Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 13-14

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Last week
Drew Claussen: 5-0-0 (1.000)
Paula Weston: 5-0-0 (1.000)

Season
Drew: 62-52-10 (.540)
Paula: 53-60-11 (.472)

That’s what I call love.

This week

Everyone plays. Every series is two games, Friday-Saturday, and it’s all conference action.

Michigan at Minnesota

Drew: I stated that the “Gophers looked like the Gophers again” in my Three Things blog last Sunday and that somehow set off a comment feud between Minnesota and North Dakota fans, so I’ll try to avoid any controversial statements this time around.

Minnesota has been better as of late, but this weekend will be its toughest test since the North Star College Cup (a test that the Gophers failed miserably). The last series between these two teams saw an overtime game and a blowout, but the one common thread in the two contests was that a lot of goals were scored.

Both teams are still very capable of scoring in bunches, so my key to this weekend’s series will be the play of the goaltenders. Adam Wilcox looked better last weekend against Ohio State, where he gave up two goals per game and made some saves that we hadn’t seen him make in a long while. Zach Nagelvoort’s roller coaster season seems to be plateauing out at a high point right now and Michigan has only given up three goals in its last three games with him in net. A split is the logical call here, but I can’t shake a feeling that Minnesota is going to sweep.

Paula: While the teams are playing for Big Ten points, they’re also playing for the Mariucci/Renfrew Trophy, which is awarded annually to the team in this series that bests the other in a given season. This friendly competition began in 1993. Minnesota has won 10 times, while Michigan has claimed the trophy nine times. The Wolverines swept the Gophers earlier this season (Jan. 9-10), making the teams even (3-3-0) since the start of Big Ten hockey play.

Unlike my partner-in-writing, I can shake the feeling that Minnesota will sweep. Both games in this series are televised. Friday’s game starts at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s contest starts at 7:00 p.m. and will be carried by Fox Sports North Plus and Fox Sports Detroit Plus.

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

Penn State at Michigan State

Drew: Penn State has been one of the hottest teams in the country since the calendar turned to 2015 and the Nittany Lions are right in the middle of the Big Ten race. If the Nittany Lions do want to capture the conference crown in only the third year since they went DI, a sweep here is a necessity. Michigan State is tough to sweep, especially at home, but after this weekend the sledding gets tougher for Penn State.

Michigan State is playing pretty well in the new year, also, and the Spartans will probably be happy to be playing a game indoors after last weekend’s debacle. I feel like I write this all the time when it comes to Michigan State, but it’s true; Jake Hildebrand’s play will be key this weekend. He’s going to get a lot of pucks fired at him. If he’s not on, Michigan State doesn’t have the talent to outscore Penn State. I say some love from the hometown fans gets the Spartans a win on Valentines’s Day.

Paula: I’m not sure that many teams have the talent to out-gun the Nittany Lions, so the Spartans will do everything they can to dictate the pace of these games. They’ll also rely on their league-best defense to attempt to stymie Penn State’s high-flying offense. Last weekend, PSU registered its first home Big Ten sweep with 5-2 and 4-1 wins over Wisconsin. The Spartans did not play their best game in a 4-1 loss to Michigan. A month ago, the Nittany Lions took four points from the Spartans at home, with a 2-2 tie and 5-2 win. Both of these games are televised, with Fox Sports Detroit carrying Friday’s 7:00 p.m. start and the Big Ten Network carrying Saturday’s 6:00 p.m. game.

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

Wisconsin at Ohio State

Drew: I was less excited about Wisconsin’s chances during the preseason, but any credibility I gained from that goes right out the window because of how high I was on Ohio State. This is without a doubt a battle of the conference’s two bottom feeders. If this was at Kohl Center, I’d think about predicting a Badgers’ sweep. Considering how their season has gone, the support the Badgers are getting from their fans is amazing; I was presently surprised with the attendance when I went there a couple weeks ago. A lot of teams wouldn’t draw that many amid a season-long struggle. That being said, I think home ice for Ohio State will produce a split this weekend.

Paula: These are the first meetings of the season for these two teams, who will complete their play the final weekend of the regular season (March 13-14). Wisconsin went 3-2-0 against Ohio State last season, including a 5-4 overtime win in the Big Ten tournament. Last weekend, the Badgers scored three goals in two losses to Penn State on the road, while the Buckeyes scored four goals in two road losses to Minnesota. OSU is looking to snap a six-game losing streak while the Badgers are looking for their first Big Ten win of the season. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten network; Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-3, Wisconsin 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, Wisconsin 3-2.

