Everyone plays this week and it’s all conference play. First, our picks record.
Drew Claussen: 2-1-1 (.625)
Paula Weston: 1-2-1 (.375)
Drew: 57-52-10 (.521)
Paula: 48-60-11 (.450)
There are two Friday-Saturday series this week plus a single game between Michigan and Michigan State Saturday night at Chicago’s Soldier Field for the 2015 Hockey City Classic.
Michigan vs. Michigan State
Drew: When I predicted a Michigan win at Joe Louis Arena last Friday, I was intending to pick a Michigan State victory at Soldier Field in this game. The Spartans getting the upset last weekend makes me back off that pick. Michigan has had a week to think about that loss and will be eager to get some revenge. Outdoor games are a virtual toss-up, so the Spartans getting an elongated sweep is a possibility, too. I think that Michigan’s offense won’t be stopped by Jake Hildebrand twice in a row.
Paula: With all due respect, Michigan’s offense wasn’t stopped by Jake Hildebrand alone last weekend at The Joe; the entire Michigan State team defense stymied the Wolverines by clogging up lanes, executing a tight neutral zone trap and playing what can only be called man-to-man defense. It was an impressive team effort that left Hildebrand relatively unchallenged. As impressive as it was, though, I do think that Michigan will adjust for this game and get the better of the Spartans. The Wolverines and Spartans have met three times outdoors and are 1-1-1 in those contests. This is a 7:00 p.m. start Saturday and will be televised by the Big Ten Network. And for the record, I really dislike outdoor games. The temperature is supposed to hit 40°F in Chicago on Saturday, if you’re curious.
Drew’s pick: Michigan 4-2.
Paula’s pick: Michigan 2-1.
Ohio State at Minnesota
Drew: Minnesota has yet to sweep a conference series this year, which is something to be concerned about considering it has played the Badgers four times already. There just seems to be something wrong with this Gophers team. Their struggle to find the back of the net was not on display last weekend against the Badgers, considering they scored 11 goals over the two games. Minnesota’s defensive struggles, however, were on full display. Wisconsin picked up nine goals for itself last weekend, bringing its goals per game average up to 2.05. Adam Wilcox seems to have no confidence in himself right now; a lot of the goals he’s letting up are ones that were routine saves during his freshman and sophomore year. Minnesota will also be without the services of Connor Reilly for the foreseeable future. Ohio State is struggling, too, so I’m going to pick a Gophers sweep, but I wouldn’t be surprised with a split.
Paula: If you look at this from an Ohio State perspective, the same can be said: the Buckeyes have yet to sweep a conference series this year and there is something troubling OSU as well. One of the things plaguing Ohio State is injuries. Another issue is team defense — but it’s difficult to put together a coherent team defense without a coherent team. The Buckeyes last played Jan. 23-24, 4-1 and 2-0 road losses to Michigan State. OSU will try to snap a four-game losing streak in Minneapolis, a difficult place to do so even though the Buckeyes have a better road record (5-5-2) than home record (2-7-0). Last weekend, the Gophers found a way to salvage a tie with Wisconsin on Saturday after winning Friday. These are the first games of the seasons between the Buckeyes and Golden Gophers, and Minnesota is 3-1-1-1 in Big Ten play against Ohio State. Friday’s game begins at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is televised by Fox Sports North Plus and SportsTime Ohio.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota 5-3, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 4-1, 4-1.
Wisconsin at Penn State
Drew: Penn State swept the first series between these two at the Kohl Center earlier in the season. Wisconsin has improved since then, but I don’t think the Badgers have matured enough to go on the road in a tough environment and pick up a win. Penn State is playing very confident hockey right now and is getting a lot of scoring opportunities. Unless Joel Rumpel has an amazing performance in the cage, Penn State sweeps this.
Paula: Last weekend, the Badgers scored nine goals in a loss and tie against Minnesota and won the extra shootout point following the tie, and Wisconsin showed real resilience in that tie, netting three third-period goals — and attaining a brief lead — to compete in that second game. Still, Wisconsin has a way to go and Penn State has a way itself in the third period, for sure. The Nittany Lions have become a team that knows how to turn up the intensity in the third period of any given game, which makes them very dangerous. Wisconsin leads this all-time series 6-3-0 and the Badgers swept the Nittany Lions in Hockey Valley last season. (Yeah, I called it Hockey Valley. It’s catchy.) PSU needs six points to overcome Michigan for the top spot in the Big Ten standings, another significant motivator. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and is the early game on the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s game starts at 2:00 p.m. and is televised by the American Sports Network.
Drew’s picks: Penn State 5-1, 3-0.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 3-2, 3-1.