts the 18th annual IceBreaker Tournament in the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Rensselaer round out the field. For more detailed information about the whole field, check out Notre Dame’s excellent central site for this year’s tourney. Minnesota plays Minnesota-Duluth at 2:00 p.m. Friday and then either Rensselaer or Notre Dame at noon or 3:30 p.m. Sunday, depending on how things go in each Friday game. None of this is televised.

Drew: The Gophers will travel to South Bend to face an in-state rival on Friday afternoon. I have a bad feeling that a Friday 2:00 p.m. start for the first game of the season will lead to some sloppy play from both teams, but that should also produce a close game. One thing I’ve noticed from closely covering the Gophers during the last couple seasons is that their game isn’t fluid when the game is being played while the sun is still shining. A 1-0 Sunday-afternoon victory over Canisius two seasons ago comes to mind, where the Gophers scored 12 seconds into the game and that was it. I am excited to listen to the game at work, though; that should make Friday afternoon go much faster. The Gophers and Bulldogs split a series at Mariucci Arena last season and Minnesota beat Duluth in a shootout to win the inaugural North Star College Cup, although the game went in the books as a tie.

Paula: I have to agree with Drew about the potential for sloppy play in that first game. Unlike my partner-in-writing, though, I don’t see the Gophers as the ultimate victors this weekend. While the Fighting Irish are very young, Notre Dame has a tendency to knock off No. 1 teams. They did so twice last season — including a 4-1 win over Minnesota in the Compton Center (Nov. 8, 2013), the first game of a split weekend against the Gophers — and the Irish have beaten No. 1 opponents 14 times in their history.

Drew’s picks: Gophers beat UMD 2-1 and downs Notre Dame 4-1 on Sunday.

Paula’s picks: Minnesota over Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2, and Notre Dame over the Gophers in the title game, 2-1.

Kendall Hockey Classic

Alaska-Anchorage hosts the 24th annual Kendall Hockey Classic in Sullivan Arena. The field also includes in-state rival Alaska, plus Maine and Wisconsin. Wisconsin plays the host at 5:00 p.m. local time Friday and takes on the Nanooks at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. None of this is televised.

Drew: Mike Eaves said in his presser this week that this trip to Alaska would serve as a good bonding experience for the young Badgers squad. He sounded calm, cool and collected, but this trip could present an early season speed bump for Wisconsin. These two games will revolve around Joel Rumpel’s play. If he’s on this weekend, then Wisconsin will easily prevail take these two games; however, Fairbanks is a good team, Anchorage is not the pushover that the Badgers remember from the old WCHA and the Badgers were pretty brutal on the road last season. A good thing for Eaves is that not a lot of his players had the experience of playing Anchorage in the old WCHA.

Paula: Yes, a telling weekend. If the Badgers can ride their late-season momentum from 2013-2014, they’ll take the tournament — but I don’t think it will be easy. The Badgers are 54-15-9 all-time against the Seawolves, splitting a series with UAA last season at home (Jan. 3-4). The Nanooks have never beaten the Badgers (7-0-0), but the two teams haven’t met since 1993.

Drew’s picks: Alaska-Fairbanks over Wisconsin 3-1, Wisconsin over Alaska-Anchorage 4-2.

Paula’s picks: Badgers 3-2, 4-3 — and, yes, I know how improbable that is given Wisconsin’s road record last season.

Connecticut at Penn State

Drew: Connecticut posted a respectable 18-14-4 record last season before being swept out of the playoffs by Robert Morris. Things will get a lot tougher for the Huskies this season when they join Hockey East. Penn State will get the benefit of playing at home, where they won 50 percent more games than on the road last season. That stat becomes a little less impressive when you realize that it’s four wins compared to two. Penn State fans have seemed welcome hockey last year, however, and Pegula is definitely a home-ice advantage for the Nittany Lions. I could see either team sweeping this, so I guess I’ll pick a split.

