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)

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)

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).


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

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Pickin’ the Big Ten: November 1-3, 2013

Can we just be happy that the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge is over? I mean, it was great to have such high-level nonconference action early in the season. Did we really need a reminder of Hockey East’s dominance over teams formerly affiliated with the CCHA and WCHA?

Last week
Drew: 6-3-2 (.636)
Paula: 4-5-2 (.454)

Drew: 18-9-3 (.650)
Paula: 17-11-3 (.597)

I should have listened to Derek Schooley. I never pick the Robert Morris-Ohio State games correctly.

This week

Minnesota has a bye week and Penn State plays a single game against Robert Morris. Everyone else plays a two-game, nonconference series.

Lake Superior State at Wisconsin

Drew: After getting beaten down in Boston, a weekend off was probably a welcome thing for Wisconsin. The Badgers really missed Joel Rumpel in their games against Boston College and Boston University, and it’s looking like he will not be available this weekend either after suffering an ankle injury during practice before the trip to Beantown. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers, who have shot up the polls early this season, handle their first tough road test of the season.

Paula: The Lakers beat Laurentian, 9-2, in exhibition last weekend and are undefeated in Division I play this season, having swept Robert Morris (Oct. 11-12) and Union (Oct. 18-19). While I agree with Drew that this will be a tough road test for LSSU, these won’t be the first tough road games for the Lakers; that series against Union was in New York. These teams last met in the title game of the Badger Showdown in 2008, a 1-1 tie decided in favor of Wisconsin in the shootout. I don’t think that Wisconsin will underestimate Lake Superior State, although many Badgers fans may. I’m wondering, too, if Friday night won’t prove to be the Badgers’ better night this season. It’s a Friday-Saturday series; both games begin at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin wins 5-3, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 4-2, LSSU 3-2.

Michigan Tech at Michigan

Drew: Michigan dropped its first game of the season last weekend and Tech picked up its first win, so on paper this one looks like an easy one to pick. Mel Pearson will make a return to Yost Ice Arena after serving as an assistant coach to Red Berenson for 23 years, which should provide an interesting subplot to the weekend. Pearson took the head-coaching job at Tech in 2011.

Paula: I am looking forward to seeing Mel Pearson at work tonight in Yost Ice Arena. He’s a personal favorite and was instrumental in the sustained success to which we’ve all become accustomed in Ann Arbor. The Huskies and Wolverines last met in the 2012 Great Lakes Invitational Tournament, with MTU taking that semifinal game 4-0. That was a very different Michigan team that lost, though; I’m seriously impressed with the Wolverines’ freshman class and the team’s overall chemistry. Sophomore goaltender Steve Racine practiced this week, but freshman goalie Zach Nagelvoort has looked good in his absence, with a 1.47 GAA and .947 save percentage in five games. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:00.

Drew’s picks: Michigan wins 4-1, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Last week, I said I wasn’t picking against Michigan until the Wolverines lost. Well, they did lose … but I’m still not picking against them. Michigan 4-2, 3-2.

American International at Michigan State

Drew: Michigan State picked up its first victory of the season last weekend against Boston University. This weekend the Spartans will play an American International team that has only played two games so far this season. So far this season, the Yellow Jackets have gotten throttled 10-4 by Providence and picked up a 4-1 conference win over Sacred Heart.

Paula: The Spartans took advantage of key mistakes by the Terriers last weekend and Boston University suffered from the amount of time the Terriers spent in the box. In their first win of the season, the Spartans scored two goals within the span of a minute late in the third period Saturday to tie the game and take the permanent lead. They have pluck. I like pluck. These teams have never met before, so there is no history to report. Although 1-1-0 with just two games to their credit, the Yellow Jackets are averaging four goals per game. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. Sunday’s game starts at 1:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State ties 3-3 and wins 2-0.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 3-2, 4-2.

Minnesota-Duluth at Ohio State

Drew: The Buckeyes have been busy as of late; they have also been winning. Ohio State swept Robert Morris last weekend and then beat Bowling Green 5-3 on Tuesday night. Minnesota-Duluth should present a tougher challenge this weekend, even though the Bulldogs have had a pretty even-keel start to the season. UMD won and tied against Michigan Tech, and split against Colorado College and Notre Dame.

Paula: I don’t know what to make of the Buckeyes this season — yet. There were Ohio State fans ready to get the pitchforks and storm the tower because of OSU’s 0-3 start to the season, but with three wins in a row, perhaps the faithful will believe just a little. The team is talented up front, averaging 3.67 goals per game through six contests … but the Buckeye defense has given up 4.17 goals per game on average. In their three wins, the Buckeyes have scored 14 goals and given up nine. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs last met in Duluth just about a year ago, with Minnesota-Duluth winning 6-2 and Ohio State winning 3-2. This is a Friday-Saturday series with both games beginning at 7:05 p.m. I am eager to see these Buckeyes (and the Bulldogs) Saturday night.

