Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 26-28

Big Ten play begins tonight, but first a look at how Drew Claussen and I are doing with the picks.

Last week
Drew: 2-4-0 (.333)
Paula: 4-2-0 (.666)

Drew: 69-57-10 (.544)
Paula: 61-64-11 (.489)

This week

There are three weekends left in regular-season Big Ten play, and there are three conference series each weekend. This weekend begins with Michigan State at Minnesota, a Thursday-Friday series. On Friday and Saturday, Penn State plays at Ohio State and Wisconsin plays at Michigan.

Michigan State at Minnesota

Drew: The Spartans hit a speed bump last weekend when they split a series with Wisconsin and they’ll have a tough road test this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see what 8:00 p.m. starts each night do to the attendance numbers for this series, especially on Thursday. I haven’t met a media member that enjoys late starts and the fan reaction I’ve seen is basically split down the middle. I’m hesitant to pick Minnesota to sweep this weekend, even with its 11-2-1 record at Mariucci. The Spartans play the kind of trap-style defense that has frustrated this Minnesota team multiple times this season. Would I be shocked if the Gophers did sweep? Absolutely not. The Gophers did destroy the Spartans 5-0 earlier this season in East Lansing before tying the second game. However, I think both of these games are going to be close and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are one-goal games that either go into or flirt with overtime.

Paula: You know I’m big on Michigan State’s defense, but I am also hesitant to call anything but a Minnesota sweep. The Golden Gophers’ offense has been down a bit lately, registering seven goals in their last three contests after a five-game stretch in which they netted at least four a game. The Spartans have shut out opponents three times in their last seven contests. As Drew said, both games begin at 8:00 p.m. Both games are on the Big Ten Network, too.

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

Penn State at Ohio State

Drew: Penn State really impressed me last weekend. After losing a tough one-goal game on Friday night, a lot of teams would not have responded against Minnesota the way the Nittany Lions did on Saturday. Yes, Minnesota and its fans will point to a soft penalty call that led to Penn State’s overtime goal on Saturday, but the Nittany Lions got the result that they deserved. Ohio State will look to play the spoiler role, as it did last weekend against Michigan. This series being played at Ohio State makes me hesitant to pick Penn State to sweep, but that’s the result I’m going with.

Paula: These teams split a pair of games in Pegula Arena earlier this season, a 5-4 overtime OSU win with Penn State picking up the rematch 4-1 the next night (Jan. 9-10). Ohio State is 4-3-0 all-time versus Penn State, and last year the Buckeyes swept the Nittany Lions quite decisively in Columbus. Don’t ask me why I’m calling a game for Ohio State. I will say that they looked better in that win against Michigan than they have for most of the season. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and is the early game on the Big Ten Network; Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by American Sports Network.

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

Wisconsin at Michigan

Drew: Picking games that involve the Badgers has become slightly more difficult after the calendar turned to 2015. Wisconsin is playing .500 hockey in its last four games. After the start of the season, I would define that as success for the Badgers. Michigan is coming off of a disappointing split with Ohio State last weekend. The only thing I can really say about that series is that Michigan needs to sweep. With Penn State and Michigan State left on its schedule, the Wolverines can’t drop points to Wisconsin and expect to finish first in the conference.

Paula: Michigan swept Wisconsin on the road, 7-4 and 6-0, Jan. 23-24, and last year in Yost Ice Arena, the Wolverines took five of six points from the Badgers with a 3-1 win and 2-2 tie and extra shootout point (Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2014). I like that the Badgers have learned how to win a few since the start of the calendar year, rather than creating new ways to lose. The Wolverines need to play consistent team defense, and it won’t help that they’ll be without sophomore Michael Downing Friday night, as he serves a one-game suspension following his third game misconduct on a hit against Ohio State’s Christian Lampasso last Sunday. Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. and is televised by Fox Sports Detroit Plus and Fox Sports West. Saturday’s afternoon contest is the early Big Ten Network game, and it begins at 4:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-1, 6-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 3-2, 4-2.