Paula: I have zero idea of how Penn State will be this year. Seriously. I suspect that the Nittany Lions don’t have a real clue, either, as to how this season will unfold. I know they play hard, that they believe in their PSU cause, and that they have a good year of league affiliation under their collective belts entering their third full year of Division I play. I’m just going to suggest they begin the season on a high note.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 3-2, Connecticut 4-1.

Paula’s picks: Let me begin with a disclaimer that has practically nothing to do with these picks. Well, practically nothing. I’m a diehard Buffalo Bills fan. Terry Pegula just purchased the Buffalo Bills from the estate of the late Ralph Wilson, and Pegula has vowed to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Penn State 3-2, 3-2.

Providence at Ohio State

Drew: Just like last year, I seem to be a little bit higher on Ohio State than everyone else outside of Columbus. It must be the Minnesota sports fan in me that causes me to root for the underdog to do well. (I was about three months old the last time one of the main four professional teams won a championship here, the Twins in 1991). That being said, I can’t find a reason to put Providence on upset alert this weekend. These two teams aren’t very familiar with each other, only meeting twice in 1977 and once in 1991. For what it’s worth, which is pretty much nothing, Ohio State is 2-1 in those three meetings. Scraping out a split would be a great way for the Buckeyes to start the season, but I’m going with a Providence sweep.

Paula: I love that Drew loves the Buckeyes, the program I covered so closely for over a decade in Columbus. I like this Buckeye team, too, under the direction of Steve Rohlik. I like how the Buckeyes didn’t let a little thing like six goalies on the roster last season interfere with their run to the Big Ten title game. I like the team’s chemistry. I just don’t know where the goals will come from. And I don’t enjoy being reminded repeatedly that I could be Drew Claussen’s mother.

Drew’s picks: Providence 4-2, 5-3.

Paula’s picks: In the past, the Buckeyes had trouble on Friday nights. That’s what I’m going with. Providence 4-2, Ohio State 3-2.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: No. 8 Michigan at No. 9 Ferris State, Oct. 4, 2014

Hey! There’s hockey this weekend!

Once again, Drew Claussen and I will be covering the Big Ten for USCHO.com. Once again, I’m sure that my partner-in-writing will shame me in the picks category.

As a reminder, here’s how each of us did during the 2013-14 regular season:

Drew: 85-43-14 (.679)
Paula: 86-41-16 (.657)

This week

College hockey opens with nonconference and exhibition play this weekend, and the only game that counts for Big Ten teams is a tilt between two former CCHA foes, Michigan and Ferris State. The Nos. 8 and 9 teams in the Preseason USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, respectively, meet Saturday night in Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids at 7:00 p.m. The game is televised in Michigan on Comcast and Ferris Television.

Drew: It’s hard to put stock into any rankings that come out before teams take the ice, but the preseason polls do confirm what I had been thinking since I saw this match up announced — these teams are pretty evenly matched. Michigan is ranked No. 8 in the USCHO poll and Ferris State is No. 9. One nugget that I found interesting while browsing through Michigan’s game notes was that this year is the first time in 13 years that the Wolverines will open the season with a road game. Also, Michigan hasn’t won at Ferris State since January 2011. Michigan holds a 68-29-4 all-time record against the Bulldogs. The two teams played to a draw during their contest last season, which makes four ties in the past five seasons. The Wolverines have won seven games during that span and the Bulldogs have claimed two victories. I’m tempted to pick a tie again, but that would be a pretty boring way to start off the new season, so I’ll go with the home team.

Paula: The Wolverines ended their 2013-14 season with a loss to Penn State in the inaugural Big Ten Tournament, and Michigan went 4-5-1 in their last 10 games last year. The Bulldogs bowed out to North Dakota in the deciding game of the 2014 NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament and went 6-4-0 in their last 10. In last season’s 2-2 tie between these teams (Dec. 11, 2013), the Wolverines led 2-1 going into the third period in Yost Ice Arena, but freshman defenseman Brandon Anselmini’s late third-period goal knotted the game. As Drew said, these two opponents play fierce, close games.

Drew’s pick: Ferris State, 3-1.

Paula’s pick: I have the Bulldogs higher than the Wolverines in my preseason poll, so that’s where I go, too. Ferris State, 3-2.