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

Penn State at Robert Morris

Drew: Two teams with a combined 1-7-2 record … this one’s going to be fun! Penn State and Robert Morris played twice last season; the Colonials won both times, 3-2 and 6-0. For Penn State to win, the Nittany Lions will need to play clean. Robert Morris has a decent power play that has scored six times on 26 chances.

Paula: I couldn’t agree more with Drew’s assessment of PSU’s chances. Guy Gadowsky likes edgy hockey; edgy hockey is good unless it leads to endless penalties that cost the team in big ways. After losing 5-2 to Vermont in Philadelphia Saturday, a game in which the Nittany Lions took nine penalties for 32 minutes, Gadowsky told Dave Sottile of PennLive, “We’ve got to change. We just have to. It’s disappointing. For us it’s costly, not only giving up power plays. You lose a rhythm.” The discipline of the Colonials will be a tough match for the Nittany Lions, especially after RMU dropped two games last weekend to Ohio State. This game begins at 7:05 p.m. Friday night.

Drew’s pick: When in doubt, go with the home team. Robert Morris 5-3.
Paula’s pick: RMU 4-3, and if I’m wrong about this, Schooley will likely be begging me to start picking against the Colonials all the time.

The rinks and the tweets

Please say hello if you see me in Yost tonight or the Schottenstein Center Saturday. I am very excited about seeing a game in the rink that virtually was my weekend home from its opening in 1999 until I left Columbus in 2008. Something that most folks who follow sports may not realize is that much of the pleasure of being on a beat is the connection you make with other people over the years. There will be hugs this weekend. Hockey people are a surprisingly huggy bunch.

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Pickin’ the Big Ten, midweek edition

There’s one midweek game in the Big Ten this week. We’ll get our season picks record with the results from last weekend updated on Friday.

Bowling Green at Ohio State 

Drew: The Buckeyes captured their elusive first win last weekend against Robert Morris on Friday, and then added another one to the win column against the Colonials on Saturday. These two teams will complete their split up home-and-home series today; Bowling Green won 4-3 at home two weeks ago.

Paula: This will be the 176th meeting between the Falcons and Buckeyes; BGSU leads this series all-time 94-72-9. OSU is 3-1-3 against BGSU in the last seven contests, all of which have been played in Bowling Green. The Falcons last played Oct. 18-19, an impressive tie against and win over visiting Colgate, two games in which BGSU outscored Colgate 8-1.

Drew’s pick: I’m going to say Ohio State rides the momentum and picks up a 3-2 victory.
Paula’s pick: It’s difficult to call against the Falcons, who are 2-1-2 and have outscored opponents 17-12. I’m thinking that Drew’s onto something here, though. OSU 3-2.

Obligatory Twitter plug: 



Hockey East, Robert Morris and a little blemish

It was a very interesting weekend in Big Ten play. I was lucky enough to see Boston University play against Michigan and Michigan State — and I’m thinking that coach David Quinn may pay me to stay out of the building when his team plays.

Here are three things I took away from the weekend.

1. Hockey East owns the Big Ten.

Hockey East claimed victory in the first Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge, and I have to say that I am not surprised at all. For the last decade, teams from the CCHA and WCHA have struggled against Hockey East teams, and HEA teams have given even top programs in those leagues plenty of trouble.

A points system was used to help determine the outcome. Teams earned two points for a win, one point for a tie and an additional point for a road win. For example, Massachusetts-Lowell earned six points for its road wins against Michigan State and Michigan.

In points, Hockey East won this challenge 18-11.

I like the challenge very much and I know that fans of Big Ten teams enjoyed seeing such high-level nonconference play early in the season. The Friday night Boston University-Michigan game felt like an NCAA playoff game. It was outstanding — and so good to see in October.

Some of what transpired in this challenge will affect teams for post-season play. It will be interesting to see come March.

2. Ohio State beat Robert Morris — and it matters.

The Buckeyes swept the Colonials in a home-and-home series, giving Ohio State its first wins of the season and its first win ever over Robert Morris in Columbus. In three previous meetings between the teams in Columbus in recent seasons, the Colonials were 3-0-0 over the Buckeyes. Friday night, the Buckeyes overcame a 2-0 deficit to score five unanswered goals, two by Nick Oddo, two others on the power play.

“It didn’t start out pretty tonight,” said coach Steve Rohlik. “What I liked about our team tonight was [that] they weren’t going to let it happen again. We competed hard and bounced back, and good teams find a way to win.”

The Buckeyes were up 4-0 after the second period of Saturday’s rematch in Pittsburgh but allowed three in the third period.

