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Gophers and Michigan State sweep, Michigan spreads the wealth in OT win

The Big Ten officially opened up conference play this weekend, and the three conference contests provided a ton of entertainment.

Here are three things I saw.

Seth Ambroz is apparently a goal scorer now

The fact that Minnesota swept Wisconsin this weekend isn’t that shocking. The fact that Seth Ambroz netted four goals is.

Ambroz lit the lamp twice in the Gophers’ 4-1 victory on Friday night , the second was an empty netter. On Saturday he had two more, including the game-winning goal with 26 seconds left in the third period.

“I was a little surprised. They were just skating out when the turnover happened, and I just went right to the net,” Ambroz said of the game-winning goal. “I was a little surprised, but our line has been creating turnovers all weekend. So it was nice to have another one, right there at the end.”

Ambroz has seven goals and five assists this season. He had nine goals and seven assists last year and five goals and three assists during his freshman campaign.

Michigan downs Ohio State in OT 

The Wolverines and Buckeyes provided an interesting nightcap to the Big Ten doubleheader on Friday.

Andrew Copp scored on a breakaway in overtime to give Michigan the 4-3 victory. Nine different Michigan players tallied a point in Friday’s game.

“I thought we were playing well at times, and I thought we were sloppy at times,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “Let’s face it, you have a-one goal lead in the third period at home, that’s pretty disappointing when you give it up, and especially in the way we gave it up.”

Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik saw the close loss as a good learning experience for his team. The two teams will face off again in Columbus on Monday.

“Our kids emptied the tank, we played hard and there were some chances on both sides,” Rohlik said. “We just came out on the short end. You always have to learn from things and we’re going to learn from this and get better.”

Michigan State gets much needed sweep 

With its inaugural Big Ten series with Minnesota looming, Michigan State desperately needed a sweep of Princeton this weekend.

The Spartans won 4-1 on Friday and opened up the offense in Saturday’s 8-2 victory.

Seven Michigan State skaters had multiple points on Saturday.

“It was nice to see the puck go in the net,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “”It was also nice to see the puck movement as well as having four lines and all six defensemen involved. The game gave us an opportunity to give some guys some experience as well.”

Michigan State scored four power play goals this weekend, and it didn’t allow a power play goal.

“We seemed to find some chemistry and some pretty good puck-movement on the power play today,” Anastos said after Saturday’s game.

 

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Sure, the day itself is over and we’re all the worse for it — okay, so I am the worse for it — and everyone who celebrates Christmas is rushing right into that, but there is still plenty for which to be thankful today. Here in the States, we can be doubly thankful that Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, a holiday mashup that last occurred 125 years ago.

What better way to celebrate everything this season has to offer than with the start of Big Ten conference play?

Last week
Drew: 3-2-0 (.600)
Paula: 3-2-0 (.600)

Season
Drew: 37-18-4 (.661)
Paula: 38-18-4 (.666)

This week

There are four series this week and two of those series kick off the first-ever weekend of Big Ten conference play. That this begins with two traditional rivalries makes it all the better.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

Drew: Hey, Ohio State is finally playing a real team! Yes the Buckeyes’ winning streak has come against some softer teams, but I still think the confidence gained will help them out in the long run this season. Is it enough confidence to pick up a win over Michigan this weekend? Probably not.

Paula: While I respectfully disagree with my partner-in-writing about Ohio State’s previous schedule, this will be a big challenge for the Buckeyes — and not just because Michigan is a the No. 3 team in the country. This rivalry is huge and is heightened emotionally this week by that Ohio State-Michigan gridiron game. The rivalry is as old as I am (hint: 1964) and the Wolverines have pretty much owned the Buckeyes, going 72-33-11 all-time in the series. Michigan is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings and the Wolverines swept the Buckeyes Feb. 22-23, 2013, 5-3 and 6-3. Ohio State swept Canisius two weeks ago and had last weekend off; Michigan beat Niagara, 6-0, Nov. 22. This is a Friday-Monday, home-and-home series. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. in Ann Arbor with Monday’s contest starting at 7:05 p.m. in Columbus.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-2, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: I don’t see the Buckeyes winning, either. Michigan 4-2, 4-2.

