Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 30-31

It’s a light schedule this weekend, with two games being played in NHL arenas. First, our picks records.

Last week
Drew Claussen: 4-5-1 (.450)
Paula Weston: 5-4-1 (.550)

Drew: 55-51-9 (.517)
Paula: 47-58-10 (.452)

I would’ve been fine … had I had any sense regarding the North Star College Cup.

This week

The three Big Ten games on tap this weekend feature long-standing rivalries. Vermont and Penn State renew the College Hockey Faceoff at the Wells Fargo Center. Ohio State has the weekend off.

Michigan State vs. Michigan

Drew: These two teams will start their week-long, neutral-site series Friday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Michigan has managed a modest 7.5 goals per game in its last four contests, which have all been victories for the Wolverines. On the other hand, Michigan State is coming off of its first sweep of the season, 4-1 and 2-0 victories over Ohio State at home last weekend, and seems to be playing its best hockey of the season. Jake Hildebrand held Michigan to only two goals in the Spartans’ loss in the GLI championship game, but the team he faced in late December was missing a couple big guns. He’s probably going to need an even better performance to win this weekend. I do believe that Michigan State will win one of these games, but it’s not going to be this one.

Paula: There is no way I’m picking against the Wolverines until they give me reason to. They seem to be able to fire at will and score, and their scoring bursts — two or more goals within the span of a few minutes — are devastating to their opposition. These two teams have a long history of games at Joe Louis Arena, and the teams have met for a conference game in JLA every season since February 15, 1991. The Wolverines are 14-9-4 in those contests, including 6-1-3 in the last 10 conference games in Detroit. This 7:30 p.m. Friday game is being televised by Fox Sports Detroit.

Drew’s pick: Michigan 4-2.
Paula’s pick: Michigan 4-3.

Minnesota at Wisconsin

Drew: Our esteemed editor, Todd Milewski, pointed out earlier in the week that this meeting between the Gophers and Badgers will be the first time that the two teams have played with neither being ranked since Nov. 14-15, 2003. While their paths to this point have been different, Wisconsin seemed never to get out of the starting block this year and Minnesota was the No. 1 team in the nation for multiple weeks. Both teams have found out how real the struggle can be this season.

I get more opportunities to watch the Gophers than I do to see the Badgers play, so I have a tendency to be a little harder on Minnesota when it struggles. With the exception of Nate Condon, Justin Holl, Tom Serratore and backup goaltender Michael Shibrowsky, this is the team that played in the national championship game last year. As Minnesota’s struggles have continued after its hot start I questioned if the three position players that the Gophers lost from last year were more important that the “role player” tag that I attached to them, or if last year’s team simple overachieved. I honestly think it’s a little bit of both. The Gophers miss Serratore’s grittiness, Holl’s defensive play and Condon’s speed and leadership. With an exception or two, it seems like every sophomore has taken at least one step back from his first season. That combined with the fact that this year’s freshmen have been invisible for most of the season equals a team with a shaky blue line that also struggles to put the puck in the net.

Minnesota got dominated by Minnesota State last Friday and found a way to lose Saturday’s game against Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers are struggling right now, pure and simple. That being said, playing the Badgers gives Minnesota a solid opportunity to right the ship. These are two must-win games for Minnesota.

Paula: These teams met just two weeks ago in Minneapolis, resulting in a 2-2 tie and extra shootout point for Wisconsin (Jan. 16) followed by a 5-2 Minnesota win the next night. The 5-2 game saw a total of 110 penalty minutes, with each team receiving 55. That’s also a game in which UW goaltender Joel Rumpel stopped 45-of-50 shots on goal. Rumpel is playing well of late, and I think Wisconsin can steal one of these. The Gophers are 27-17-8 against the Badgers with Mike Eaves at the helm. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 8:00 p.m., and both are carried by the Big Ten Network.

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

Penn State vs. Vermont

Drew: Like Michigan and Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will also head to a neutral site this weekend, Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Penn State fired 117 shots on goal last weekend in its series against Northern Michigan, which resulted in a 5-4 win and 5-5 tie. Like my past criticisms of Michigan, I’m going to point out that a team that gives up four or five goals a game is destined for failure, but that is an impressive amount of pucks being thrown at a goaltender. I think Vermont’s record may be a little inflated, because even though it has five sweeps this season, only one was over a team with a winning record. Penn State is currently 0-3-1 in neutral-site games this season, but I think the Nittany Lions put one in the left-hand column this weekend.

Paula: This is the third annual College Hockey Faceoff at the Wells Fargo Center, and if history is any indication, this will be a well-attended game; the average attendance for the two previous meetings between the Catamounts and Nittany Lions at Wells Fargo was over 18,000. PSU took the first meeting, 4-2 (Jan. 19, 2013), while Vermont won last season, 5-2 (Oct. 26, 2013). Vermont is looking for its first win in five games, most recently having lost two games to Boston University last weekend. After ending the first half of the season with a five-game win streak and taking the first game of their own midseason tournament, the Catamounts are 1-5-1 since Dec. 28. This Saturday contest begins at 1:00 p.m. and is not televised.