Exhibitions

There are a few exhibition games scattered throughout the next week. Drew and I don’t pick those, but here’s the schedule:

Oct. 4
Guelph at Ohio State (4:00 p.m.)
N. Alberta Institute of Technology at No. 1 Minnesota (8:00 p.m.)

Oct. 6
U.S. Under-18 at No. 8 Michigan (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 7
Windsor at Michigan State (7:00 p.m.)

Oct. 9
Wilfrid Lauerier at No. 8 Michigan (7:30 p.m.)

Minnesota set to play Robert Morris in NCAA West Regional

Before the Big Ten Tournament, which was held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota knew that it would be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and that it would be back at the same arena for the NCAA West Regional the next weekend.

The only unknown for the Gophers was which team they would play.

That team is Robert Morris. The Gophers and Colonials will face off at 4:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday in St. Paul. The game will air on ESPN2. The winner will face the winner of St. Cloud State and Notre Dame on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. CDT. That game will be on ESPNU.

“We’re excited to be hosting the West Regional with a great field of teams coming to St. Paul,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Robert Morris has certainly earned the right to play in this tournament as have St. Cloud State and Notre Dame, and we are looking forward to a great weekend of hockey.”

Saturday’s game will be the first contest between Minnesota and Robert Morris. The Colonials earned their first NCAA Tournament selection by winning the Atlantic Hockey Tournament last weekend.

If the Gophers manage to get past Robert Morris on Saturday, Sunday’s game will have an interesting storyline regardless of opponent. Lucia played at Notre Dame and his son, Mario, is a forward for the Irish. St. Cloud Sate is an in-state rival and former conference foe.

Focusing on the first game shouldn’t be hard for Minnesota, however, since the Gophers were upset by eventual champion Yale last year in their first NCAA tournament game in Grand Rapids. The last time the Xcel Energy Center hosted an NCAA regional, Minnesota defeated Boston University and North Dakota to advance to the Frozen Four in 2012 before losing to eventual champion Boston College.

Wisconsin draws North Dakota in the NCAA tournament

North Dakota fans were cheering hard for the Badgers during the Big Ten tournament championship game on Saturday night.

Oh, how different things will be this Friday.

Wisconsin will be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati and will face fourth-seeded North Dakota. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of a contest between Ferris State and Colgate on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. EDT. That regional championship game will also be on ESPNU

UND got into the tournament when the Badgers beat Ohio State 5-4 in overtime of the conference tournament championship game in St. Paul and denied the Buckeyes an automatic bid into the tournament.

The Badgers have advanced to the Frozen Four’s championship game the previous two times they’ve secured a No. 1 seed. Wisconsin defeated Boston College in 2006 and dropped a rematch between the two teams in 2010.

Wisconsin and North Dakota have a long history with each other from the time the two institutions spent in the WCHA before this season. The Badgers own an 86-65-12 record against UND. The 163 times the two teams have played is the fourth-highest opponent for Wisconsin behind Minnesota, Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth.

Wisconsin went 0-1-1 against North Dakota during the 2012-13 season. The Badgers won the last WCHA Final Five postseason tournament last year and fell 6-1 to Massachusetts-Lowell in the NCAA tournament.

 

Pickin’ the Big Ten Tournament: March 20-22, 2014

And we do come down to it. Drew Claussen, that upstart, edged ahead of me admirably in the final weekend of regular-season play.

Last week
Drew: 4-2-0 (.667)
Paula: 2-4-0 (.333)

That wrong-way split in East Lansing hurts my heart.

Season
Drew: 85-43-14 (.679)
Paula: 86-41-16 (.657)

This week

This inaugural Big Ten Tournament will be played in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the Minnesota Wild of the NHL. Next year, the event moves to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, home of the NHL’s Red Wings.

