Last year, my partner-in-writing Drew Claussen got lucky. Very lucky.
Or maybe he is just better at this picks thing than I am. One pick I can stand behind for 2015-16: Drew will be “luckier” than I am again this season.
We have the IceBreaker, a great old CCHA rivalry and a some other fun nonconference matches.
Bowling Green vs. Ohio State
Drew: This is one of two key WCHA vs. B1G series this weekend, with the WCHA teams favored in both. I waffled between two possible outcomes in this one, a split and a BGSU sweep. Ohio State hasn’t exactly come flying out of the gate under Steve Rohlik, but it did beat eventual champion Providence during the opening weekend last season. If the two teams do split, I believe it will happen with each winning at home. That being said, I’m picking a Bowling Green sweep.
Paula: The Falcons were picked to finish second in the WCHA this season, and Bowling Green is a mightily improved team under Chris Bergeron. This is an old rivalry, with the Falcons leading 95-74-9 all-time. Last season, the teams split a home-and-home series. Ohio State hosts at 7:00 p.m. Friday, Bowling Green at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Drew’s picks: Bowling Green 5-3, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: OSU 3-2, BGSU 4-1.
Northern Michigan at Wisconsin
Drew: After a very tough year last season, the Badgers will open at home against a team that swept them in Green Bay last year. Northern Michigan is a middle-of-the-road WCHA team, but it looks to be trending upward. Goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom also has the ability to completely shut out the Badgers’ offense like he did last year. I feel like Wisconsin has to take a step forward this season, basically because I don’t know how it could take a step back, but I don’t see it happening right off the bat.
Paula: The Wildcats were picked in preseason to finish seventh in the WCHA. This is the fifth year in a row in which NMU opens its season against UW, and the Wildcats are 5-3-0 in the last four years against the Badgers. I cannot imagine that Wisconsin will win only four games this season, and I am cautiously optimistic that UW’s collective desire for redemption will bring the Badgers one win this weekend. Games are Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Drew’s picks: Northern Michigan 4-1, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 2-1, NMU 4-2.
Michigan State vs. Maine and Lake Superior State
Drew: I kind of wish I was able to go to this tournament, as Portland has been on my list of places I’ve want to visit for a long time. Michigan State will play the host Black Bears on Friday and will face off against Lake Superior State on Saturday in front of a capacity crowd, I’m sure. Attendance should be interesting for all the games in the tournament. Even Maine is playing a two-hour drive away from its campus. I’m sure a few thousand North Dakota fans will somehow show up though; they do love to travel.
Paula: I looked into airfare for this tournament. My dad lived a short walk from the docks when he was in high school, and I spent significant time in Portland long before the city experienced its renaissance several decades ago. Both Maine and Lake Superior State were picked low in their league’s respective preseason polls. If the Spartans return to play the way they ended the season, I see them returning to Michigan with some hardware. Friday’s game against Maine begins at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday’s contest against former CCHA foe Lake Superior State starts at 4:30 p.m.
Drew’s picks: Maine over Michigan State 3-2, Michigan State over Lake Superior State 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 2-1, 2-1.
Penn State at Canisius
Drew: If the Nittany Lions are to be a legitimate threat in the Big Ten, they need to prove that they can win away from home. The Golden Griffins are probably a more formidable opponent than I am giving them credit for, but I think Penn State will win easily.
Paula: Canisius was picked fourth in the Atlantic Hockey preseason poll. This is the first meeting between the Nittany Lions and Golden Griffins. Penn State is 1-1-1 in season openers under coach Guy Gadowsky. This single game begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Drew’s pick: Penn State 4-1.
Paula’s pick: Penn State 3-2.
Vermont at Minnesota
Drew: There’s a lot more uncertainty hanging around the Gophers than we’ve become accustomed to over the past couple years. It will be nice to finally evaluate the team by using its performance on the ice rather than speculation. I do think the No. 9 Gophers were a little overrated in the preseason poll, but they should be able to down Vermont at home. Any kinks, however, will have to be worked out in a hurry as Minnesota faces a tough Minnesota-Duluth team next week.
Paula: I think this will be a close game. An inexperienced Minnesota team will be a bit nervous and there will be mistakes made, to be sure. Vermont was picked eighth in the Hockey East preseason poll. I’m looking forward to watching the Minnesota net develop this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vermont pull off an upset — only because the Gophers may need some time to gel. This single game begins at 7:00 p.m. Saturday.
Drew’s pick: Minnesota 4-3.
Paula’s pick: Minnesota 2-1.