63 COMMENTS

  1. Your real apology should be to all the CCHA fans who have to read your column and not a column from someone who actually knows something. And the only real child is yourself, pretty pathetic.

  2. Hi Bob,

    Thank you for your feedback. I know that I don’t have to point out that no one is forcing you to read my column — and that is why I’m even more grateful that you take the time to read it. As my writing has apparently dampened your week, I do hope that you find some joy in this day.

    Happy hockey!
    Paula

  3. “Ten goals in a weekend — that’s more than NMU has scored since Nov. 2009.”

    I’m sure you meant, “Ten goals in a weekend – that’s more than NMU has scored in a weekend since Nov. 2009.” Though you tend to not check stats in regard to NMU, so I wouldn’t doubt that you seriously thought it was more goals than they’ve scored since Nov. 2009.

  4. Drew seems surprised that a comment fued broke out between Minnesota and UND fans after that comment? I bet we could somehow turn a discussion about two D3 women’s programs into a comment fued without much of a spark! BIG BIG weekend for the Gophers this weekend, I can’t argue that beating OSU was a huge accomplishment last weekend, but if the Gophs have a good weekend this weekend there will be no denying they are gaining some steam.

    • Its the big ten most teams are subpar is one of the worst conferences out there, but I agree if gopher sweep they will start gaining some momentum

    • These next two series will be telling for the Gophers. I hope to see more improvement in the defense! And I like what I’m seeing from Leon Bristedt and Ryan Collins.

      • Bristedt has been playing great hockey. He reminds me of Rau. He aggravates the tish out of the opposing players, gets clobbered and bounces back up. His puck control is fun to watch.

        Here’s hoping M. Reilley plays defense, B. Marshall doesn’t make the most bone-headed of passes and Wilcox continues to gain confidence.

        • I agree, however I would like to see more out of him, he displays a lot of skill, but not much in the way of SOG or setting up linemates. I think he is still adapting to the North American game.

      • Collins is really intriguing with that 6′ 5″ frame and long wingspan. He can be a shut down defenseman if he continues his improvement.

      • Half way there. The boys looked great last night. Good movement, defense continued to look better and in my opinion it is because the defense has been better that Wilcox has improved too. I totally agree with you about Collins and Bristedt. It seems they both have grown incredibly the past couple weeks.

        • Bristedt has a real motor. I hope he’s the new Rau next year! I agree about the defense; they really took the initiative early in the game and threw Michigan off balance. I have to mention – that tripping call that led to Michigan’s first goal was ludicrous!

          • I saw the play and know exactly what you are talking about and I have to disagree. The hit was shoulder to shoulder but after they engaged contact Skjei gave him the slew foot and that is why they called the trip. If that play had happened in the neutral zone it probably wouldn’t have been called but it was in the corner so they gave him two minutes.

  5. MSU needs 6 on the week-end (heck, everyone could use a ‘6’ on the week-end). But I have a sinking feeling they will get just 2 from a Shoot out win. With the lack of scoring (still), this team has to play a near perfect game to have a chance of even getting to OT this week.

  6. Why can’t Michigan State score more goals? They use those one piece composite sticks, that generate a ton of torque, right? The best chance of MSU beating Penn State is if the teams agree to only play the first two periods. Penn State usually shifts gears at the second intermission, when they trail by a goal or three.

    • JCN, do not talk sheeeeee…Only Decatur can talk sheee regarding MSU. 3 in the column and hottest goalie in America, by the way who is starting tonight for you???

  7. The Gophers/Wolverines series will showcase some serious offense and I totally agree that the deciding factor is Wilcox. If he plays like he did the first two years, it will be a Gopher sweep, if he plays like he has most of the second half of this year, rather pedestrian, the Gophers will be lucky to get a split. As a Gopher fan and with so much on the line this weekend, I can’t see how they don’t bring their “A” both nights and play to their potential, but we have been waiting for that against a quality team for quite awhile. This weekend it make or break for the Gophers. I am expecting a sweep. Really hoping I am not wrong.
    Spartans/Nittany Lions series will be interesting. Goaltending will be on display. I really think it comes down to which team will be able to establish the tempo of the game. If it is a low scoring, tight checking game, I like the Spartans. If it turns into a track meet, I like Penn State.
    Buckeyes/Badgers……Seeing the Buckeyes last weekend, the have offense which can exploit the Badgers young defense, but it has been sporadic at best. Rumple has been very good recently, despite his stats not showing it. Buckeyes goaltending has been mediocre at best. This series has split written all over it, but with the Buckeyes being 2-7 at home, this may the one the Badgers best chances for a sweep. I still think split though.

