Paula's picks: Dec. 9, 2011

It’s hard to believe that the year’s almost over and that we’ve nearly reached the holiday break. I have only one wish for Christmas: A better picks percentage in 2012.

Paula’s picks

Last week: 7-5-0 (.583)
Season to date: 64-44-14 (.582)
I’d feel better about picking the Michigan-Alaska split correctly had I not also picked Notre Dame to sweep Northeastern and Miami to sweep Northern.

This week

We have a lovely holiday gift this week, a full slate of CCHA action that features some of the best rivalries in all of college hockey. Alaska sits this one out. All series are Friday-Saturday, four of them are home-and-home and all games begin at 7:05 p.m. local except for the MSU-UM series. Times for that series are noted in the pick.
Miami vs. OSU. The RedHawks were swept by Northern Michigan in Marquette last weekend, putting an end to Miami’s eight-game unbeaten streak; Friday’s loss was Miami’s first in Marquette since 2007. The big concern for the RedHawks heading into this series has to be the two one-goal games they produced. Miami had scored four or more in their previous four and hadn’t been so unproductive since the RedHawks were shut out by Ferris State Oct. 22. With a home sweep of Lake Superior State last weekend, the Buckeyes solidified their lead in first place and extended their unbeaten streak to 11 games (10-0-1). OSU’s defense is allowing 1.94 goals per game, fifth-best in the country. Miami lost twice to OSU in Columbus last January. Friday’s game is in Columbus, Saturday’s in Oxford. I don’t like to call against a streak like OSU’s, but I’ve seen many games in this series and I know how it usually goes. Picks: OSU 4-2, Miami 2-1
MSU vs. UM. When it comes to rivalries in collegiate sports, few match the intensity of this one — something I didn’t really appreciate until moving to Flint. Last weekend, the Spartans swept Bowling Green while the Wolverines finally snapped a seven-game winless and five-game losing streak with a hard-won, 1-0 overtime victory in Fairbanks. The Spartans were never in any danger of losing to the Falcons last weekend, having outscored them 5-1 and 4-1. Their Friday win was their 10th of the season, and that’s the earliest MSU has reached that benchmark since 2007-08. While the Wolverines scored just one goal in that OT win against Alaska, they netted three in their loss Friday; remarkably, Michigan still has the sixth-best scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.56 goals per game. The teams split four games last season. This season, I’m loathe to call for Michigan on a Friday night, even in Yost, but the Wolverines ought to be up for this game. Besides, it’s Christmas — and my picks percentage can’t get much worse. This series has Michigan hosting at 7:35 p.m. Friday, Michigan State hosting at 6:35 p.m. Saturday. Picks: UM 3-2, MSU 4-2
ND vs. FSU. Here’s the feel-good series of the weekend. By that, of course, I mean that both teams are bitter and disappointed after having been swept last weekend, and each team is capable of rebounding with great play. The Fighting Irish were blown out by visiting Northeastern, 9-2, on Friday; all three of ND’s goalies shared in that loss, which was the first in their new building, the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Bulldogs lost a home-and-home series to Western Michigan, the second time this season that FSU had been swept by an opponent. Even in the losses, the goaltending was solid, with Taylor Nelson stopping 34 Friday and C.J. Motte stopping 39 Saturday. The Irish swept the Bulldogs in two home games last season, and ND has won six of the last eight meetings between these teams. Friday’s game is in Big Rapids, with Saturday’s in South Bend. Picks: FSU 3-2, ND 3-2
NMU at LSSU. Last weekend, the Wildcats swept Miami at home, giving them their first CCHA sweep of the season and their third and fourth league wins. NMU scored four times on the power play against Miami — three times with a two-man advantage Saturday night, giving the Wildcats a welcome taste of how rewarding it can be to keep cooler heads. The Lakers traveled to Columbus and were swept by Ohio State, the first time this season that LSSU has failed to capture points in a given weekend. The Lakers are hosting their fourth annual Pink in the Rink when the Wildcats come to town. In the last three seasons, LSSU has raised more than $50,000 for local women’s health organizations — which deserves many kudos. Last season, LSSU went 3-1-0 against NMU. Picks: NMU 3-2, LSSU 4-3
WMU vs. BGSU. The Broncos broke a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) with a home-and-home sweep of Ferris State last weekend, shutting out the Bulldogs Saturday night and outscoring FSU 7-2 for the weekend. The shutout was freshman Frank Slubowski’s second of the season. In Friday’s win, a drought of another kind ended when Matt Tennyson’s third-period power play goal became the first WMU scored in four games. The Falcons are still looking for their second CCHA win this season after dropping two games to Michigan State last weekend. BGSU scored a goal each night in the losses, and Friday’s goal was significant for a couple of reasons. It was the first that the Falcons had scored in 139 minutes of hockey, dating back to Nov. 19, and it was freshman forward Ted Pletsch’s first collegiate goal. Pletsch is the son of CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch, and both Fred and his wife Kelly were in the stands to see the goal. Last season in Kalamazoo, WMU was 1-0-1 against BGSU. It’s Christmas, and I’m feeling generous. Picks: BGSU 2-1, WMU 4-1.

Break time, sort of

The next CCHA column will be published Dec. 28, but between now and then I’ll be blogging. There’s a game to call next weekend, I’ll have a look back at the first half of the season at some point, I’ll answer some email and update folks on friends of the CCHA who keep in contact — and, of course, I’ll be publishing my mother’s famous cookie recipe.
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