Princeton at Michigan State

Drew: The Spartans are probably just happy not to be playing another team from Michigan this weekend. This is a matchup of three-win teams, each with one impressive victory this season; Princeton’s 4-3 victory over No.4 Quinnipiac came last weekend.

Paula: Last weekend, the Spartans dropped a home-and-home series to former CCHA rival, Western Michigan, 2-0 and 4-1. The Tigers and Spartans last met in 1980, so the history between these teams is less than meaningful. The young Spartans look to me like a team still transitioning, still looking for its collective identity. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m.; Sunday’s game begins at 1:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-2, Princeton 2-1.
Paula’s picks: I think they’ll split, too, but I have no idea how to call it. Michigan State 3-2, Princeton 3-2.

Union at Penn State

Drew: Union seems to be in a good place, winning four of its last five, and I haven’t seen nearly enough out of Penn State to pick them over any ranked team yet. So I don’t have much to say about his one.

Paula: Each team comes to this game well rested, each having last played two weekends ago. Union rides a three-game win streak into this weekend, having beaten Cornell Nov. 9 and swept Rensselaer Nov. 15-16. Penn State hopes to break a two-game losing streak after dropping a series to Massachusetts-Lowell Nov. 14-15. One year ago, the Dutchmen beat the Nittany Lions in Schenectady, 2-0 and 4-1. This is a Saturday-Sunday series, with games beginning at 7:00 p.m. each night — and there’s a teddy bear toss during Saturday’s game! I do so love a teddy bear toss.

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

Wisconsin at Minnesota

Drew: Minnesota looked mortal for pretty much the first time this season last Sunday against UMD, and Wisconsin just straight up hasn’t been playing that much lately. I think the Badgers’ experienced players will help them this weekend and the games will be close, but I don’t think they’ll be able to grab a win.

Paula: This is the other storied rivalry of the weekend, dating back to 1922. The Gophers are 157-87-21 all-time against the Badgers, including a mark of 91-27-8 at home against Wisconsin. As Drew mentioned, the Gophers actually lost last weekend (gasp!), splitting with Duluth with a 6-1 win and 6-2 loss. I suspect that that specific loss was a great motivator in practice this week. The Badgers last played Nov. 15-16, a road split with Miami (2-0 loss, 3-2 win). Minnesota was 2-1-1 against Wisconsin last season. Friday’s game begins at 4:00 p.m., Saturday’s game at 5:00 p.m.

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

Say hello

I’m not sure where Drew is this week. I am the proverbial star-crossed hockey lover: I am in Columbus, Ohio, visiting friends for the Thanksgiving holiday while the Buckeyes are playing in Ann Arbor — an hour from where I live in Michigan — Friday night.

Tweet us: Drew, me.

Three teams, three things

1. Perhaps Minnesota needs to work on that penalty kill. After beating Minnesota-Duluth 6-1 Friday, Minnesota lost 6-2 Sunday, and four of those Duluth goals came on the power play, including Justin Crandall’s game-winning, five-on-three marker at 14:27 in the first period. The Bulldogs began their scoring at 7:47 in the first with a shorthanded goal, so perhaps the Gophers will be looking at special teams overall in practice this week. The Gophers took 10 penalties to the Bulldogs’ 13 in the contest. Wow.

2. Perhaps Michigan State is still looking for some offense. The Spartans were swept by Western Michigan in a home-and-home series this weekend, outscored by the Broncos 6-1 in two games. In Friday’s 2-0 shutout, two nearly identical goals were scored on Western Michigan breakaways in a game that looked otherwise evenly matched. In Saturday’s game, two of the Broncos’ four goals were scored on the power play and another scored four-on-four … so perhaps the Spartans will be working on special teams this week as well. Freshman Mackenzie MacEachern’s fourth goal of the season in the third period of Saturday’s loss was the only Michigan State goal of the weekend, and that goal was four-on-four as well.