  1. hey sullivan u should stop calling the brown rule on colgate, cause they just won 2 in a row. In fact you should call the other brown rule, the one where horrible brown last year shocks everyone in the playoffs and goes to the ECAC semi-finals, cause you never know

    • I don’t know what I was thinking, now that you mention it… you’re right, Colgate won last week, and it didn’t click! Well, I suppose if the ‘Gate wins both their games this weekend, I’ll deserve the shot to my record.

      • Waaait a sec… this is what happens when I try to work before coffee. I DID stop calling TBR on Colgate! What are you talking about?

  2. SLU is ALWAYS tough. It takes a very good, very lucky team to take them 3 times, but its Clarkson – St. Lawrence hockey – anything can happen! Let’s go Tech. Rich (SLU ’78) and I will be watching this one with friends over single malt. A North Country Tradition!

    CCT ’70

  3. The Nittany lions got the result they deserved Drew? They allowed the gophers to get back in the game, the momentum was all in the gophers hand after that late goal. Up until that point very few penalties had been called. And then all the momentum the gophers had was destroyed on a garbage call…. Hardly the result they deserved. In other news. I look for a strong showing tonight from my boys in Maroon and Gold. Hopefully Hilde is off his game because he is going to have to (almost) single handedly beat the gophers if MSU hopes to get anything this week. (I’d say weekend but the B1G and it’s obnoxious scheduling does what it wants)

  4. While I agree with Drew that the Spartans are capable of winning a game at Mariucci and play a style the frustrates the Gophers. I also believe that the Gophers are a different team at home and the Spartans are much different on the road. The Spartans can play that frustrating style in their smaller rink, it will be tougher to pull off at Mariucci. Couple that with the fact that the Gophers likely have a bit of a chip on their shoulder after they were basically robbed by the bad call in OT against Penn State. The Gophers dominated much of that weekend series and while they lost on Saturday, their play has continued to improve. They deserved a better fate in the OT games against both Michigan and Penn State on the road and even one point from either of those games would be huge now. I look for them not to make that mistake this weekend when home. Goaltending, as always will be key, and likely at least one of these games will be close and low scoring. I still like the Gophers to prevail in both.
    Penn State/Ohio State. Once again Penn State is a different team at home and Ohio State is finally basically healthy and playing better and has some real offensive potential. I could see a split here with two high scoring games, The difference will be if Ohio State can get some decent goaltending, which has been absent most of the year. We know Penn State has good goaltending.
    Wisconsin/Michigan. I agree that Wisconsin is playing better, but most of that success has been at the Kohl Center and taking their show on the road to Yost will be tough. I believe that Michigan will cruise in both games, with the only fly in the ointment being if their goaltending rollercoaster ride is at low ebb, even so Michigan should have the fire power to prevail.

    • Meh, I don’t think Michigan’s goaltending is as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Racine is a gamer and will typically elevate his play for the big games. Michigan’s D-Zone play is what’s gotten them in trouble. Too many turnovers, and too many awful chips have burned time and time again. I’ve never seen a team get stuck on long shifts like Michigan, too. Fail to clear the zone, play 30 seconds of defense, fail to clear again, breakdown, get scored on. That’s basically what I’ve seen all year long.

      • I have only seen a handful of games, against Ohio State and the Gophers, plus an odd one here and there and while the defensive play may be at least partially to blame, many of the goals I saw go in were what I would classify as weak. Racine did play a very good game against the Gophers on Saturday at Mariucci.

  5. Gotta disagree, Drew. PSU played the 3rd period Saturday clinging for dear life and icing the puck at every opportunity. I will let others decide if PSU “deseved” a win. I will observe that both teams deserve consistency on the part of the officials. The refs made it clear to the Gophers they were on their own to tie the game without the benefit of a power play, even though PSU “deserved” a few near the blue paint. To call a non flagrant elbow in OT was hard to swallow, based on the way the game was called in the last 10 minutes of regulation. Hope I don’t see an awful call like that in tournament play

    • Agree with you totally. The problem is most of the time we have the same clowns that were our officials when we were in the WCHA and we remember how bad that was.

