Conference play begins this week with two league series, starting with Michigan State at Ohio State tonight. Wisconsin takes on two former WCHA foes, and Minnesota plays the U.S. Under-18 Team. Drew and I pick all the games that count, officially.
Drew: 7-2-0 (.778)
Paula: 4-5-0 (.444)
Drew: 33-18-3 (.639)
Paula: 22-29-3 (.435)
After picking Penn State and Lowell to split the wrong way last weekend, I am officially weeping.
Michigan State at Ohio State
Drew: I feel like these teams have had similar starts to the season, and I’m not just saying that because their records are nearly identical. Neither team has gotten off to a hot start, but at the same time neither has had a Wisconsin start. I do give Ohio State the edge due to its wins over ranked teams. After beating Providence in overtime to open the season, the Buckeyes have dropped their last five home games. I predict two low-scoring, grind-it-out and maybe even sloppy games. The difference could be which team is more opportunistic on the power play or if a goaltender stands on his head and steals the show.
Paula: The Spartans showed great tenacity in a 3-2 loss to visiting Boston College last weekend, while the Buckeyes split a pair of 3-2 games with an emergent Bowling Green team, beating the Falcons on the road and losing in Columbus. The series between Michigan State and Ohio State goes back to 1964 — it’s as old as I am — with the Spartans leading 82-30-11 all time, but the Buckeyes are 5-2-3 in the last 10 meetings. The teams met five times last year, with OSU earning a 2-0-3 edge in those contests. This is a Thursday-Friday series, with both games beginning at 7:00 p.m. Thursday’s contest is carried by Fox Sports Detroit Plus.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, Michigan State 3-2.
Penn State at Michigan
Drew: I talked to Guy Gadowsky and Red Berenson this week for Wednesday’s column, and both coaches kind of gave me the sense that they considered themselves the underdog in this series. Penn State defeated Michigan three times last season and two of the Nittany Lions’ three conference wins have come against the Wolverines. If Penn State can keep its offense going and Michigan continues playing defense the way it did earlier this season, this could be a long weekend for the Wolverines. However, I believe that Michigan’s schedule is set up for them to go on a run during the end of November and the beginning of December. The Wolverines played two home games against American International, both of which they won, last weekend. This week they have Penn State at home, next week they have two with Rensselaer at home and the next Friday they have one game against Ohio State at home. All that leads up to a Dec. 13 road game at Boston College. This could be the situation where the confidence from those two wins against American snowballs into some momentum and leads to more victories.
Paula: I do find it amusing that Berenson considers the Wolverines underdogs in the series, especially at home — but the Nittany Lions did beat the Wolverines once on the road last season. Last weekend, Penn State split on the road with Massachusetts-Lowell, a 5-3 loss and 4-1 win, while the Wolverines not only beat American International but outscored the Yellow Jackets 11-5 in two games. Drew may be correct in his pick of a sweep, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the Nittany Lions take one. Games begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with Friday’s game televised by Fox Sports Detroit Plus.
Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, 5-4.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-2, Penn State 4-2.
Wisconsin at Colorado College and Denver
Drew: Wisconsin meets Colorado College in a proverbial “something’s got to give” game. Yes, CC does have two more wins than the Badgers do, but those were one-goal victories over an improved but still not very good Alabama-Huntsville team. Neither team has been playing good offensively or defensively so far this season. The Badgers are tied for last in the nation in scoring, averaging 1.17 goals per game. The Tigers are second to last in the country defensively, giving up 4.78 goals per game. Colorado College’s offense averages 1.78 goals per game and Wisconsin’s defense is giving up 3.33 goals per game. Like I said, something’s got to give. The Wisconsin-CC game will definitely be the most interesting contest the Badgers play this weekend, because I think Denver will win easily on Saturday.
Paula: I’m still not willing to write off the Badgers — or anyone in the Big Ten — as easy pickings for any team, and so I am not at all certain that Denver will win handily Saturday. Last weekend, the Tigers and Pioneers played a single game against each other, with Denver winning 8-1. Friday’s game will be the 187th time that Colorado College and Denver will play; last season, Wisconsin swept Colorado College at home (Dec. 13-14, 2013), winning 4-1 and 4-3 (OT). Saturday’s contest will be the 158th meeting between the Badgers and Pioneers, and the teams last met in 2012, resulting in a 1-1 tie Nov. 30 and a 3-1 Wisconsin win Dec. 1. Friday’s game at CC begins at 7:30 p.m. and is not televised; Saturday’s game at DU begins at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by the Root Sports Rocky Mountain Network.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 4-1 over Colorado College, Denver 5-2 over Wisconsin.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-1, Denver 4-2.