Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 9-10

Everyone plays this week, but Michigan State plays the Under-18 Team in exhibition Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

First, Drew Claussen and I have some picks numbers for you.

Last week
Drew: 1-6-1 (.188)
Paula: 3-4-1 (.438)

Drew: 47-42-5 (.527)
Paula: 35-53-6 (.404)

This week

There are two Big Ten tilts and Wisconsin hosts Boston University.

Boston University at Wisconsin

Drew: I saw a funny Tweet last weekend that suggested that Michigan Tech should be knocked out of the NCAA Tournament discussion for losing to Wisconsin. While I don’t believe the Badgers are that bad, if Boston University is a legitimate title contender, then the Terriers should easily pick up two wins this weekend. Joel Rumpel will have to do something pretty amazing for a different result to happen, and I don’t see that happening.

Paula: The Terriers began the year with a 3-3 tie against Union Jan. 3, a game in which they came from behind twice. BU and UW last met Oct. 19, 2013, a 7-3 home win for the Terriers. Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor made 40 saves in that contest. This is the first time that BU has traveled to play in Madison since 1989. Games begin at 7:00 p.m. each night and are carried by The Wisconsin Channel.

Drew’s picks: Boston University 5-0, 6-1.
Paula’s picks: BU 5-1, 2-1.

Minnesota at Michigan

Drew: I think that this is the weekend where we will really find out what the Gophers are made of. The players from the World Juniors are back and Brady Skjei should return from his injury. There’s no excuse for Minnesota not to show up this weekend. Minnesota is in a slump (by the standards that the Gophers are held to) and have gone 3-4-1 in its last eight games. The Gophers also haven’t been great on the road so far this season, going 2-3-1.

Michigan, on the other hand, got hot at the end of the first half of the season and carried that momentum to the GLI after a couple weeks off. I don’t know how anyone can honestly say they weren’t impressed with the Wolverines winning the GLI considering the amount of talent they were missing. If Michigan can find some success against Minnesota this weekend, its schedule sets up for that success to continue even though on an extended road trip. The Wolverines will play one game against Ohio State at Columbus and two at Wisconsin before playing a neutral-site series with Michigan State.

I believe that the most probable outcome here is a split. Michigan is playing really well, but it’s hard to sweep the Gophers.

Paula: I think this is the weekend we see the stuff of which the Wolverines are made, frankly. Will this be the Michigan squad that loses by four goals? That wins by five or more? That just plays good, hard, consistent hockey? And has goaltender Steve Racine won the starting job? The Wolverines enter this weekend as the Great Lakes Invitational champs, while the Golden Gophers come to Yost Ice Arena having taken third place in the Mariucci Classic. This rivalry dates back to 1923, and according to Michigan records, the Gophers are 131-118-15 all-time against the Wolverines. Michigan is 65-48-7 at home against Minnesota, but the Gophers were 3-1-0 against the Wolverines last season, having swept Michigan in Minneapolis (Feb. 14-15) and split in Ann Arbor to end the regular season, a 3-2 overtime win and 6-2 loss (March 14-15). Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network; Saturday’s game begins at 4:00 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports North Plus.

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

Ohio State at Penn State

Drew: Penn State hit a bump in the road when it lost both games at the Three Rivers Classic, but the Nittany Lions will begin the second half of the season with six games in a row that will be played on their home ice. The Buckeyes’ month off seemed to do them well last weekend against Mercyhurst and it’ll be interesting if they’ll be able to get some confidence over from that series. Ohio State seems to be a team that can play with anyone but struggles with consistency, like a lot of teams. For Penn State, this is its chance to prove that the first half of the season wasn’t a mirage. If the Nittany Lions can win four or five of their six games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Northern Michigan, they’d prove to everyone that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Paula: Ohio State leads this series 3-2-0. The teams last met March 14-15, 2014, in Pegula Arena, splitting a pair of 4-2 games with the Buckeyes winning the first and the Nittany Lions taking the second. Ohio State swept Penn State at home last season, 5-1 and 5-2, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday’s contest starts at 3:00 p.m. Both games will be carried by American Sports Network.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 4-1, 3-3 tie.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, Penn State 3-2.