Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 25-27

There are two B1G series this weekend and one begins tonight. First, how Drew Claussen and I are doing with the picks:

Last week
Drew: 2-3-0 (.400)
Paula: 2-3-0 (.400)

Drew: 70-46-17 (.590)
Paula: 72-44-17 (.605)

Both of us couldn’t have been more wrong about last week’s Michigan State-Wisconsin series, but props to Drew for correctly predicting the score of Michigan’s win over Ferris State.

This week

This week begins with what could be the deciding series of the season, first-place Minnesota’s two home games against second-place Michigan. Wisconsin is at Ohio State for two games, Friday and Saturday. Penn State and Michigan State aren’t playing this weekend.

Michigan at Minnesota

Drew: I don’t know why, but Minnesota doesn’t feel like a team that has won eight of its past 12 games. Maybe it’s just the two most recent games I’ve seen the Gophers play live (The North Star) sticking out more than they should, but I have a feeling that Michigan is going to roll this weekend. Michigan also has enjoyed success in its recent contests, and the Wolverines haven’t lost in regulation since the Gophers beat them at Yost in December. Minnesota is going to have to come up with a great defensive effort and keep the scoring down if it wants to pick up points this week. I’m picking a Michigan sweep.

Paula: A sweep is a bold prediction for either of these teams. I think that this weekend will result in a split, changing nothing in the relative standing of either of these teams — but helping Minnesota in the PairWise Rankings. The Golden Gophers were off last weekend while the Wolverines beat Ferris State 5-2 Friday night, a very telling game; the score was close through two periods and Michigan had to work even harder to outscore its opponent in the third period, something that’s been a Wolverines’ specialty this season.

The Wolverines took the first game between Minnesota and Michigan in Yost Ice Arena Dec. 4 by a five-goal margin, and the Gophers won by a goal the following night. There are players on each of these rosters with active scoring streaks. For Michigan, forwards JT Compher and Kyle Connor are riding 17-game point streaks into this series, and forward Tyler Motte has netted a goal in his last 12 games, the longest goal-scoring streak for a Michigan player in the Red Berenson era. For the Gophers, forward Justin Kloos is enjoying a career-best 11-game point-scoring streak. Minnesota is 5-0-0 in its last five home games against Michigan. Thursday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m., Friday’s at 8:00 p.m., and both are being televised by the Big Ten Network.

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

Wisconsin at Ohio State

Drew: I want to see Ohio State put together a complete weekend. In previous weeks the Buckeyes have had a couple solid wins against Penn State and have had close games against Michigan and Minnesota. They also had disappointing losses against basically everyone in the conference. The slogan for OSU’s 2016 campaign could be, “Close, but no cigar.” But, as we all know, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (that’s enough cliches for this week). Both of these teams seem to have found ways to drop games this season, so I’m picking a split.

Paula: This is an interesting series because both teams are playing for points, position and the chance to improve heading into the Big Ten tournament. Theoretically, Ohio State could finish in third place. Theoretically, Wisconsin could finish in fourth. Given that the Buckeyes conclude their season with series against the two Michigan teams following this weekend, it’s likely that fourth place will be on the line when Ohio State heads to East Lansing the final weekend of play. Given that Wisconsin has a single Big Ten win to its credit this season and finishes out against Penn State and Minnesota following this series with the Buckeyes, its likely that the Badgers will finish last.

Last weekend, Ohio State split a pair with Penn State, winning the final game of the season in Pegula Arena — not an easy thing to do. Wisconsin was swept at home last weekend by Michigan State. The Buckeyes are 5-3-2 all-time against the Badgers in Big Ten play. The teams last met Jan. 8-9 in Wisconsin, with OSU taking five of the six possible points. The teams split last season in Columbus. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. and it’s the early game for the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is untelevised.

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