This is a three-day tournament, with No. 6 Michigan playing No. 3 Penn State at 2:00 p.m. and No. 5 Michigan State playing No. 4 Ohio State at 7:00 p.m. Thursday. Friday’s quarterfinal action begins at 2:00 p.m., with the winner of the Penn State-Michigan game playing No. 2 Wisconsin; the winner of the Michigan State-Ohio State game plays No. 1 Minnesota at 7:00 p.m. Friday. The puck drops for the championship game at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. All times are CDT. All games will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

To follow USCHO.com’s coverage of the Big Ten Tournament and all conference tournament championships this weekend, check out our Big Ten Playoff Central and Todd Milewski’s From the Press Box.

The field

Drew: I’m not going to really go in depth on many of the match-ups. Everybody has played each team at least four times, so we all know what Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State bring to the table. I’ll be in St. Paul for the weekend so be sure to follow along on Twitter and also keep an eye out for the recaps, features and live blog for each game that will be on USCHO.com.

Paula: The Thursday quarterfinal matches are fascinating in this tournament. The Nittany Lions have defeated the Wolverines twice this season and that series stands at 2-2 in 2013-14; the Buckeyes are 1-0-3 versus the Spartans this year, with Ohio State having taken two of the three shootouts in the series. As for that game, after the Spartans lost to the Badgers Saturday night in Munn Arena, Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said of this match, “We’re due.” Both of these contests should produce good hockey.

As for the semifinal round, the Nos. 1 and 2 are 11-1-4, collectively, against the rest of the field. Wisconsin is 2-1-1 against Michigan this season and 4-0 versus Penn State; Minnesota is 3-0-1 against Ohio State and 2-0-2 versus Michigan State.

Drew’s picks:
Thursday: Penn State over Michigan 3-2, Ohio State over Michigan State 4-2.
Friday: Wisconsin over Penn State 5-1, Minnesota over Ohio State 3-0.
Saturday: Wisconsin over Minnesota 3-2.

Paula’s picks:
Thursday: Michigan over Penn State 3-2, Ohio State over Michigan State 3-2.
Friday: Wisconsin over Michigan 2-1, Minnesota over Ohio State 3-2.
Saturday: Wisconsin over Minnesota 4-2.

Seems like old times, a.k.a. the WCHA Tournament

I will be covering the WCHA tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich., this weekend, and if you get a minute and want to join me and WCHA columnist Matt Wellens for some live blogging or want to shout at us through Twitter, please do — or, if you’re in Grand Rapids for that tourney, say hello. For me, it will very much feel like old times with both Ferris State and Bowling Green in the field … but don’t be surprised if I pop up in St. Paul, virtually speaking. Obviously, I’ll be keeping a close eye on what transpires in the Xcel Center.

Three things: The end of the regular season as we know it

The regular season is over, and before we all move on to predicting conference tournaments and at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look back at the last regular season weekend in the Big Ten.

1. Gophers clinch at Yost

Junior Kyle Rau netted a goal at the 2:44 mark of overtime in Friday’s contest between Minnesota and Michigan to give the Gophers the inaugural Big Ten regular-season title.

“It’s pretty cool, but when you come here, you don’t come here to win conference championships,” said Rau. “You come here for something else.”

This is the third straight season that Minnesota has had at least a share of a regular-season title after winning the MacNaughton Cup two seasons ago and sharing it with St. Cloud State last season.

“This year was going to be the first-ever Big Ten title [and] that was our goal when the year began,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “We lost some really good players off of last year’s team, but some returning guys stepped up their level of play and the freshmen complement our team very, very well.”

Michigan obviously wasn’t too pleased with the Gophers celebrating a title on its home ice and responded with a 6-2 victory on Saturday evening.

2. The Big Ten Tournament 

The end of the regular season also means its Big Ten Tournament time.

Minnesota is the No. 1 seed and will play the winner of Ohio State and Michigan State. Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed and will play the winner of Michigan and Penn State.

The tourney will run Thursday-Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Michigan and Penn State will get things underway at 2 p.m. on Thursday and the Buckeyes and Spartans will drop the puck at 7 p.m. Te Badgers will play at 2 p.m. on Friday and Minnesota will play in the 7 p.m. game. The championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday. All games will be on BTN.

USCHO has four writers, one being yours truly, headed to St. Paul to cover the tournament like a blanket. Paula and I will have our picks up by Thursday morning.

