Pickin’ the Big Ten: Oct. 22-24, 2015

In the first two weeks of the season, the Big Ten has struggled in nonconference play. This is how Drew Claussen and I are doing after the first two weeks.

Last week

Drew: 9-3-0 (.750)
Paula: 8-4-0 (.667)


Drew: 12-4-4 (.700)
Paula: 10-6-4 (.600)

I will take the moral victory of having picked a Notre Dame-Penn State split, even though the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions each won on the nights opposite of what I predicted.

This week

Everyone plays this week, starting with series that begins tonight between old CCHA foes, Lake Superior State and Michigan State.

Lake Superior State at Michigan State

Drew: It’s rare that we can look at a previous result for a nonconference series that’s from the same season, but with the Spartans and Lakers meeting at the IceBreaker Tournament we can do just that. MSU downed LSSU, 4-1, two weekends ago and will want a couple of similar results to help right the ship after getting swept at Denver last weekend. Sweeps are hard to get in college hockey, but I think the Spartans will get one this week.

Paula: The Lakers (1-3-0) split a series with Northern Michigan last weekend, losing 6-3 and winning 4-0; freshman goaltender Nick Kossoff made 19 saves in that shutout, his first collegiate start. The Spartans are 70-34-14 all-time against the Lakers, 37-11-6 over LSSU in Munn Ice Arena. Under Tom Anastos, the Spartans are 3-1 in home openers. MSU is still dealing with injuries. This is a Thursday-Friday series, each game begins at 7:00 p.m., and neither game is televised.

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

American International at Penn State

Drew: American International is 0-3 and is averaging more than six goals allowed per game. All three losses have come on the road so the Yellow Jackets are definitely road weary. It won’t get any easier playing at Penn State. I see the Nittany Lions sweeping.

Paula: The Nittany Lions are 1-1-0 all-time against the Yellow Jackets. PSU is averaging 5.00 goals per game; AIC is averaging 2.33 goals per game. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday’s game begins at 3:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 4-0, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: PSU 4-1, 4-1.

Michigan vs. Union and Rensselaer

Drew: Michigan looked okay last weekend against Mercyhurst, but I’m interested in seeing the improvement from Week One to Week Two. Scoring nine goals on the weekend was a good thing for the Wolverines; giving up six was not. I believe that Michigan is still the Big Ten’s best chance at having a team that is one of the top in the country, but if its inconsistency in net persists it will be destined to being a team ranked between 10-20 and fighting for a conference title. Even so, I think the Wolverines’ offense will be enough to carry them this weekend.

Paula: Michigan and Union have met once, Nov. 27, 2011, in Yost Ice Arena, a 6-3 win for the Dutchmen. Union is 2-0-2 after a low-scoring tie and win at home against Maine last weekend, 1-1 and 2-0. Like the Wolverines, the Dutchmen have two capable goaltenders; junior Alex Sakellaropoulos registered the tie last weekend, and freshman Jake Kupsky stopped 26 shots in the shutout, his first collegiate start. The Engineers are 1-3-0 after losses to both Alaska teams in the Gold Rush last weekend. RPI is 7-5-1 against Michigan, but the last meeting between the two squads came in the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational, a 4-3 RPI victory. Friday’s game at Union begins at 7:30 p.m. and is untelevised; Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. start at Rensselaer and will be carried by Time Warner Cable Sports in New York State.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 5-3, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: I’m with Drew. A lot depends on consistency in the Michigan net. Michigan 4-3, 4-3.

Northeastern at Minnesota

Drew: The good news for the Gophers is that they’re playing a team that is also struggling to score so far this season. The bad news is that Northeastern’s struggles have resulted in five goals in three games and Minnesota has only lit the lamp once. Both teams got swept last weekend. Minnesota fell to a highly ranked Minnesota-Duluth squad and the Huskies dropped two to Bentley. As I said in the blog last Sunday, this series will tell us a lot about the Gophers. If they get swept again there will be a sense of panic in Gopherland. I think a Minnesota sweep is more likely than a Northeastern one, but a split seems more likely.

Paula: The Gophers are 8-6-0 all-time against the Huskies, 7-2-0 in Minneapolis. Most recently, Northeastern beat Minnesota, 3-2, at home Nov. 29, 2014. I’m banking completely on freshman UMN goaltender Eric Schierhorn, and I will call a Minnesota sweep. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports North Plus; Saturday’s game starts at 8:00 p.m. and is televised by Fox Sports North.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, Northeastern 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 2-1, 2-1.

Ohio State at Providence

Drew: I have had a soft spot for Ohio State since I started covering this conference and Steve Rohlik has always been one of the nicest coaches to talk to, so it’s tough to see the Buckeyes have a start that is this rough. The law of averages says that OSU will pick up a win sooner or later; it’s rare to see a team start 0-6, but it’s hard to pick anything but a Providence sweep this weekend. Ohio State hasn’t shown anything that points towards it being able to go on the road, play the No. 3 team in the nation, and win.

Paula: These teams opened the 2014-15 season against each other in Columbus, each coming away with overtime wins: OSU 5-4 (Oct. 10), Providence 2-1 (Oct. 11). Once again, there’s little more to add to what Drew has said. The Buckeyes are 0-4 — all four losses coming against their former Ohio foes, Bowling Green and Miami — and the 2-0-1 Friars defeated and tied Miami on the road Oct. 9-10 to open the current season. The games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, and each is televised by Ocean State Networks.

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

Wisconsin at Ferris State

Drew: It’s not the same as going over to Boston and playing at Boston College and Boston University, but going to Ferris State and winning is still a tall task. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Wisconsin was able to pick up a win this weekend, however. Matt Jurusik put in a strong goaltending performance against the Terriers, even though he did give up four goals, and I think he’ll carry the over to Friday and help the Badgers knock off the Bulldogs.

Paula: The Bulldogs are 1-2-1 after splitting at home last weekend against Michigan Tech. This is the first trip to Ewigleben Arena for the Badgers, but Wisconsin is 3-2-1 all-time versus Ferris State. The teams met last year in Madison, resulting in a 1-1 tie Nov. 28 and a 5-3 Wisconsin win Nov. 29 — the first two non-losses of the season for the Badgers in 2014-15. Games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, and neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 2-1, Ferris State 3-0.
Paula’s picks: FSU 3-1, 3-2.