Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 7-9

I realized last week that I’d made a mistake in my ongoing picks record. I’ve rectified that this week.

Last week
Drew: 7-2-1 (.750)
Paula: 6-3-1 (.650)

Drew: 22-12-3 (.635)
Paula: 17-17-3 (.500)

This week

Wisconsin returns to action this weekend after a two-week absence. There are four Big Ten teams in play; Michigan and Penn State each have a bye week.

Michigan State at New Hampshire

Drew: Michigan State is the only team that ventures away from home this weekend as the Spartans will take on a 2-4-0 New Hampshire team. The outcome of this series will depend on which Michigan State team shows up: the one that has shown some offensive efficiency or the one that has gotten shutout twice this season. New Hampshire will be looking to forget the awful last series against Massachusetts-Lowell and the Spartans will look to carry some momentum beating Ferris State and splitting their series with the Bulldogs. If Jake Hildebrand plays well, Michigan State will sweep.

Paula: I don’t see the Wildcats as easy pickings, not at all. UNH split a road series with Michigan a couple of weeks ago and looked good even in the loss. Last weekend, the Wildcats dropped a pair of road games to Massachusetts-Lowell, 2-0 and 8-2. Michigan State and New Hampshire last met in the NCAA tournament March 25, 2006, a 1-0 win for the Spartans. This is a Friday-Saturday series with each game beginning at 7:00 p.m. Both games are carried by Fox College Sports, and Saturday’s contest is also televised locally in New Hampshire by WBIN.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-0, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: New Hampshire 3-2, Michigan State 3-2.

Nebraska-Omaha at Ohio State

Drew: With a lot of young players on its roster, Omaha got off to the kind of start that Wisconsin wishes it would have. The Mavericks started the season by splitting a series with a ranked Minnesota State squad and followed that up by sweeping Western Michigan on the road. UNO defeated and tied Cornell on the road last weekend. The question is, can the road warrior keep it up for one more weekend? You need to score to win hockey games (that’s the kind of insider info that everybody comes here for) and Omaha makes that difficult for its opponents. UNO gave up seven goals to Mankato in its two-game series with the other Mavericks, but it gave up four goals in four games after that. Ohio State needs to be opportunistic this weekend and cash in every opportunity it gets; these games could be decided by special teams play.

Paula: I do love old CCHA rivalries, even when the parties involved barely remember the CCHA rivalries. These teams are tied 13-13-5 all time, with the Buckeyes holding an 8-4-2 edge in Columbus. The teams last met in Omaha in February 2010, skating to a 5-5 tie followed by a 4-3 UNO win. Games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 3-1, Omaha 3-1.
Paula’s picks: UNO 3-2, OSU 3-2.

North Dakota at Wisconsin

Drew: Wisconsin’s struggles during its first four games have been very well documented, so I don’t think it’s necessary to delve into that topic anymore. The Badgers simply need something positive from this weekend. A split would do wonders for the confidence of the team’s young players; heck, a tie and a loss would probably be viewed as something positive. It’s not do-or-die time for the Badgers. They can look in their own media guide and see that it’s possible for a team to start out 0-6-0 and finish with a record above .500, but it would still be a disappointing start. North Dakota is good, but its not a perfect team — Bemidji State showed everyone that on opening night. If I were wagering anything more than my record in a friendly competition against Paula, I’d pick a North Dakota sweep, but I’m going to say Wisconsin puts one in the win column.

Paula: North Dakota’s last two games went to overtime, a 3-2 win over Air Force (Nov. 1) and a 2-2 tie with Providence Oct. 25 following a 6-1 win over the Friars the night before. Wisconsin is 86-66-12 all-time against North Dakota, but the series is tied 14-14-3 under NoDak coach Dave Hakstol. The teams most recently met in the 2014 NCAA Midwest Regional, with North Dakota claiming a 5-2 victory (March 28, 2014). These games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with Saturday’s game televised locally in Wisconsin by The Wisconsin Channel, part of the Wisconsin public television network — and how awesome is that?

Drew’s picks: North Dakota 4-1, Wisconsin 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, 3-2.

Notre Dame at Minnesota

Drew: This was supposed to be the rematch of a game that many thought would take place earlier in the season but didn’t. There are a couple of interesting story lines between these two squads. First and foremost there’s Don Lucia versus Mario Lucia. There is also Don Lucia versus his alma mater. Minnesota and Notre Dame are becoming familiar foes by nonconference standards, considering they’ve played four times in the past three years, each team with two wins in those four contests. It’ll be interesting to see how Minnesota responds after not playing the greatest hockey last weekend against St. Cloud State. I went into this season saying that I wasn’t going to pick against Minnesota until it lost a game; now I’ll alter that and not pick against the Gophers at home until they lose in Mariucci. Gophers’ fans haven’t seen them lose at home since last November.

Paula: There are several former CCHA teams that I miss covering, keenly, and Notre Dame is close to the top of that list. It’s a fun program to observe, the Irish are coached very well and the gent that handles the information for the team, Tim Connor, is one of the best in the business. In addition to being well liked, his notes are epic. For example, this week he recounts the 14 times the Irish have faced and knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation, spanning from Feb. 23, 1973 (8-5 over Wisconsin) to Notre Dame’s 2-1 overtime win over Boston College March 1, 2014. Then there’s his note on senior defenseman Robbie Russo who “has been encouraged by his coaching staff to shoot the puck.” The result? Russo is leading the team in shots on goal with 31 in eight games. This is the gooey stuff that makes me and so many other sports fan blissful.

The Gophers are 24-14-3 all-time against the Irish and the teams are 2-2-0 in their last four, with each team 1-1-0 at home. The Irish defeated and tied Vermont last weekend. This is a Friday-Sunday series, with Friday’s 7:00 p.m. game carried by the Big Ten Network at Sunday’s 4:00 p.m. contest televised by ESPNU.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 4-1, 2-1.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, Notre Dame 2-1.