Pickin’ the Big Ten: March 6-7

It’s the penultimate week of the regular season. Yes, I wait all year to be able to use that word.

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

Season
Drew: 71-61-10 (.535)
Paula: 63-66-11 (.496)

I can still hold out some hope for hitting .500 before the regular season ends. And poor Drew has had two weeks like I had for two months in the first half.

This week

Eight points separate first-place Michigan from fourth-place Penn State this week, and the Wolverines travel to Pegula Arena for two. Second-place Minnesota is three points behind Michigan and two points ahead of third-place Michigan State, and both the Golden Gophers and the Spartans are playing opponents significantly behind them in the standings. An interesting week, for sure.

Michigan at Penn State

Drew: Where Ohio State has been heating up at the right time, Penn State has gone ice cold at the absolute worst time of the season, and losing senior Taylor Holstrom for the rest of the year is going to make things that much more difficult. The Nittany Lions’ saving grace may be that they are hosting Michigan this weekend because Pegula Ice Arena is quickly becoming one of the nation’s toughest buildings to play in.

Michigan is riding a high right now; the Wolverines have followed a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. These two teams split a series at Yost earlier this season and I’m tempted to pick that result again, but I think the Wolverines are going to out-gun the Nittany Lions this time around.

Paula: Holstrom (7-26–33) is second on the PSU team in scoring and was injured in last Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Ohio State. It is a blow for a team that is 1-5-0 in its last six, having dropped two games to OSU by the same score last weekend. When the Nittany Lions and Wolverines met in Ann Arbor Nov. 21-22, Penn State took the first game 3-2 but Michigan dominated the following night in an 8-1 win.

As good as the Nittany Lions are at home (11-2-3), I think these are Michigan’s game to lose — and this will be a big test for the Wolverines, who have yet to find week-to-week consistency in team defense. Michigan swept Wisconsin last weekend, scoring three goals in the third period of Saturday’s 5-2 win and looking like Michigan teams of old. How that translates through an entire weekend in Hockey Valley, though, is anyone’s guess. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 3:00 p.m. and — sadly — neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 5-2, 6-3.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-2, Penn State 3-2.

Minnesota at Ohio State

Drew: A split with Michigan State last weekend landed the Gophers back in second place in the standings and now Minnesota will head on the road to face a team that is playing a heck of a lot better than it was a month ago. The Gophers did sweep Ohio State at Mariucci, but I believe we will see a much closer series in Columbus this weekend. Though the Buckeyes’ sweep over Penn State may not be as impressive as it would have been if the Nittany Lions weren’t riding a 1-3 streak going into the series, I don’t think those results were an anomaly. When healthy, Ohio State can play some decent hockey.

Like many others, I wasn’t very impressed with the Gophers’ effort at home last weekend. Other than the second and third periods that led to the comeback on Thursday, their play was flat, boring and rather uninspired. That being said, with the way this team is capable of playing it’s hard to pick anything but a Gophers sweep this weekend. Ohio State stealing one wouldn’t shock me, but I’m not going to bet on it.

Paula: As Drew says, the key to Ohio State’s success is the team’s health. For long stretches of the season, the Buckeyes were playing with injuries to several key players and they did look good against PSU last weekend. The Golden Gophers look more mortal this season than they have in recent years, but they have the weapons they need to be dangerous in the hunt for a regular-season title.

Minnesota is 17-2-1 against Ohio State all-time, and last season the Gophers were 3-1-1-0 against the Buckeyes. If Minnesota wins Friday night, the Gophers sweep. If not, it’s a split — and that’s what I’m calling. Friday’s game begins at 5:00 p.m. and is televised by ESPNU and TSN2; Saturday’s 6:00 p.m. start is carried by ESPNews.

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

Wisconsin at Michigan State

Drew: This is a must-sweep for the Spartans at home. There’s really no other way to put it. Wisconsin has improved over the second half of the season, but if Michigan State wants to continue to be a threat to nab one of the top Big Ten Tournament seeds, it needs six points at home against the Badgers. Jake Hildebrand has been playing very well and should be able to shut down Bucky this weekend.

Paula: Last weekend, the Badgers dropped those two games in Ann Arbor and the Spartans split in Minneapolis, never trailing in Saturday’s 4-2 win. These teams met two weeks ago in Madison, when the Badgers picked up their second conference win of the season with a 2-1 game Friday, Feb. 20, a victory that gave Wisconsin its only consecutive winning game days of all of 2014-2015, as the Badgers beat the Buckeyes the previous Saturday night. Since that win, Wisconsin is 0-3; since that loss to the Badgers, the Spartans are 2-1.

The Spartans are 6-2-0 in their last eight games, all in conference play. In that stretch, MSU has allowed 10 total goals and Hildebrand’s save percentage has been .963. Friday’s 7:00 p.m. game is not televised, but Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. rematch is carried by Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports West Plus.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-1, 3-0.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 3-1, 3-1.

53 COMMENTS

  1. Ehh sweep/no sweep. At least she didn’t quote a player… quoting a coach… who’s never spoken with said player before… taken from another reporter.

  2. it doesnt matter if blood rarely left the ice or grimaldi made several gophers look silly or whatever else ND did that folks think was terrific.  The fact is NoDak lost both games.  There are no style points or artistic exprression awards.  Score more goals than the other guys and you’re OK.  Finally, you play the teams the schedule says you play when the schedule says you play them.  Good luck to the UM in Wisconsin this weekend. 

  3. Highly doubt the something more ominous part. Stafford is most likely to recommend a pathway leading to HE application including what would be needed to enable that pathway.

