Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 17-18, 2014

On mornings like this when I look back to the CCHA picks blog — and the league’s 11 participants — I am suddenly digging the six-league Big Ten. And my partner-in-writing, Drew Claussen, is a genius.

Last week
Drew: 3-1-0 (.750)
Paula: 1-2-1 (.375)

Drew: 57-26-8 (.670)
Paula: 57-26-9 (.668)

This week

Once again, two-thirds of the league plays this week, and it’s all conference action.

Ohio State at Minnesota

Drew: Chicago was a great host last year, but I’m excited that the Gophers are playing an outdoor game at home this season solely because I won’t have another two-hour parking adventure (long story). Friday night’s outdoor game should be a toss up, even though this series might look like a miss match on paper; Minnesota is 12-1 all time against Ohio State. Some outdoor games have the problem of the weather not being cold enough, but that shouldn’t be a problem on Friday. The predicted high for Friday is 9 degrees with a low of 3. The “hearty Minnesotans” might scoff at me, but there’s no way I’d go to this game if I wasn’t sitting inside.

Paula: The Buckeyes are coming off a four-point weekend against Michigan State, having defeated and tied the Spartans at home last weekend, 5-3 and 1-1. The Gophers swept Penn State on the road Sunday and Monday, 3-2 and 5-2. Ohio State has dropped the last five games versus Minnesota in Minnesota. As Drew said, an outdoor game may change things, but I don’t know that it will change things enough; the Buckeyes lost their previous two contests played outdoors. Friday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium begins at 8:00 p.m. CT and is carried on the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s rematch in Mariucci begins at 5:00 p.m. CT and will be televised by Fox Sports North and Sports Time Ohio.

Drew’s picks: I’m going to say Minnesota native Steve Rohlik and the Buckeyes pick up a 3-2 win on Friday and Minnesota rebounds with a 5-2 win on Saturday.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 4-2.

Penn State at Michigan State

Drew: One of these teams is bound to pick up its first conference win this weekend. Of course, since I said that, they’ll probably end up tying twice. This series is going to come down to both teams’ goaltenders, both of whom are used to being relied on. Jake Hildebrand has played himself into the discussion of being one of the better netminders in the conference. He is in the top 25 in the nation in save percentage and minutes played. Penn State’s main goaltender, Matthew Skoff, has a 4-6-1 record, has given up 36 goals and has 307 saves. Both teams are coming off of being swept by a Big Ten foe in their last series, Penn State at the hands of Minnesota and Michigan State by Ohio State.

Paula: Each of these teams came out on the wrong end of the points last weekend, but the Spartans did pick up two points in a tie and shootout against Ohio State — on the road, no less. Michigan State has impressed me with its tenacity this season. These teams split a series in East Lansing last season a year ago this weekend, with the Spartans winning 5-3 and the Nittany Lions taking the 3-2 rematch.

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