Freshman goatlender Matt Tomkins had both wins for the Buckeyes.

3. One small blemish … and then a lot of goals.

By the five-minute mark in the first period Friday night, Minnesota led visiting Boston College, 2-0. The Eagles came back to score three to make it a 3-2 game after one, and the Golden Gophers tied it up in the second. The game ended tied, 3-3.

By the 5:10 mark in the first period of Sunday’s game, the Gophers again led 2-0, but they learned something from Friday night’s contest. By the end of the first period, the Gophers were up on the Eagles 4-0 and Minnesota won that game 6-1.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia said that he thought the game was closer than the score and Boston College coach Jerry York conceded that the Gophers took advantage of nearly every BC mistake.

Lucia said after Sunday’s game that it was defense was key for offense.

“It started out great for us, obviously, when you score four goals in the first period,” said Lucia. “Our defense did a great job all weekend long, really got involved offensively. Nice plays off the rush to score some goals.”

The tie is the only blemish on Minnesota’s record (5-0-1) so far this season. The Gophers are averaging 4.83 goals per game. Sophomore Adam Wilcox (.938 SV%) played both games for Minnesota.

One more thing.

Michigan’s Zach Nagelvoort (1.47 GAA, .947 SV%) showed signs of being absolutely the real deal against Boston University and Massachusetts-Lowell. Agile. Quick glove.

Pickin’ the Big Ten, Oct. 25-27, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I am jonesing for some college hockey.

Last week
Drew: 4-5-1 (.450)
Paula: 6-3-1 (.650)

Drew: 12-6-1 (.658)
Paula: 13-6-1 (.675)

This week

Everyone but Wisconsin plays this week. It’s all nonconference play as league games don’t begin for another month.

Boston College at Minnesota

Drew: The Hockey East/Big Ten challenge has been very interesting to watch this season, and I hope they keep it around in the future. Boston College started the season by losing to Michigan at Yost Ice Arena, but rebounded by embarrassing the Badgers last weekend. Speaking of lopsided games, the last two contests between the Gophers and Eagles have been exactly that. Boston College took down Minnesota 6-1 in the 2012 Frozen Four and Minnesota returned the favor last season at the Mariucci Classic 8-1. The Gophers are 9-1 all time against Boston College when they play on the Minnesota’s home ice. It’ll be interesting how see how the two teams handle playing a two-game series against each other, after only playing once the past two seasons.

Paula: Through three games this season, the Eagles are averaging 5.67 goals per game; through four games, the Gophers are averaging 5.00 goals per game. Yes, it’s early, but it’s still interesting that each of these teams has 13 different players with at least one goal through the first two weeks of the season. This is a Friday-Sunday series, with Friday’s game beginning at 7:00 p.m. local time and Sunday’s at 1:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: If the curse of being No. 1 this season doesn’t get to the Gophers this week, the curse of me picking them might. Minnesota 5-3, 2-1
Paula’s picks: I’m just not picking against the Gophers until they lose. Minnesota 3-2, 3-2

Boston University and Massachusetts-Lowell at Michigan

Drew: After a strong opening weekend, Michigan had another strong second week and picked up a win and tie at New Hampshire. The Wolverines get another ranked opponent (and a second that went from being No. 1 to unranked in two weeks) this weekend. BU has faced two ranked teams this season; the Terriers are 1-1 with the win over Wisconsin and a home-loss to RPI. The Terriers have won the last two meetings against Michigan. UMass-Lowell’s season went from bad to worse last weekend when Quinnipiac swept the River Hawks in a home-and-home series.

Paula: The Wolverines were seriously tested by New Hampshire last weekend, especially after sophomore starter Steve Racine left the Friday night game in the third period with a groin injury. Racine will sit out the game against BU but may be ready for Saturday. Replacing Racine in net Friday will be freshman Zach Nagelvoort, who earned his first collegiate win last Saturday. It would be extraordinary if the Wolverines had two capable goalies this season. Extraordinary. I’m not picking against them, either, until they lose. These games are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m.

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

Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University at Michigan State

Drew: The two teams from Massachusetts will face both Michigan and Michigan State this weekend, but I don’t think they’ll get the two squads confused at all. The Spartans opened up their season by getting swept by Massachusetts. MSU returns home for its home opener this weekend, but the going does not get easier. UMass-Lowell’s only win of the season was a 5-2 home win over Massachusetts.