3. Perhaps Michigan should just keep on keeping on. The Wolverines rolled past visiting Niagara, 6-0, giving freshman Zach Nagelvoort his second shutout of the season; Nagelvoort made 38 saves in the contest. Sophomore Andrew Copp had two goals in the contest, bringing his season total to seven goals in 11 games — four goals short of his output in 38 games during his freshman season. Copp now leads the Wolverines in scoring with 12 points.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 22-24, 2013

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

Season
Drew: 34-16-4 (.666)
Paula: 35-16-4 (.672)

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mean, it’s not surprising that Drew’s doing so well, but why am I still above .500?

This week

Half the Big Ten plays in this final weekend of nonconference-only action. Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin sit this one out.

Minnesota-Duluth at Minnesota

Drew: A week after sweeping an in-state rival and former conference foe, the Gophers will get the opportunity to perform an encore in front of their home fans. This series was changed to a Friday-Sunday series because of the Gophers’ football game against Wisconsin on Saturday; Friday’s game will begin at 7:10 p.m. and faceoff is set for 4:10 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The Gophers played well last weekend, but the scary thing — for other teams — is that they showed some of their youth and still handled Mankato with ease. This series has been close in its last 10 games. Minnesota holds the 5-2-3 advantage. With the way Minnesota is playing right now, I think the Gophers will roll through UMD and ride a wave of momentum into conference play next weekend.

Paula: That about covers it.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-1, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: That about covers it. Minnesota 3-1, 4-1.

Niagara at Michigan

Drew: One game against a team with a 3-7-1 record, whose wins came over Army and Canisius. I don’t have much to say about this game. Michigan shouldn’t have any problems.

Paula: The Wolverines return to Yost Ice Arena after splitting with Nebraska-Omaha on the road last weekend, losing 3-2 and winning 4-3. After the loss, Michigan coach Berenson said, “I thought we were ready to play, and that wasn’t the case.” It’s never good for visiting teams after the Wolverines return from what they consider to be at least a semi-disappointing road trip. Michigan last hosted the Purple Eagles Oct. 4, 2011, a 5-0 win for Michigan. This is a single Friday night game that begins at 7:05 p.m.

Drew’s pick: Michigan 5-2.
Paula’s pick: Michigan 4-1.

Western Michigan vs. Michigan State

Drew: After a weekend off, Michigan State will get a chance to rebound after being swept at Michigan Tech when the Spartans face another in-state school and former CCHA foe. Western Michigan has been hit or miss so far this season; the Broncos split two games between the Alaska schools after starting the season off by getting swept in a home-and-home series with Notre Dame. They then went on to sweep Colorado College at home before losing three out of their next four games. The Spartans’ season has been less like a roller coaster — well, maybe it’s been like a really boring roller coaster with one high point, their win over Boston University.

Paula: For pure nostalgia, I’m so freaking excited about this series. Home-and-home between two former CCHA rivals? Swoon! As Drew said, the Spartans last played two weeks ago, a road series against Michigan Tech that coach Tom Anastos said was disappointing. The Spartans are 35-6-6 against the Broncos in Munn Ice Arena; the Broncos are 25-22-3 versus Michigan State in Lawson Arena. Anastos is 3-1-1 over WMU in the Andy Murray era. Last season, the teams went 1-1-1, with the tie coming at the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament. Friday’s game in East Lansing begins at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday’s rematch in Kalamazoo begins at 7:05 p.m.

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

Keep in touch, right?

Drew’s at Mariucci this weekend. I am going to be in one of my happiest of happy places, Munn Ice Arena, in what will likely feel like old times. Say hello, please.

Follow us on Twitter: Drew and me.

Gophers sweep, Wisconsin and Michigan split

Five of the six Big Ten teams were in action this weekend. Minnesota swept Minnesota State-Mankato, Wisconsin split with Miami, Michigan split with Nebraska-Omaha, Ohio State swept Canisius and Penn State was swept by Massachusetts-Lowell.