      • Shepard comes to mind as a gopher hater in the WCHA. I always hated when he ref’d our games…He thought people were there to watch him call penalties…

          • There was an entire clan of sheep herders: father, 2 sons, friends of sons, neighbors. It seemed that they all hated the Gophers, too. I could go on, but I run the risk of sounding paranoid. Go gophs.

    • Agreed jd. Penn State got the result, but to say it was “deserved” is off-base in my opinion. The Nittany Lions earned the 2-goal lead in the 1st period, but Minnesota was clearly the better team the final two periods and probably “deserved” better than an OT loss on what I hope most will agree is at least a questionable call. But that is all in the past, time to keep looking forward and taking things one game at a time.

  6. 1 down, 1 to go.
    Skjei had a good game. Boyd too. Lehr’s feet are officially wet.
    What happened to Wilcox?

    That Haeg kid can play, strong skater. Hope the guy who took a puck to the jaw/face is ok.

  7. That Spartan collapse was epic. The biggest since the Nixon Presidency fell into ruin.
    3-0 first period lead. Lose 5-3. Most of the game they could hardly clear the zone to get a change. No sustained pressure. Jake was left out to slowly twist in the wind, as if on the end of a rope. Swinging slowly from side to side. The chasm between a good team (the gophers) and a second/third tier program (the Spartans) is immense. And not to be diminished anytime soon I feel.
    And as for the player that hit in the head with the puck, that is Travis Walsh. Son of the late Maine Coach Shawn Walsh. And Grandson of Ron Mason. Hope the jaw isn’t broken.
    And the guys calling the B10 games. Are they not just a real…………..Yeah.

    • I liked Ben Clymer better when he was the between the benches guy. I can’t stand listening to him talk for the whole game. That play by play announcer, it sounds like his elevator doesn’t go all the way up. Where is Frank Mazzocco when you need him?

    • Have Y’all had a dedicated television package for U Hockey? MSU never has. Just radio. Scott Moore is good, but Rob Woodward is not. Woody will let out a squeak or grunt so you know whats happening before Moore can get the play by play out.

      • Before the Big Ten Conference started, the majority of our games were televised on FSN. Only the road Alaska Anchorage and sometimes road MI Tech games were not televised.

    • I agree with you about the Spartans play, but I am not sure I would call it a collapse since it is not like they were playing great at any time during the game, but yes they did blow the 3-0 gift that was handed to them. None of those goals were deserved. I told my son when it was 3-0, that I thought it would be a tough come back as I expected the Spartans to defend that lead a little better. I thought it was a pretty big unifying team moment for the Gophers picking up Lehr like that. Regarding the announcers, why is it so hard to get a decent announcer for college hockey?

  8. The PP is getting better. Hard to believe but the puck movement, scoring chances and effort keep improving. Bet the last thing opposing coaches say before taking the ice is, “Stay out of the box!”

    Somebody above/below referenced Sheppard (worst ref in the history of the WCHA). Watched an NCHC game this year he ‘officated’ and both coaches suffered concussion like symptoms from all the head shaking. What’s really hard to understand is the WCHA would always use him for the biggest games of the year/WCHA FF or Champ game/s.

    “Oh look? A blue line.” Name that movie I can’t remember the name. Think Rob Lowe was the star? Or Swayze? Or both?

    • It killed me every time I saw him on the ice. You literally had to play a different style of game in order to conform to his irrational officiating.

          • Yep. The top PP line is starting to work the puck low more often. That puts extra pressure on the box players and leads to defensive mistakes and wider passing lanes. Last nights 2 goals on the PP as a great example.
            They are also cycling more, this is creating confusion among the box players and leads to wider, cross ice passing lanes. No scores last night from the cycling as pucks were jumping over the shooters stick but the passes were there and made. Bodes well for the stretch run.

            Let’s hope the D effort/performance continues to improve. Getting better but still lots of room to grow.

  9. Watching Lamposso for OSU makes me feel like I’m watching some NFL dirtball. That disgusting greasy bush hanging out from his helmet should be cut off by his coach.


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