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


    • Hard to argue against Yale, this weekend notwithstanding. They’re the team to beat, until they’ve been thoroughly beaten.

        • What does anything we just said have to do with the WCHA? The only part of this entry that addressed anyone outside of ECAC Hockey was the ballot, and your comment clearly doesn’t pertain to that. Please try to keep your contributions somewhat relevant, if you care to engage others in something resembling a reasonable discussion.

          • Please! This comment is absolutely silly…
            “I think so. Yale has more margin for error than it — or we — may believe. The Bulldogs are still atop the PairWise, and could likely lose out the rest of the way and still pull a No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s.”

            Second your post is nothing but chest pounding arrogance. Like I said if you team actually played in a league that was tough top to bottom we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

          • @ Goon maybe ECAC teams would be more willing to come to the Ralph if they were more willing to reciprocate a series the next year on the road. You can’t complain about teams not scheduling you when you go out of your way to ensure they won’t schedule you.

          • That is an incorrect statement as well, UND has played @ Harvard and they had played at REA before. Also, Harvard is coming to the REA next season, UND also traveled to SLU and had a home and home with Cornell the last two season. Harvard also coming to UND next season. UND played QU two or three season back at REA. I am sure if the Yale coach asked Coach Hakstol they would be happy to have them come to UND as well as travel out to Yales home rink.

          • Not going to argue with you on that point: UND has been good at reciprocating. One of the ECAC’s biggest problems is that half its teams – the Ivies – play restricted schedules, with only seven non-conference games on the docket. Add in universal challenges to arranging a reasonable schedule, and you get the current arrangement.

          • Fair enough, I am a recent newcomer to the sport, as I am now a freshman in the Lynah Faithful, but I know many WCHA teams aren’t great at reciprocating series. UND however has my respect as a program no doubt.

          • That said Yale plays great hockey, you have to see them in person to really see them play, and yes I wish they’d play fewer AHA teams out of conference, but they are a solid team, and I say that having seen them in person. I’m convinced they can play with anyone in the country, I guess we just have to wait until March to see it.

  1. I’m just surprised they didn’t delete the guest’s comment. Usually anything perceived as negative towards Paula, no matter how factual, is quickly scrubbed from the comments section. Though oddly enough Paula’s mean spirited comments are never removed. [remainder of post edited for policy violations]

      • Then why have criticisms of Paula’s articles that contain no personal attacks been deleted in the past by USCHO? Not to mention there was no policy violation in that post seeing as Paula described herself as that in her article this week.

          • So pointing out that your writer calls 3-1 games shutouts and thinks it’s possible to have a 4-2 double overtime win is considered grounds for deletion? Pointing out factual errors by one of your writers is now considered derogatory or a personal attack. Interesting.

    • Dear FirePW,

      When are my comments mean-spirited? Seriously, I’m asking. I don’t respond to people in a negative way. I am concerned when readers display real anger about something written here at USCHO. Seriously. Life is short. I don’t understand the level of vitriol. What has happened to civil discourse? I don’t get it.

      I saw the rest of your comment that was scrubbed. I will say this about what I saw that you wrote: You do not understand the tone in which some information in my columns is presented, nor do you understand the long-running history behind much of what I write. I’m not saying that in the spirit of anything other than pointing out that you misunderstand some things. In fact, I ran into several people tonight at the OSU-UM game who made comments pertaining to what was edited from your comment — long-time readers and fans of both teams — who laughed at the jokes contained in my annual Valentine’s Day column, jokes that are very much of a long-term, running nature and clearly at my own expense.

      I do make mistakes and I hate that I do. I’m grateful when readers point out the typos and I make an effort to come back to the blogs and columns and fix mistakes. I always own my mistakes. I’m not making excuses here, but I will say that I deliver the best writing I can in the time that I have. You are entitled to disagree with me.

      I am grateful that you’ve taken the time to read and share your thoughts.

  2. Pointing out factual errors is not grounds for deletion. Attaching snide derogatory comments or personal attacks to them like you have and then lying about not doing so as you did tonight is grounds for deletion, and if repeated, being banned.

  3. I just read Penn State is streaming the game live. Should be a great battle in front of a good crowd. Both teams could really use the win. I don’t see Vermont stopping Bailey- Holstrom-Goodwin from inflicting major damage.

    • JCN, loved watching that line two weeks ago in State College. As on old lacrosse player I love their go to the stinking goal mentality. Both games have too much finesse and not enough testicles. With that being said we are taking six from you in 2 weeks…

      • Based on your reply, I assume you are a Michigan State fan who attended the MSU-PSU games at Pegula earlier this month. What was your overall impression with Pegula Ice Arena as a venue to watch college hockey?

        • You assume correctly. I have been around the PSU campus for 23 years and watching the evolution of their athletic facilities has been astounding. Pegula has set the standard for college ice hockey facilities much like Camden Yards did for MLB, PSU spent Pegula’s money very well…

  4. The MSU-UM game isn’t going to be as close as Paula and Drew think. Hildebrand is going to have to stand on his head for all 60 minutes to keep it a 5-1 UM game.


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