Here are three things I saw.

Minnesota uses two goaltenders to sweep Mankato

Adam Wilcox starting between the pipes for Minnesota had became almost as certain as death and taxes. However, when lineups were announced on Saturday night it was senior Michael Shibrowski in goal. Shibrowski made sure that head coach Don Lucia didn’t regret the decision to start him for the first time in more than a year by pitching a 25-save shutout against the Mavericks.

What made the story even more cool is that the start came a day after Shibrowski’s birthday. It would have been neat if he got the call on Friday night (on his actual birthday), but I can see why Lucia wanted to start Wilcox in the series’ first game.

“You can’t say enough about what Adam has done for us and how well he has played,” Shibrowski said. “I was kind of waiting and seeing and it worked out that I played tonight, so I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Badgers split road series with Miami

In other goaltender news, Joel Rumpel was back in net for one of Wisconsin’s games this weekend, and the junior made an immediate impact in his first game back. Rumpel gave up two goals on 34 shots Saturday, and led the Badgers to a 3-2 victory over the RedHawks. Joseph LaBate scored the game-winning goal with about five minutes left in Saturday’s game. Miami shutout Wisconsin 2-0 on Friday night.

Having a healthy Rumpel back will obviously help Wisconsin. Mike Eaves loves to platoon his goaltenders, at least early to midway through the season.

Michigan rebounds from a disappointing Friday game to split with Nebraska-Omaha 

After giving up two goals to Omaha in the third period of Friday’s game and falling 3-2, Michigan found itself in another tightly-contested game on Saturday. The Wolverines fared better in the series’ second game. Sophomore Steve Racine made his first start in net in almost a month for Michigan and posted 40 saves in Michigan’s 4-3 victory. Senior Derek DeBlois scored the game-winning goal for Michigan, which made up for him taking a penalty earlier in the game that allowed for Omaha to tie things up.

“Taking that penalty, you never want to hurt the team like that,” DeBlois said. “It was a good shot by [Nolan] De Jong, good pass by  [Alex] Guptill and luckily it was a tap-in goal. Anyone could have done it.”

 

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 15-16, 2013

Massachusetts-Lowell beat Penn State last night, 4-0. Drew Claussen and I had those picks yesterday, but I’ll remind you here that we both picked the River Hawks to sweep their two-game road series, which concludes tonight.

Last week
Drew: 4-3-0 (.571)
Paula: 6-1-0 (.857)

Season
Drew: 28-14-4 (.652)
Paula: 29-14-4 (.659)

This week

There are five series involving Big Ten teams this week. As I said, the Lowell-PSU series concludes tonight. Michigan State is off this week.

Canisius at Ohio State

Drew: Ohio State has won six of its past seven games. Even with a semi-soft schedule, I didn’t foresee the Buckeyes going on this run. Going against a two-win Canisius team this weekend, OSU has a great chance to make it eight of its past nine. Ohio State has been frequently lighting the lamp during its hot streak; the Buckeyes have four or more goals in each of their six wins this season.

Paula: This is the first meeting between the Golden Griffins and the Buckeyes. Last weekend, Canisius lost 6-1 to Robert Morris before beating Mercyhurst, 4-3. The Buckeyes swept visiting Niagara, but lost starting goaltender Matt Tomkins in the 6-1 Saturday win. Walk-on goaltender Logan Davis got the win — remember that sophomore Collin Olson left the team the week before — and now the Buckeyes have added two goaltenders to their roster. Aaron Gretz is a junior catcher on the OSU baseball team; Gretz was a four-year letter winner at Apple Valley High School (Minn.). Aaron Kahn played two season for the OSU club hockey team and played for the AAA San Jose Jr. Sharks. I love this story. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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

Michigan at Nebraska-Omaha

Drew: Michigan’s defense has been great so far this season. The Wolverines are allowing 1.75 goals per game, which is second-lowest in the nation. Goaltender Zach Nagelvoort has also continued to play strong for Michigan, he has a 1.47 GAA. Omaha has been up and down so far this season. The Mavericks were defeated at home by Bentley and got swept by Cornell, but have rebounded to sweep Denver and split with North Dakota the past two weeks.