    • Or BTHC. But I agree. It’s not “we’re going to cut hockey.” It’s more of a “OK, rich boosters, here’s how much we need before we accept an invite to go play with the big boys.”

  4. UConn to HE is a great idea in theory only. No administrative support, no student support, no alumni support, and no arena.

    Unless the school wantsa to diverty funding from their Squeek Ball program and build a new arena up to HE standards, my gut tells me Quinipiac is HE bound 

  5. Need a MSU sweep. And Minny-OSU and UM – PSU split’s would be nice too. That would set up a very interesting week-end next week.

  6. Paula… whats going on? Can’t pick at least .500?? Change some things by calling more Gopher Sweeps! STATE OF HOCKEY

  7. Two years into B1G hockey and no fervent hockey fan likes the coverage. The two ‘experts’ sitting in studio are just bad…..mute the sound bad. The producers insist on close-ups as often as possible. Somebody needs to pound it into their skulls that close-ups in hockey ruin the viewing experience. And why is it a conference with so much $$$$$ can’t get us recaps for each game/weekend/week like the other less $$$$ conferences do?

    Good thing it is MN State Hockey Tourney time…..rant over…….for now.
    Peace!
    Go Gophers
    Go BADgers
    Go PSU

    Go Lakeville North!!!!!!
    (worthy of a self like)

  8. Didn’t either team want to play defense at Penn State tonight? 88 shots on the night. 6-4 PSU
    In other new’s, Hildebrand earned shutout number 5 on the season over the Badgers. 3-0 MSU. And Minny beat OSU in Columbus. 4-2 .
    This concludes the “Arena” reports for the evening. Done via TV and internet. About as good as we can get given the lack of arena reporting these days.
    Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

  9. The only team that can beat goph this week is gophs, which they are VERY capable of doing. Stop turning the puck over in their own zone and gophs sweep easily.

  10. Since I will not be in Minneapolis, perhaps the Sioux fans that will be there would do me a favor. Enjoy the first game, get a good meal after it finishes, and come back to the Target Center and root for the Pioneers. Even though it might help UMD, does anyone agree/disagree that the NCHC should eliminate the Consolation game? When four teams come in playing excellent hockey, it seems unfair to me that one has to go into a regional on a two game losing streak simply because of the quality of the competition.

      • Thanks, I’m conflicted though in the UND/UMD game. Usually like to see Sioux come through, but need to have UMD win one to make it to Regionals. If DU and UMD lose today, I will not be mad if UMD beats DU tomorrow.

        • Same here…as a UND fan i’d like to see them win it all of course. But if they don’t, might as well help a fellow NCHC bubble team out in the process.

    • Will the Target Center let fans back in if they leave between games? I’m asking this because I’m going to Van Andel this afternoon and will miss the Tech pre-game get-together because VA won’t re-admit.

      • I think they sold all-session tickets for around $50, that is what they told us DU season ticket holders via email. Maybe someone that is actually going will respond to your great question.

        • Well, tonight’s ticket is for both games, but there’s no re-admission between games. Maybe the FFaceoff will do what the WCHA did the last couple of years at St. Paul and issue separate tickets for each game in a strip, which will let you step out for a bit between games. I’ll be interested to see what kind of attendance we get tonight. Tech should be there, Ferris and BG *should* be there but it’s hard to tell just how big their fan base is, and MSU fans have kind of a long trip (plus they get to go through Chicago traffic), so we’ll see how many can make it out.

  11. The frozen faceoff is going to be arguably harder than any NCAA regional. Four teams ranked in the top 13 of the pairwise.

  12. Should be fun! Glad to see CBS Sports is covering the tournament. Love me some Dave Starman gushing over UND’s CBS line :)

    • I’m not a fan of CBS sports, but that is a personal reason. It isn’t a part of my tv package and I don’t want to spend any more than I already am. I can’t watch this weekend anyways, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

    • I don’t know… we kind of owe them one, since they did loan us Sertich for a while when we really needed it. Plus, when I chirped that they didn’t belong in the top 16 PWR when they’d just managed to scrape above .500 for the season, they went and won their next 4 (all against Miami, but still…). Well, gotta get ready to head up to GR for the dog-fight tonight. Go get ’em, Tech!

      • .
        I know… but being bubble teams indirectly going head-to-head, any Duluth win could hurt us if we loose one, or two, games.

        But lets worry about ourselves; GO TECH GOLD!
        .

  13. Hope DU loses, just not 2. Reason is, if they win both this weekend, they will have to finish with 17 straight wins to win the national title. How often can a team win 17 straight.

  14. I’m a novice when it comes to predicting the brackets, but it seems that whether Minnesota (host team) wins or not is a big factor as to where west teams will play. If MN wins it will be in St. Paul. A UND win and a St. Cloud loss (which would put UND as the overall #2 seed) would make it likely that they would NOT play in St. Paul (with MN as #14 seed). This depends on Qunnipiac taking the overall #1 as well. But it seems to go against the logic in the article above.

    • Higher seed gets closer to home. If UND gets higher seed than St. Cloud, UND will be at St. Paul and vice versa. the Gophers just make whoever gets St. Paul play them in the first round. If the Gophs beat Michigan. I’d rather not have two Crap 6 teams in the NT though… Michigan is a lock, hopefully they put away the Gophs today

      • If Minnesota loses to Michigan and Mankato beats Ferris St, they may also place Mankato in St Paul as a 15/16 seed for attendance purposes.

      • Depends. If UND end up being overall number 1 and the rodents win tonight, they could be 13 or 14 and UND would go to cincy to play 16. No way they make overall number 1 play the 13 or 14th seed.

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