As most of North American continues to experience the Big Freeze of 2014, we can at least take comfort that this first season of Big Ten play has been entertaining. This is how my partner-in-writing, Drew Claussen, and I have called it so far.
Drew: 3-1-0 (.750)
Paula: 3-1-0 (.750)
Drew: 76-38-12 (.651)
Paula: 78-35-14 (.669)
There are two series this week and an exhibition game. Michigan and Ohio State are home-and-home, with the Wolverines hosting Friday night at 6:30 p.m., the first game of the Big Ten Network’s Frozen Friday. The rematch in Columbus begins at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday in Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and is televised by both Fox Sports Detroit and Sports Time Ohio.
Minnesota hosts Penn State Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game is the second game of the Big Ten Network’s Frozen Friday, starting at 8:00 p.m. Saturday’s game is carried by NBC Sports and begins at 6:00 p.m.
Michigan State hosts the U.S. Developmental Team in exhibition Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and that game will be carried by Fox Sports Detroit. As that is a game that doesn’t count for NCAA play, neither Drew nor I will make an official prediction.
All times are local.
Penn State at Minnesota
Drew: I think that a Gophers sweep is imminent here, since they have home ice and have had a weekend off to prepare and get healthier. Penn State has been better as of late, but I don’t see Adam Wilcox giving up enough goals for the Nittany Lions to have any shot this weekend.
Paula: Minnesota swept Penn State in Hockey Valley Jan. 12-13. The Gophers haven’t played since Valentine’s Day weekend, when they hosted and swept Michigan. Last weekend, Penn State split a pair of road games against Michigan, winning 5-4 in overtime and losing 5-2 the following night. Minnesota is one point ahead of the only Big Ten team that isn’t playing this weekend, Wisconsin, and the Gophers have these two games in hand over the Badgers. While the Nittany Lions have improved tremendously this season, I agree with Drew on this one.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota 5-2, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 4-2.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Drew: Though Michigan snapped its losing streak last Saturday against Penn State, the Wolverines are giving up way too many goals for my liking. Ohio State has played the second half of its sechedule much like it did during the first half: win a couple, lose a couple and tie a couple. That being said, they are still in the thick of things in the Big Ten. Ohio State, which has the nation’s No. 7 offesne that averages 3.39 goals per game, will look to exploit Michigan’s goaltending situation that has become increasingly shaky over the past couple weeks. With this being a home-and-home series (well kind of, I guess, since Sunday’s game will be at Nationwide Arena), it’s pretty easy to predict a split. So that’s what I will do.
Paula: Once again, I have to disagree with my partner-in-writing. I don’t think that Michigan’s goaltending has become suspect; I think the entire team’s overall play became suspect — including team defense — during the Wolverines’ recent losing streak. What I saw last Saturday when Michigan beat Penn State was a team that had learned a hard lesson, as the Wolverines played like a nearly impenetrable unit. Like the Gophers, the Buckeyes had last weekend off, having last played in a Valentine’s Day weekend home split with Wisconsin. Michigan swept OSU in a home-and-home series this season in late November. The Buckeyes are 7-1-3 all-time in Nationwide.
Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, Ohio State 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 3-2, Ohio State 3-2.