Paula: I love this old CCHA rivalry, and you can bet that CenturyLink Center will be rocking in Omaha for these games — rocking with pure, unadulterated hate for the Wolverines. Michigan is 26-7-3 all-time versus the Mavericks, and the teams last met March 25, 2011, a 3-2 Michigan win in NCAA West Regional semifinal action. Last weekend, the Mavericks split a pair of home games against NCHC rival North Dakota. The Wolverines last played two weekends ago, a home sweep of Michigan Tech. Friday’s game begins at 8:07 p.m. and is carried by CBS Sports. Saturday’s game starts at 7:07 p.m.

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

Minnesota State-Mankato at Minnesota

Drew: This is my favorite series of the season. I feel like I need to explain why. I went to MSU for my first two years of college and did my last two at the U of M. I have friends in both fan bases, all of whom enjoy going through anything I write with a fine-tooth comb in search of a potential bias.

After Minnesota dominated the series early, the contests between the Gophers and Mavericks have been pretty even as of late. The Mavericks have won six of the last 10 contests and the two teams have evenly split the last 10 at Mariucci Arena. The key for Mankato will be the play of whoever is in net, whether it’s sophomore Stephon Williams or freshman Cole Huggins. Williams was brilliant last season, but has struggled so far this season. Huggins is 2-0 with a 1.11 GAA this season.

Paula: I went to Fredonia State and love my Blue Devils — that’s D-III, SUNYAC, in case you’re wondering — so I have no dog in this hunt. I’m just not picking against the Gophers again until they lose. These games begin at 7:00 p.m. each night, and each is carried by Fox Sports North.

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

Wisconsin at Miami

Drew: Despite a less that stellar start to the season, I’m not ready to give up on the Badgers just yet. They will still compete for the Big Ten crown with Minnesota and Michigan and should crawl their way back into the top 10 of the polls soon. After another off weekend, its second of the young season, Wisconsin will get another tough road test at Miami. Mike Eaves told me on Wednesday that he expected to give Joel Rumpel a start this weekend, and that would be a shot in the arm for the Badgers. Landon Peterson played well in Rumpel’s absence, but Wisconsin needs Rumpel healthy to be successful. Another interesting fact that I noticed when focusing on Wisconsin for this week’s column was that senior Joe Faust has six assists in six games this season, his career point total going into this season was eight.

Paula: If I could travel this weekend, I’d be in Oxford for this series. These teams have met four times, all in Madison, with the last series resulting in a split Jan. 18-19, 2013. Each of these teams was picked in its league’s preseason polls to finish on top. Last weekend, the RedHawks saw a four-game undefeated streak come to an end when they split on the road against St. Cloud State, winning 2-0 Friday and losing 2-1 Saturday. Friday’s game begins at 6:35 p.m. and is televised on CBS Sports. Saturday’s game begins at 7:05.

Drew’s picks: Miami 5-2, Wisconsin 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Call me sentimental — and this is by no means a slight to the Badgers. These picks will probably bite me. Miami 3-2, 3-2.

The Twitters

Drew be at Mariucci this weekend, be sure to follow along on Twitter: @drewclaussen

Sadly, I will not be seeing any college hockey live this weekend. I may be lonely. Please keep me company: @paulacweston

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Lowell at Penn State, Nov. 14, 2013

There’s a game tonight!

Massachusetts-Lowell at Penn State

This is actually a two-game series, Thursday and Friday at 7:00 p.m. in University Park. Because the series begins tonight, here is what Drew Claussen and I have for it. We’ll have full picks and our records Friday morning.

