Pickin’ the Big Ten: Dec. 11-12

It’s the second weekend of Big Ten league play, yet the last weekend of conference play before the first half ends. Here’s how Drew Claussen and I have been doing so far.

Last week
Drew: 4-1-1 (.750)
Paula: 3-2-1 (.583)

Drew: 43-22-13 (.635)
Paula: 44-21-13 (.647)

This week

There are two conference series reminiscent of the old College Hockey Showcase, as the league’s two former WCHA teams visit the league’s two former Michigan CCHA teams. I am lucky enough to be able to see one of each of these this weekend. In Hockey Valley, Guy Gadowsky hosts the program he left for Penn State in a single game Friday night. Ohio State if off until Dec. 28.

Minnesota at Michigan

Drew: I feel like I’m beating the “Michigan’s defense needs to step up” angle to death, but it’s the most glaring weakness on the team and the main reason it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in the Wolverines. Being at Yost helps the Wolverines this weekend because the Gophers haven’t enjoyed much recent success in that building. If Minnesota can find a way to slow down Michigan’s high-powered offense it will have a shot to take the majority of the points this weekend, but if there are two high-scoring games I don’t like the Gophers chances.

Paula: I agree completely, and would also add that this is a critical series for each of these teams — in spite of how early this is in the season. The Gophers won two overtime home games against the Buckeyes last weekend, 3-2 and 5-4. At home last weekend, the Wolverines came out five points ahead of Wisconsin in a wild pair of games in which the teams exchanged a large number of goals, winning 6-4 Friday and tying 6-6 Saturday with the extra shootout point. It’s team defense for the Wolverines, and it’s a bit of a mystery. It’s also team defense for the Gophers, but that is largely related to young team finding its way. The teams last met in the Big Ten Championship game March 21, a 4-2 Minnesota win. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and is televised by the Big Ten Network; Saturday’s game starts at 8:35 p.m. and is carried by ESPNews.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, Michigan 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 4-3, 4-3.

Wisconsin at Michigan State

Drew: If the Badgers can somehow score 10 goals again this weekend I think they will come away with more than one point. Even with a struggling Jake Hildebrand in net, I don’t know if that will happen. In my opinion, this one has split written all over it, so I’m not going to overthink it and pick one.

Paula: Again, I concur with my esteemed colleague. There’s something going on defensively at Michigan State — something very unusual for the Spartans — and it couldn’t happen at a worse time for the Spartans or a better time for B1G opponents. The Badgers put up 10 goals against the Wolverines last weekend in that loss and tie, and during the first period of Friday’s game, Wisconsin was utterly dominant. The Spartans allowed 10 goals in two road losses to Penn State, 6-2 and 4-1. The Spartans are trying to break a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1), having last won Nov. 7 when they swept New Hampshire at home. The Badgers are trying to break a five-game winless streak (0-3-2), having last won Nov. 6 against North Dakota. According to UW’s records, these will be the 99th and 100th meetings between the teams. The Spartans were 3-1-0 against the Badgers last season. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m., Saturday’s at 2:30 p.m., and both games will be televised by Comcast.

Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 4-1, Michigan State 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, 3-2.

Princeton at Penn State

Drew: Princeton is coming off of a nice win over Yale, but the Tigers are still near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to scoring. After their performance last weekend, I can’t pick against the Nittany Lions.

Paula: This is the first meeting between the programs. This single Friday night game begins at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s pick: Penn State 4-2.
Paula’s pick: Penn State 5-2.