3. The PairWise Predictor

USCHO’s PairWise Predictor is up and running. It’s a great way to kill some time, see which ways your favorite  team can get in and see some scenarios where your team’s rival would be watching from the couch.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: March 14-15, 2014

It’s the final weekend of regular-season play. Here’s how Drew Claussen and I have done with our picks so far.

Last week
Drew: 3-2-1 (.583)
Paula: 4-1-1 (.750)

Season
Drew: 81-41-14 (.647)
Paula: 84-37-16 (.672)

This week

All series this weekend are Friday-Saturday.

Minnesota at Michigan

Drew: Minnesota needs two points to put a bow on the first Big Ten regular-season championship. I think the Gophers will get three. I’m not quite sure how, though. There are two main ways this series could go. The Gophers could win on Friday night and have essentially nothing to play for of Saturday, or lose on Friday and — depending on how Wisconsin does — have everything to play for on Saturday night. I’m going to say that the first scenario plays out.

Paula: The Golden Gophers swept the Wolverines in Minneapolis Feb. 14-15. I think they’ll get the same result this weekend. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and is televised by ESPNews. Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 6-2, Michigan 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 3-2.

Ohio State at Penn State

Drew: Compared to the other teams in the Big Ten, Ohio State has been the squad that has handled Penn State the best this season. The Buckeyes managed a four-goal victory against PSU on the last day of January and added a three-goal win Feb. 1. It’ll be interesting to see if the afternoon Saturday game messes with either team. I wouldn’t be surprised if Penn State stole one, but I have to go with an Ohio State sweep.

Paula’s picks: I have to say that I’ve come to respect Drew’s intuition when it comes to Ohio State. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 3:00 p.m., and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-0, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 4-1.

Wisconsin at Michigan State

Drew: I think this series will produce two close games. However, in a “three things” blog a couple weeks back I said Wisconsin would win its last four games. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Everyone can look past the fact that I also said Michigan State would lose its final four contests in the same blog.

Paula: The Badgers swept the Spartans in Madison Feb. 21-22, shutting out Michigan State the second night. Last weekend, Wisconsin picked up its third and fourth conference road wins against Penn State. I have misgivings about picking a Wisconsin sweep, though. The Spartans are tenacious. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and is not televised; Saturday’s game starts at 4:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports Detroit Plus and Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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

A tale of three comebacks and three different fates

In the penultimate weekend of regular-season Big Ten play, we had more evidence that the upcoming Big Ten tournament has the potential for a surprise or two.

1. Exhibit A: Michigan State.

After losing 7-1 to No. 12 Michigan in Ann Arbor Friday night, Michigan State came from behind to defeat the Wolverines 4-3 at home Saturday. Down 3-1 at the end of the first, the Spartans pulled together in front of senior goaltender Will Yanakeff to score three unanswered goals and take the game. Yanakeff — who came in at the start of the second in relief of sophomore Jake Hildebrand — shut out his team’s arch-rivals in just his fifth game of the season. Most impressive in that win was the way in which the Spartans shut down the Wolverines in the third period, scoring two goals 1:13 apart and managing Michigan through the rest of the stanza to guarantee the win.

2. Exhibit B: Ohio State.

After losing 5-1 to visiting No. 1 Minnesota the night before, Ohio State came from behind to tie the Golden Gophers and then take the extra shootout point Saturday. The Buckeyes tied the game for the first time early in the third period on Ryan Dzingel’s seventh power-play goal of the season, but Gabe Guertler’s second goal of the season 24 seconds later put the Gophers ahead again. Then with less than four minutes left in regulation, Nick Schilkey tied the game again for the Buckeyes — fed by Dzingel — and Schilkey was the lone player to score in the shootout. The Buckeyes outshot the Gophers 43-32, 15-3 in the third period alone.