Drew: Penn State is on a two-game winning streak, but the Nittany Lions haven’t looked that impressive in their wins over Robert Morris and Sacred Heart. I don’t think the Nittany Lions’ defense is playing well enough right now to beat a good team. UMass-Lowell seems to have fully recovered from its shaky start and should throttle Penn State this weekend.

Paula: This is the first ranked opponent that the Nittany Lions are facing, and as Drew said, this should be a mighty big challenge. The teams have never met before. On Tuesday (Nov. 12), the River Hawks beat Princeton, 2-1; before that, Lowell lost to Northeastern, 4-2, last Saturday (Nov. 9).

Drew’s picks: UMass-Lowell 7-2, 6-3.
Paula’s picks: I don’t think that the games will be that lopsided, but I do think that the River Hawks will sweep. Lowell 4-2, 3-2.

Three things from four teams and the one thing we know — it’s still early

With four of the Big Ten’s six teams playing in seven games, there were a few things that we learned during the weekend … although I’m wondering if we didn’t know them already going in.

1. Minnesota isn’t infallible.

No team is perfect — which we knew going into the weekend — and when the Gophers faced their toughest opposition yet so far this season, they showed that they were on equal footing. As I suspected would happen with the series against Notre Dame, the team that was able to dictate the pace and style of the play in a given game won that game. In Friday’s contest, the Fighting Irish held the Gophers off the board, patiently waited for opportunities, and made it look easy — although it assuredly was not — when they took advantage of Minnesota’s mistakes. It was a heck of a hockey game.

In Saturday’s game, the Gophers got the first two goals in the first period, which is undoubtedly the key to their 5-4 win that night. That battle went back and forth and was tied by the end of two, with freshman defenseman Jake Bischoff scoring the game winner midway through the third. As Don Lucia himself would undoubtedly tell you, the Gophers were a fortunate to escape South Bend with a win.

Two notes of interest: All five goals in Saturday’s win were scored by freshman and the Gophers haven’t given up eight goals to a single opponent in two games since they did so against Denver, Feb. 10-11, 2012.

2. Ohio State is about to learn a lot about itself.

There was much strangeness occurring in Columbus this past weekend, not the least of which was this brawl between the Ohio State and Bemidji State women’s teams, which led to an NCAA record 303 penalty minutes and 18 majors for fighting with disqualifications.

I know that has nothing to do with the Big Ten, but come on.

Across campus, the men pounded Niagara, 10-2, in two games. The 6-1 Saturday win, though, proved very costly for OSU. Freshman Matt Tomkins left the game early with a lower body injury that may keep him out of the net for a significant part of the season. This is one week after sophomore Collin Olson left the team because he wasn’t getting enough playing time. The Buckeyes turned to walk-on freshman goalie Logan Davis, a local kid from the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, who played for the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets before walking on at OSU.

Davis made 14 saves and allowed the only goal in the second period. There is no word yet on how the Buckeyes are going to handle being down to one goaltender, and a walk-on at that.

Given that Big Ten play begins in a few weeks, it’s safe to say that Ohio State may be in for a learning experience through the remainder of the first half of the season.

3. Shoot the puck already.

The Nittany Lions managed to eek out a 2-1 win over Sacred Heart in spite of outshooting the Pioneers 39-21.

The Spartans, however, were not so lucky. Michigan State returns from the Upper Peninsula without a win, having dropped two games to Michigan Tech, 3-0 and 3-2, and the second in overtime. MSU had 19 shots in each contest, outshot by 11 the first night 19 the second. The inconsistency of Michigan State’s offense is probably a concern for the Spartans, but it is early in the season.

Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 8-9, 2013

Last week
Drew: 6-2-1 (.722)
Paula: 6-2-1 (.722)

Season
Drew: 24-11-4 (.666)
Paula: 23-13-4 (.625)

And I’d like to thank the Bulldogs and the Buckeyes for their right-way split. Such a rare thing for me.

This week

There are three nonconference series this weekend and a single nonconference game. Both Michigan and Wisconsin have the weekend off.