Paula: Last weekend on the road, the Spartans were outscored 8-3 by the Minutemen. Against this weekend’s opponents, Michigan State is 13-11-0. The Spartans last met Lowell in East Lansing in October 2008, a series the teams split. That’s the same season in which Boston University last played Michigan State, a 2-1 win for the Terriers in the 2008 Ice Breaker. The Spartans are young and struggling. These games are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: UMass-Lowell 3-1, Boston University 5-0
Paula’s picks: Lowell 3-2, BU 3-2

RIT at Penn State, Vermont vs. Penn State

Drew: After traveling to Colorado last weekend, Penn State will get to entertain a guest in its shiny new arena again this weekend. RIT showed that it could score some goals against a quality opponent when it played Michigan, but at the same time the Tigers (0-3-1) showed off their suspect defense in the 7-4 loss to the Wolverines. After facing RIT on Friday, the Nittany Lions will head to Philadelphia to face Vermont in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff. The Catamounts are 1-1 this season with a tie and loss against North Dakota.

Paula: The Nittany Lions were outscored 8-3 by Air Force on the road last weekend, but coach Guy Gadowsky was encouraged by the effort and PSU did generate 62 shots on goal. The only player with more than one goal for the Nittany Lions through three games this season is sophomore Eric Scheid. The Nittany Lions defeated each of these opponents last season; PSU beat RIT by a goal Oct. 20, 2012, in Rochester and the Nittany Lions beat Vermont on the road, 4-2, Jan. 19. Friday’s game against RIT begins at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday’s game in Philadelphia against Vermont begins at 5:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 4-1 over RIT, Penn State and Vermont 2-2 tie
Paula’s picks: RIT 4-3, PSU 3-2

Robert Morris vs. Ohio State

Drew: After taking a weekend off, hopefully to figure some things out, the Buckeyes will get a chance to nab their first win of the season against another winless team, Robert Morris (0-2-1). OSU is in the middle of a very busy early-season period in its schedule (seven games in nine days), and the sledding does not get easier next weekend when OSU welcomes Minnesota-Duluth to town.

Paula: There is good history between these programs with the overall series tied 3-3-2. Last season, RMU beat OSU 3-2 in Columbus Dec. 7, 2012, and the teams tied 2-2 the next night in Pittsburgh. I know better than to pick against the Colonials in Columbus, where RMU has all three of its wins against the Buckeyes. If picking Robert Morris jinxes the Colonials, I will hear it pronto from RMU coach Derek Schooley. This is a home-and-home, Friday-Saturday series, with Ohio State hosting Friday. Games begin each night at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: OSU 2-0, 4-2
Paula’s picks: RMU 4-3, 3-2

The tweets and such

I’ll be in Ann Arbor Friday and East Lansing Saturday. Say hello if you get the chance.

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Michigan’s Motte, Minnesota’s Warning stay hot but Badgers brought back down to earth

Not the greatest of weekends for the Big Ten, with the teams going 3-6-1 against non-conference opponents.

Here are three things I saw.

1. Badgers get bombarded in Beantown

Things were looking good for No. 2 Wisconsin following an opening-weekend home sweep of Northern Michigan, but a road trip to Boston brought the Badgers back to earth. Wisconsin lost 9-2 to Boston College on Friday and was defeated 7-3 by Boston University of Saturday.

“[We faced] a team that was fired up to play for their coach,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said after Friday’s game. “Our hope was to survive the first period and we didn’t. We fell into the trap of trying to make things happen and ended up making things worse.”

Landon Peterson gave up six goals in a little more than 21 minutes of work on Friday night before being yanked in favor of Adam Miller, who gave up three more. Peterson got the start again on Saturday night and gave up all seven goals to Boston University.

The disturbing stat from Saturday’s game was the Wisconsin only gave up 26 shots and the Terriers scored three power play goals.

2. Motte shines early for Michigan

Freshman Tyler Motte was huge for Michigan in its overtime win and tie in a series against New Hampshire.

Motte scored Michigan’s only goal in Friday’s 1-1 tie with the Wildcats and lit the lamp a little more than one minute into overtime on Saturday to give the Wolverines a 3-2 win. The freshman from St. Clair, Mich., credited the team’s veterans for making his transition to college hockey easier after the game on Saturday.

“Our leadership on the team really helps us out,” Motte said. “A lot of guys up front, juniors and seniors, really have stepped up and helped us settle in early, and we’ve been moving together as a team.”

3. Warning stays hot

With all of Minnesota’s departures from last year’s team, it was clear that the Gophers would need an upperclassman to step up from a supporting role and be a major part of the team’s offense. Sam Warning has done just that through four games.

Minnesota swept Bemidji State by winning 6-3 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday. Warning tallied one goal and two assists on Friday and found the back of the net twice on Saturday for Minnesota. In the Gophers’ first four games this season he has five goals and four helpers. In 29 games last season, he had eight goals and 15 assists.

The junior from Chesterfield, Mo., was one of the Big Ten’s three stars last week and looked primed to start off the season by taking the award again this week.


Paula’s column will be posted on Thursday morning and, as always, you can follow both of us on Twitter.







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