3. Exhibit C: Penn State.

The Nittany Lions dropped two close games to No. 5 Wisconsin, coming from behind in the third period of each contest and taking the Badgers to overtime Saturday. In Friday’s 4-2 game, with the Badgers leading 3-0 in the third, Casey Bailey put the Nittany Lions on the board at 12:04, his ninth goal of the season. Then at 19:00, Taylor Holstrom’s sixth goal of the year put Penn State to within one, but Wisconsin’s Mark Zengerle scored with six seconds left in regulation to give the Badgers the win.

The Nittany Lions engineered another comeback before losing Saturday’s game, 3-2. After the Badgers scored at 9:01 in the first, Bailey answered for Penn State 1:06 later on the power play. Trailing 2-1 late in the third, Kenny Brooks tied the game for Penn State at 17:16. With 21 seconds left in overtime, though, Mark Zengerle netted Wisconsin’s second game-winning goal of the weekend. Zengerle had two goals and three assists on the weekend.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: March 7-8, 2014

Here’s how Drew Claussen and I are doing with two weeks to go.

Last week
Drew: 2-1-1 (.625)
Paula: 2-1-1 (.625)

Season
Drew: 78-39-13 (.650)
Paula: 80-36-15 (.668)

This week

In the final two weeks of Big Ten conference play, there are three Friday-Saturday series with each team playing.

Michigan State vs. Michigan

Drew: Like the Badgers, I expect Michigan to step up in crunch time. Couple that with the fact Michigan State is having an abysmal second half of the season and I see a Michigan sweep. The Spartans’ six conference ties show that they can play with any team in the conference, but the fact that their only conference wins have come against Penn State shows that they’re terrible at sealing the deal.

Paula: I love having to begin my picks by disagreeing with my esteemed colleague-in-writing. The Spartans are not having an abysmal second half. Michigan State is 3-6-5 in the second half and that does not constitute a winning record — but neither does it constitute a losing record since the start of 2014, and the Spartans took the extra shootout point in three of those five ties. The only thing the Spartans can’t seem to do this season is score goals. They are solid in net and their defense is tight. They play smart, disciplined hockey and their chemistry is good. If they could add goals to the mix, those ties would likely be added to the “wins” column. I’m sure that Michigan know that Michigan State can play with anybody, especially since the Spartans shut out the Wolverines in the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament.

Michigan hosts Friday night, Michigan State hosts Saturday and both games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday’s game is carried locally by Comcast Channel 900 and Saturday’s game is on Fox Sports Detroit.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 3-1, 5-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-2, Michigan State 2-1.

Minnesota at Ohio State

Drew: The last time these two top offenses faced off they produced a 1-0 game outside and a 4-2 game inside Mariucci Arena. I think the two games this weekend will resemble the game that was played indoors. Both teams do have something to play for, but it’s unlikely that this weekend’s series will set anything in stone. Minnesota could put itself out of reach for both Wisconsin and Michigan going into the last weekend with a sweep of the Buckeyes. And a sweep by Ohio State would, with a lot of help from other teams, keep their dream of second place alive. I’m going to say OSU steals a couple points this weekend.

Paula: If this weren’t in Columbus, I’d be picking a Minnesota sweep. The Gophers carry a four-game win streak into the Schottenstein Center, having beaten Penn State most recently, 5-1 and 2-1 at home last weekend. The Buckeyes tied Michigan on the road Feb. 28 and took the extra shootout point before losing to the Wolverines in Nationwide Arena on Sunday 4-3. Ohio State has taken points from every Big Ten opponent except for Minnesota. I don’t think Ohio State steals anything this weekend; I think the Buckeyes win a game outright.

Friday’s game is carried by Fox Sports Detroit and Sports Time Ohio and begins at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday’s game is televised by ESPNews with a 6:30 p.m. start.

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

Wisconsin at Penn State

Drew: Penn State has been playing decent at home as of late, but I think Wisconsin will deliver on the road in crunch time. Much has been made of the Badgers’ bad road record (2-7-1), but that record includes losses at Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota, Miami and Michigan — all of which, in my opinion, are tough places to play. If Wisconsin sweeps its final four games, which I believe they will, the Badgers will finish with a decent 6-7-1 road record.