Michigan State at Michigan Tech

Drew: The Spartans have quietly won three in a row. Granted last week’s home sweep over American International isn’t the most impressive thing in the world. In the last three games Michigan State has outscored its opponents 12-5, averaged 40 shots on goal, taken five or fewer penalties and scored two power play goals. If they continue playing like that this weekend at Michigan Tech, they shouldn’t have any problem with the Huskies.

Paula: Last weekend, the Spartans swept American International at home, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 9-4 in the process. Sunday’s 4-0 game gave senior MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff his first win of the season and his fifth career shutout. The Huskies spent the weekend in Ann Arbor, where they lost two good, close games to the Wolverines. MSU hasn’t played a regular-season series in Marquette since 1984, when coaches Tom Anastos and Kelly Miller played for the Spartans. The teams last met Dec. 29, 2011, in semifinal game of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament, a 3-1 Michigan State win. MTU coach Mel Pearson calls his team “the best 1-6-1 team around,” and I believe him. This will be a test for both teams. Games are at 7:07 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

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

Minnesota at Notre Dame

Drew:A top-five match-up and a father versus his son, this ought to be a good one. Minnesota will get its first true road test this weekend, and it’ll be interesting to he how its youngsters react to not playing in the friendly confines of Mariucci Arena. The Gophers traveled to Bemidji in week two, but the amount of Gophers’ fans that always make that trip almost makes Sanford Center a second home, or at the very least a neutral site, for the weekend. For Minnesota to be successful this weekend, it’ll have to basically continue what it has been doing. I think the first goal will be crucial in both games. If the Gophers can take the crowd out of the game early, I think they’ll ride the momentum to a couple victories this weekend.

Paula: Sure, Quinnipiac and Yale are going at it this weekend, but isn’t this the series you’d like to be attending if you could. (I would be there tonight, if I hadn’t contracted Plague. Okay, so it’s not Plague. Still, it’s sidelining me tonight. And, yet again, I digress.) The No. 1 Gophers tied Boston College and beat the Eagles last weekend, 3-3 and 6-1, while the No. 4 Fighting Irish split their first Hockey East series with Vermont, losing 2-1 before winning 3-2. The teams last met Jan. 8, 2013, in Mariucci Arena, a 4-1 Minnesota win. The Gophers and Irish play different styles, and the team that can dictate the pace of play will likely be victorious. The idea that Notre Dame doesn’t like to score goals is false; the Irish prefer to play a more patient game, though, than do the Gophers. I see this series as a battle of wills and it’s too soon in the season to predict based on how each team is playing on a given night. Friday’s 8:05 p.m. start is on NBC Sports; Saturday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Paula has said in the past that she’s not picking against the Gophers until they lose. I think I’ve adopted that plan as well. Gophers 3-1, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: I lied. Notre Dame 2-1, Minnesota 4-2.

Niagara at Ohio State

Drew: With the exception of Saturday’s win over Minnesota-Duluth, the Buckeyes’ recent wins haven’t been over the most impressive of opponents, but I still do not hesitate to say that this team is hot right now. For a young team with a first-year head coach, wins build momentum, no matter the team they’re against. The next four games for Ohio State are very winnable. How will the do when the Big Ten schedule starts? Well, we will discuss that when the Big Ten schedule starts.

Paula: The Purple Eagles last played two weeks ago, a road trip to Colorado that resulted in a 5-1 loss to Denver and 7-4 loss to Air Force. While Niagara is capable of scoring six goals in a game, the Eagles are equally capable of giving up at least that many. The Buckeyes split a pair of games at home against Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, losing 3-1 and winning 4-2. It was the best full-weekend effort his team had played, said coach Steve Rohlik. Although at home, this is a good test for OSU to see if the Buckeyes can continue to evolve and compete. Friday’s game is at 7:05 p.m., Saturday’s at 8:05 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 5-3, 6-4
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 4-2.

