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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