Paula: I don’t think that Pegula Arena is any softer a place to play than the five barns Drew mentions, but I do think that the absence of students for PSU’s spring break will affect the atmosphere. It’s tough to call a Wisconsin sweep given the Badgers’ road record — but it’s tougher to call Penn State wins given that the Nittany Lions have just two and against the same team. The Badgers swept the Nittany Lions Dec. 6-7 in Madison by a collective score of 11-4.

These games begin at 7:00 p.m. each night. Sadly, neither is televised.

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

The Twittersphere

Drew: I’m cheating on the Big Ten this weekend and heading to Mankato for some old-school WCHA action (Michigan Tech at Minnesota State). I’ll be attending as a fan but for some views on the game and probably the annoying people around me, follow along on Twitter.

Paula: I’m only able to get to one game this weekend, and it’s at Munn Arena on Saturday night. Keep me company and I promise to retweet your wit.

The BTN

Paula here. I have absolutely loved the Big Ten Network’s Frozen Fridays this season and was sad to see the last of those last weekend, now that the BTN shifts attention from hockey to hoops. The BTN did a great job with its coverage — mistaking shootout points for wins aside — and I look forward to its coverage next season.

What I never anticipated was how other networks would respond to the BTN’s presence. There was far more college hockey televised where I live this season — all involving Big Ten schools — arguably because of the competition of the BTN. So kudos to all for recognizing a marketable product that has more mass appeal than previously thought, and thank heavens that those of us who love the sport have more ways to follow it now.

Three things: Gophers seniors, Michigan’s power play and the standings

Happy Oscar Sunday (for those who don’t know, I’m freakishly into awards shows for some unknown reason). Now that the show is over and I’ve composed myself after Leo went another year without winning best actor, let’s take a look at what happened in the Big Ten this weekend.

1. Minnesota’s seniors shine on Saturday 

I personally feel that the senior night angle is over blown by media and fans in most instances. It’s an easy storyline and coaches love to talk about players who have dedicated four years to a program.

That being said, that fact that Minnesota beat Penn State on Saturday thanks to a backup goaltender playing in his second game of the season and a forward scoring his third goal of the season is pretty cool.

Head coach Don Lucia gave senior Michael Shibrowski the nod in net on Saturday. Shibrowski responded with 26 saves in the Gophers’ 2-1 victory over Penn State. Fellow senior Tom Serratore got the game-winning goal for Minnesota. Travis Boyd scored the Gophers’ first goal.

Minnesota also defeated Penn State 5-1 on Friday and extended its lead to seven points over idle Wisconsin.

2. Michigan’s special teams were truly special on Saturday

After tying Ohio State at home on Friday night and falling in a shootout, Michigan took advantage on having the extra man on Sunday on its way to a 4-3 victory. The Wolverines netted three goals on the power play on Sunday.

“I feel fortunate that we won the game tonight,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “Our goalie had to play well, and we got a couple of bounces here and there. The game the other night was a tough one to lose at home, but you’ve got to give Ohio State credit; they played really well.”

In the four games played between the two teams this year, Michigan is 3-0-1. All three wins for the Wolverines over the Buckeyes have been by one goal.

3. The race

Here’s how the Big Ten Standings currently look:

1. Minnesota — 38 points
2. Wisconsin — 31
3. Michigan — 27
4. Ohio State — 22
5. Michigan State — 19
6. Penn State — 7

And here’s the remaining series that each team has left:

Minnesota — Ohio State and Michigan on the road.
Wisconsin — Penn State and Michigan State on the road.
Michigan — Home-and-home with Michigan State and Minnesota at home.
Ohio State — Minnesota at home and Penn State on the road.
Michigan State — Home-and-home with Michigan and Wisconsin at home.
Penn State — Wisconsin and Ohio State at home.

For what it’s worth, this is how I think the final standings will look. There’s isn’t much moving around.

1. Minnesota — 45 points
2. Wisconsin — 43
3. Michigan — 36
4. Ohio State — 30
5. Michigan State — 19
6. Penn State — 7

(Note: I forgot to add a shootout point for Ohio State earlier, it was pointed out in the comments. Thank you volunteer editors)

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