Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 21-22, 2014

The schedule’s even lighter than usual this week, with two Friday-Saturday series. Minnesota and Ohio State sit this one out. First, let’s see how Drew Claussen and I are doing.

Last week
Drew: 3-2-1 (.583)
Paula: 4-1-1 (.750)

Drew: 73-37-12 (.648)
Paula: 75-34-14 (.667)

This week

All four games are televised this week. All times are local. The Big Ten Network’s Frozen Friday is the 6:30 p.m. Friday game between Penn State and Michigan, followed by the 8:00 p.m. game between Michigan State and Wisconsin. On Saturday, the Penn State-Michigan game begins at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports Detroit, while the Michigan State-Wisconsin game is televised by ESPNU at 4:00 p.m.

Michigan State at Wisconsin

Drew: Wisconsin is 15-2-1 at Kohl Center this season. Michigan State is 1-7-3 in road contests, with its only victory being against Penn State last weekend. I think that fact pretty much sums up this series. The Badgers are sitting seven points behind the idle Gophers and should be beyond pumped up to take advantage of home ice for the last time this season. I’m going to say Badgers sweep with relative ease.

Paula: I don’t know how easy this series will be and you can be sure that the Badgers won’t be overlooking the Spartans, especially since sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand has the best save percentage in Big Ten play (.942) and the Spartans are very stingy with the goals, allowing just 2.28 per game (9th nationally). Michigan State leads this series 46-42-3 all-time, but the Badgers are 22-17-2 at home against the Spartans. The teams last met in the last College Hockey Showcase, a 4-1 home win for Wisconsin (Nov. 27, 2010).

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 3-0, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spartans tie in Madison, especially since their seven ties this season are the second most in program history. I’m calling a Wisconsin sweep, though — a closer sweep than what my partner-in-writing is calling. Wisconsin 2-1, 3-2.

Penn State at Michigan

Drew: As we all know, Penn State picked up its first Big Ten win against Michigan a couple weeks back. Things didn’t get better for the Wolverines when they went to Minnesota last weekend after they had solid starts and dreadful finishes in both games against the Gophers. Penn State has gotten points in consecutive Big Ten series, but I don’t know how well the Nittany Lions will handle the hostile Yost environment. I’m not exactly confident in picking two sweeps this weekend, but with the way my picks have been me doing so might mean a couple splits and/or interesting games.

Paula: I do think this weekend’s series will be very telling for both teams. The Nittany Lions know that they can beat the Wolverines; in fact, they know that they can shut out the Wolverines. That doesn’t mean they’ll do it again, especially (as Drew noted) since the games are in Yost Ice Arena. The Wolverines are five points behind Wisconsin still with two games in hand on both the Badgers and Minnesota, and they’ll be keenly motivated to end their three-game losing streak. That’s not to say that the Nittany Lions won’t be keenly motivated as well. Michigan will be without defenseman Michael Downing and forward Andrew Sinelli for the first game of this series, as the two are serving suspensions. As of midweek, Michigan coach Red Berenson didn’t know whether freshman Zach Nagelvoort or sophomore Steve Racine would start in net. You know that sophomore Matthew Skoff will be ready for Penn State, no matter who his team faces.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 6-3, 7-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-2, 4-2.