Sacred Heart at Penn State

Drew: Sacred Heart has dropped four in a row since opening the season 2-1, which included a win over Mass-Lowell. Penn State scored the most goals in its long program history in last year’s 6-3 victory over the Pioneers. I like the way Sophomore Matthew Skoff has played so far this season, problem is he has been very busy in net. Skoff had a career-high 48 saves against Robert Morris.

Paula: Sacred Heart is looking for its first win since Oct. 16, a 3-1 decision over Bentley. Last weekend, the Pioneers lost 4-3 to Holy Cross and 4-2 to Connecticut. Penn State, meanwhile, beat Robert Morris 5-4 last Friday, snapping a four-game winless streak. There isn’t much to go on here other than gut. The single game is played tonight at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s pick: I went with the home team in last week’s RMU/PSU game, and that worked out so well that I might as well do it again. Penn State 5-3.
Paula’s pick: Penn State 4-3.

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Badgers back on track, Penn State spreads the wealth and Buckeyes remain hot

Four out of the five Big Ten teams in action last weekend enjoyed playing another round of non conference games at home — all five  enjoyed some success, going a combined 7-1-1 .

Here are three things I saw.

1. Wisconsin rebounds against Lake Superior State

The Badgers’ losses to Boston College and Boston University kind of got a lot of press, and it didn’t help that Wisconsin had to wait two weeks before taking the ice again. A solid win and tie against a Lake Superior State squad that was undefeated heading into the weekend was a great way to respond.

The Badgers’ 3-3 tie against the Lakers on Friday night may have been more impressive than their 8-1 win on Saturday night. Wisconsin fell behind 3-0 in the first period on Friday, but fought back with a goal late in the first and two goals by Tyler Barnes in the third period.

“Well we were hoping for a different start. As a matter of fact, it felt like we were in Boston again,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “It felt like holy-smokes we still haven’t got the demons from Boston out of our system yet.”

Barnes’ game-tying goal came late in the third with Wisconsin’s net vacant, albeit for only eight seconds.

“This is exactly what we needed for our guys,” Eaves said. “This is the kind of game to get some sound feedback that says we are a pretty good team that overcame some adversity.”

Wisconsin picked up right where it left off on Saturday. The Badgers had a 4-1 lead after two periods on Saturday night, and then netted four more goals in the third. Wisconsin got 44 shots on goal Saturday night, compared to the Lakers’ 22.

Landon Peterson started both games for Wisconsin, he gave up four goals on 47 shots.

2. Penn State gets five goals from five players 

Penn State picked up its second win of the season against Robert Morris Friday, and it was a team effort.

The Nittany Lions got goals from Eric Scheid, Luke Juha, Tommy Olczyk, Casey Bailey and Mike Williamson in Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Colonials. Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said that the team moved the puck well during the game, just not necessarily on its scoring plays.

“We moved it around well in the first period and didn’t have anything to show for it,” Gadowsky said. “We got a couple power play goals in the off of a face off, and that’s part of it for sure, but it wasn’t the movement that got us the goals. Maybe it’s appropriate, because we did move the puck pretty well.”

Though he gave up four goals, goaltender Matthew Skoff was huge for Penn State with 48 saves.

“He’s a battler,” Gadowsky said. “And I think the team feels pretty confident with him back there, even when things are getting a little hairy.”

3. Ohio State splits with Minnesota-Duluth, continues hot streak

After starting the season 0-3, the Buckeyes have won four of their last five contests. Ohio State rebounded from a 3-1 loss with an impressive 4-2 win against Minnesota-Duluth at home on Saturday night.

“We played in spurts [Saturday night], but all in all I thought it was our best weekend of hockey this season,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. ”We can be a pretty good hockey team when we play a full 60 minutes.”

OSU was vastly outshot on Saturday, but freshman Matt Tomkins made 39 saves. Tomkins has a 4-3 record this season with a 3.04 GAA.

The Buckeyes have an opportunity to stretch their hot streak into something substantial. Their next two series are at home against Niagara (1-4-1) and Canisius (1-4).

Notes

Paula has the column this week, it’ll be posted Thursday morning.

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