Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 28-29

Everyone plays this week. First, though, let’s look at how Drew Claussen and I are doing with the picks. (Hint: Drew’s doing just fine.)

Last week
Drew: 3-3-0 (.500)
Paula: 1-5-0 (.167)

Drew: 36-21-3 (.625)
Paula: 23-34-3 (.408)

I correctly picked two series to split last week, Michigan State-Ohio State and Penn State-Michigan. Unfortunately, I called each team to win on the night opposite it won. Again.

This week

It’s all nonconference play this week, with the Shillelagh Tournament and a single game at Madison Square Garden thrown in for good measure. Not one of these games is televised.

Ferris State at Wisconsin

Drew: It’s hard to get a good read on this Ferris State team. The Bulldogs started the season with a convincing win over Michigan and then proceeded to lose five of their next eight. They then rebounded by destroying Alaska Anchorage in a series, outscoring the Seawolves 14-2 over two games, and then followed that up by splitting with Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. It’s been easier to decipher the Badgers so far this season. They’ve struggled. Wisconsin’s next eight games will be played at home and they will pick up a couple of wins during this home stand. I mean, they have to pick up a coupleof wins, right? I’ve picked Wisconsin before and the Badgers have yet to come through for me, but I’m going with them again.

Paula: The Bulldogs and Badgers last met Jan. 1, 2005, in the title game of the Badger Hockey Showdown, which Ferris State won, 5-3. That was FSU’s second consecutive Badger Hockey Showdown title. While I once again hesitate to call a split — for obvious reasons — that’s the way I’m going, too. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 8:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 3-1, Ferris State 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, Ferris State 3-2.

Michigan State at Princeton

Drew: The Spartans have had three chances to sweep an opponent so far this season and they’re currently 0-3 in those situations. That fact makes it very hard to pick Michigan State to sweep on the road this weekend, even if Princeton has a 1-6-1 record and has dropped its last five contests. I would describe MSU as having scoring woes so far this season, but Princeton’s situation is far worse. The Tigers are dead last in the nation in scoring, averaging only one goal per game. That’s more than a goal less than what the Spartans have averaged. One of these teams will break out offensively this weekend and I bet it will be Michigan State.

Paula: This is Michigan State’s first trip to Princeton; the Spartans swept the Tigers last season in East Lansing, 4-1 and 8-1. The Spartans’ scoring woes are really rooted in scoring inconsistency. They are certainly capable of finding the net. This is a Friday-Saturday series with games beginning at 7:00 p.m. each night.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 5-2, 5-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 3-2, 4-2.

Minnesota at Boston College and Northeastern

Drew: Boston College isn’t having a typical Boston-College-like season but, like both of us said when the Eagles played Michigan State, there’s never a good time to face BC. The Eagles have won their last three games after dropping four games in a row for the first time in a decade. It’ll be interesting to see how the Gophers respond after getting swept by Minnesota-Duluth last time out. Minnesota did drop an exhibition game to the U.S. Under-18 Team last Friday, but I don’t see anything to worry about there due to the fact that Nick Lehr was in net and the U-18 team is pretty good this year. Minnesota is 2-0-1 against Boston College in the three contests the two teams have played over the last two seasons. All three games have been at Mariucci Arena. Of course, the Eagles beat the Gophers 6-1 in at the Frozen Four in 2012 on the way to their fifth national title. Northeastern has won two of its last three games, which improved the Huskies’ record to 2-9-1. Not much to say about that game; home ice could help the Huskies steal one but I expect Minnesota to win.

Paula: This is the worst kind of dilemma. In nonconference games, I rarely pick against the Gophers and I never pick against the Eagles. Minnesota is 16-12-3 all-time against the Eagles, 8-5-0 all-time against the Huskies. Friday’s game against BC begins at 6:00 p.m.; Saturday game against Northeastern begins at 7:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: BC 3-2, Minnesota 4-2.

Ohio State at Shillelagh Tournament

Drew: Friday’s match up in South Bend will put the Buckeyes against a team from the NCHC that also has had a less-than-stellar start to the season, Western Michigan. I’m glad to see they’re starting the two games in this tournament closer together than they did for the Ice Breaker. Hopefully Notre Dame fans arriving early combines with fans from both Ohio State and Western Michigan that made the drive to create a decent crowd. I liked the way the Buckeyes looked against Michigan State, even though their effort only yielded a split. There’s some tough competition in this field, so this weekend will be another good test for the Buckeyes.

Paula: The Buckeyes and Broncos are familiar foes from the CCHA, with a series that dates back to 1963. WMU holds a 65-61-13 edge all-time. The last time the teams met was Feb. 15-16, 2013, with a 1-1 tie and a 6-3 OSU win. OSU’s history with Notre Dame, another former foe from the CCHA, dates back to 1965, and OSU leads the all-time series 34-32-10. The Buckeyes and Irish last met in the last-ever CCHA Tournament semifinals (March 23, 2013), a 3-1 Notre Dame win. The Buckeyes and Dutchmen have met three times, the last a 2005 series that OSU swept. Friday’s game against the Broncos begins at 4:00 p.m., and games are at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State defeats Western Michigan 3-2 and falls to Notre Dame 4-2.
Paula’s picks: I have no idea how to pick this. None. Not one of these teams is performing up to its potential, and no one seems to be playing consistently. OSU over WMU 3-2, then the Buckeyes fall to Union, 3-2.

Penn State at Cornell: The Frozen Apple

Drew: Before the season I told a friend that it would still be at least four or five years before Penn State would be a true contender in the Big Ten. After a dozen games, the Nittany Lions are making me look pretty dumb. Whether they stay this hot throughout the rest of the season remains to be seen. The law of averages says that they have to cool down eventually, but right now you can’t count Penn State out of any game. This game being at Madison Square Garden, while being a cool spectacle, takes away home-ice advantage from Cornell. Penn State should be eager to get a win and put last week’s loss to Michigan in the rear-view mirror.

Paula: I like this Penn State team. That’s all I’ve got.

Drew’s pick: Penn State 4-1.
Paula’s pick: Penn State 3-2.

Rensselaer at Michigan

Drew: Michigan’s struggle with consistency continued last weekend when it followed up a disappointingly-close home loss to Penn State with its best effort of the season in an 8-1 victory over the Nittany Lions. RPI won’t be a pushover this weekend; the Engineers have quality wins over Notre Dame and Union this season, but they also seem to be a team that has struggled to carry over momentum from one game to another. I’d like to see Michigan play well again this weekend. The Wolverines have the talent of a top-10 team that can challenge Minnesota in the Big Ten, but they have yet to play up consistently to that potential this season.

Paula: The Engineers have a 7-3-1 record against the Wolverines, but the teams haven’t met since the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational Tournament, a 4-3 RPI semifinal win. I like what I saw from the Wolverines last weekend … with the exception of the three-minute lapse Friday that led to Penn State’s goals.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-2, 3-1. (I feel like I’m picking way too many sweeps this week, considering how nonconference play has gone for the Big Ten so far.)

Paula’s picks: Michigan 3-2, 4-2. (I have no qualms picking a sweep. I have no qualms picking anything. Clearly, I have no ability to pick this season.)