Pickin’ the Big Ten holiday style, Dec. 28-Jan. 2

It’s holiday tournament time! Everyone plays for midseason glory except for Wisconsin, who plays a single exhibition game against Trinity Western University Jan. 1. Picks records for Drew Claussen and me first.

Dec. 19
Drew: 0-1-0 (.000)
Paula: 0-1-0 (.000)

Drew: 44-27-13 (.601)
Paula: 47-24-13 (.637)

Both Drew and I picked Michigan State to beat Northeastern Dec. 19.

This week

On Monday, Ohio State faces Boston College first in the Florida College Classic while Penn State faces off against Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic. The Great Lakes Invitational begins Tuesday, with Michigan State playing Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan playing Michigan. The Mariucci Classic begins Friday, with host Minnesota taking on Connecticut. Be sure to check out USCHO’s front page for previews.

Florida College Classic
Estero, Florida
December 28-29

Drew: After another tough start to the season Ohio State gets to play Boston College down in Florida this year, and if the Buckeyes do manage to down the Eagles, a possible showdown with Providence would await them in the championship game. I don’t see the Buckeyes taking down Boston College, but I think they’ll come back from Florida with a win.

Paula: The Buckeyes are 3-4-1 in this tournament all time. OSU is 1-4-0 against BC all time, having last played the Eagles March 29, 2003, a 1-0 Boston College win in NCAA regional tournament play. The Buckeyes finished the first half of the season with a four-game losing streak. During the break, OSU picked up a defenseman, Matt Joyaux, a junior who played with Miami (2013-2015) before spending time with two USHL teams, Omaha Lancers (2014-2015) and most recently the Chicago Steel. This tournament isn’t televised. OSU plays BC at 7:30 Monday night; games are at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Drew’s picks: Boston College over Ohio State 5-1, Ohio State over Cornell 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Buckeyes losing to BC, 4-2, and to whomever they play the second night, 3-2.

Three Rivers Classic
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
December 28-29

Drew: If I had to bet on a Big Ten team to win its holiday tournament, my money would go on Penn State this year. I think the Nittany Lions take care of Robert Morris and meet Massachusetts-Lowell in the championship game. If that happens, the Penn State-Lowell game should be a good one.

Paula: This is one tough field and a real barometer for the Nittany Lions. There’s not one team in this field that should be overlooked. PSU is 2-3-0 against RMU all time. The teams are tied for second nationally in scoring offense, each averaging 4.38 goals per game, and the difference defensively — 2.31 goals per game for PSU, 2.69 for RMU — is negligible. The Colonials were runners-up in last year’s Classic while the Nittany Lions came in fourth. Penn State has a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) on the line, having last lost Oct. 30; Robert Morris is 2-2 in its last four games. This tournament is not televised. Monday’s game begins at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday’s games are at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Penn State over Robert Morris 5-3, Penn State over Massachusetts-Lowell 4-3.
Paula’s picks: Penn State wins out, 5-4, 4-2.

Great Lakes Invitational
Detroit, Michigan
December 29-30

Drew: This year the GLI features two teams from the Big Ten and two from the WCHA, and both conferences would love to pick up a couple more nonconference wins. I’m leaning towards the WCHA teams in this one, as Michigan’s suspect defense is down a defenseman because of the World Juniors tournament and the Spartans’ recent performances haven’t inspired me. I think Michigan edges Northern Michigan and falls to Michigan Tech in the championship game.

Paula: The Wolverines are the defending GLI champs and have 16 titles to their credit; the Spartans have 12 titles, the Huskies have 10 and the Wildcats have none in their five GLI appearances. Michigan enters the tournament 2-1-1 in their last four, all in Big Ten conference play. The Spartans have one win in their last 10 games (1-8-1). This tournament is televised on Fox Sports Detroit. Games begin at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday.

Drew’s picks: Michigan Tech over Michigan State 4-1, Michigan over Northern Michigan 5-4. Michigan Tech over Michigan 5-3 and Northern Michigan over Michigan State 4-3.
Paula’s picks: I have Michigan winning out, 5-3 and 5-3, and the Spartans losing two close games, 3-2 and 3-2.

Mariucci Classic
Minneapolis, Minnesota
January 1-2

Drew: Minnesota’s season so far has can be boiled down to the team taking a step or two forward one weekend and then taking a step or two, or three, back the next. That combined with the fact that the Gophers don’t have a history of success in their own tournament makes it hard for me to pick two wins this weekend. I think the Gophers will struggle against UConn and win a close game against Ferris State on Saturday.

Paula: Ferris State was the runner-up two years ago in the Mariucci Classic, while Minnesota finished third last year and the year before. The last year in which the Golden Gophers captured their own tournament was 2012, an 8-1 win over Boston College. While I don’t see any such lopsided victory for the Gophers this time, I have a feeling they will take their tournament, no matter who they play in the title game. It’s a long shot, to be sure, but I think the young Gophers are beginning to come together. Minnesota plays both 7:00 p.m. games, Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game is televised by Fox Sports North.

Drew’s picks: Connecticut over Minnesota 4-2, Minnesota over Ferris State 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 3-2.