    • Rumple is the key to WI. If he is on badgers are good. If not badgers suck.
      They have NO defense to help him, but they can easily get by OSU if
      they get any defense. OSU is about the only team the badgers can sweep. I doubt they will, but a chip and a chair gives you a chance. Gophers NEED a sweep in order to get back in the safe zone on pairwise. Ski u Mah.

    • 6:59 and Racine is now in. Not in agreement Sat and pevan99. It is not about goaltending, it is about playing well in front of your goalie. Rumple and Wilcox never forgot how to play as it was all about breakdowns in front of them…Decatur and I agree the MSU kid has overcome more than these two will ever know…

    • That was a great show about the Russian view of the Miracle on Ice. It really made you feel for some of those great Russian players that were forced off the team not long after the 1980 Olympics. That and Fetisov’s fight to play in the NHL.

      • Made me want to watch the entire 1980 Olympic hockey again.

        I really liked the comparison of the two Russian coaches philosophies coinciding with the political stance of the USSR.

        The older player, he got the boot just after the ’80 Olympics, was an arrogant sumbich. In his defense, that was one heckuva hockey team.
        USA,USA,USA……mostly MNs.

  8. Hate to be overly dramatic, but the Gophers need to come big this weekend, or their finished — I’d be happy with 3 points, but a couple of wins would be better. Michigan skates well and the bigger ice won’t be a hindrance to them.

    Optimistic that some of Gophers have finally woken up and realized that it’s time to play. Nobody can accuse the Gophers of peaking too early this year….

    • Why does everyone seem to think the “bigger” ice is such a big deal? They act like teams have never played on an olympic sized rink before. Those lame gopher announcers bring it up every 5 seconds.

      • Considering there are 8 (almost 9) Olympic sized rinks in hockey, most teams don’t play on it often — some maybe not at all during the course of the season. The Olympic rink is 15 feet wider (17%) wider than the standard NHL (or similar) rink.

        I’ve seen the Gophers play home and away series against teams with the smaller rinks size, and the games have been completely different in the two venues. In particular because the Gophers have been faster and the extra space works to their favor. (Yes, their are other factors as well.) As I indicated, that won’t be the case this weekend with Michigan’s speed.

        • I wasnt saying it would make a difference this weekend for Michigan, but most teams have somewhere to practice on it, so its not a huge deal.

          • So then, it’s most teams, but not necessarily Michigan. But the other teams who aren’t playing Minnesota this weekend practice on it —- which you somehow know, and thus as a result, you can definitely say its a not a big deai.

          • Michigan practices at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor to prepare for big sheets of ice and they have played on a big sheet when they swept Wisconsin.

          • Really — you know where most teams practice, and that in fact, they’ve practice on an Olympic sheet. Wow. Impressive.

        • I believe that some teams have problems with not being able to handle the large rinks because the Gophers are able to spread them out and attack, it is not as much of an issue with good skating teams. I also think that it tends to backfire on the Gophers in many cases as it is much harder to adapt to a smaller rink as things happen much quicker and aren’t afforded as much time to react. Just my two cents.

      • I couldn’t agree more with a Sue fan than I do right now. I am so tired of hearing about different sized ice sheets. There has been talk of “renovating” Mariucci arena to make the ice smaller, I like the idea because number one it shuts everyone up about playing on olympic ice, and two I think if all college teams play on the same or similar size ice it levels the playing field somewhat. Plus the regionals and FF are played on smaller ice.

      • When considering that only 8 teams play on an Olympic sized sheet, it does make a difference to a team that doesn’t play on it regularly. MN is the only Big Ten team with that size ice. Michigan has yet to play on a big sheet this year.

  9. Saturday’s Wisconsin – Ohio State game is being televised. Regionally. Its on ASN. American Sports Network. It can be seen in the Wisconsin, West Virginia, Ohio areas. In Milwaukee its on channel 24 WCGV. Other channels are listed on the Badgers’ hockey website.

  10. Well needless to say, I a happy guy. This is the best MSU has played since Anastos became Coach. Tonight Hildebrand was tough. The two he let in he never saw. But….almost five minutes of EN time and MSU couldn’t pot one. That’s not good. But now, if Sat’s Gophers do their job, and beat the Weasels, we will have a tie at the top and for third place just two points back. Credit where credit is due. Good week-end boys. Good Week-end.

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