Last night, Penn State kicked off the Division I season for B1G hockey with a 4-2 win over visiting St. Lawrence, giving me a very temporary edge over my partner-in-writing, Drew Claussen. We’ll factor in last night’s pick with our overall totals from this weekend in next Friday’s blog.
This is how we fared for the 2015-2016 Big Ten season:
Drew: 81-54-19 (.588)
Paula: 83-52-19 (.601)
Five B1G teams are in action this weekend, with Michigan State off until the Spartans travel to Lake Superior State Oct. 13-14. In addition to the St. Lawrence-Penn State series, Michigan also hosts a nonconference set against Union. Minnesota heads north for a game apiece against each of the Alaska teams, Wisconsin faces off against Northern Michigan for two games in Green Bay, and Ohio State heads to Denver for the IceBreaker Tournament.
Here’s how Drew and I called the St. Lawrence-Penn State series. Below is everything else.
Minnesota at Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska
Drew: On paper, Minnesota should best both of its opponents this weekend, but the Alaska trip has an affect on teams. Both Alaska schools were overwhelmingly picked to finish in the bottom three of the WCHA, so I’m going to say that an experienced Minnesota squad is able to fly up to the Last Frontier and take care of business.
Paula: While I’m inclined to agree — and my picks will reflect that — I still remember the Golden Gophers of a year ago, the team that took quite a long time into the season to gel and one that was plagued by the inconsistency bug. These are also the first games of the season for the Gophers, while each of the Alaska teams played and defeated Simon Fraser in exhibition last weekend. Minnesota is 57-19-8 against the Seawolves, though the squads haven’t met since the 2011-2012 season. The Gophers are 2-1-1 against the Nanooks, having first played them in 1937 and last played them in the 2005-2006 season. For a quick preseason look at the WCHA, check out Jack Hittinger and Sean Shapiro’s team capsules.
Friday’s game against Alaska-Anchorage begins at 7:07 AT at Sullivan Arena; Sunday’s game against Alaska is also being played at Sullivan and begins at 4:07 AT.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3, Alaska-Anchorage 1 and Minnesota 5, Alaska 2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 4-2.
Ohio State vs. Denver and Boston College/Air Force
Drew: If there was ever a time for Ohio State to buck its slow start trend and hit the ground running, this is it. The Buckeyes will get a highly-rated Denver team right off the bat and have the opportunity to play Boston College this weekend. Steve Rohlik’s squad has a slew of tough games to start the season, but if Ohio State can make it through that there’s some very winnable games from the end of October through November. I say the Buckeyes down Denver and fall to Boston College.
Paula: Ohio State is picked to finish second in the Big Ten because the Buckeyes return an experienced team. As Drew points out, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong start to the season. OSU is 27-23-3 all-time in season openers, so it’s really a flip of the coin. Against Denver, the Buckeyes trail 4-6-0, but the teams haven’t met since 2009. The Buckeyes are 2-4-0 against BC all-time, but defeated the Eagles in the semifinal game of last season’s Florida College Hockey Classic en route to that tournament’s title. OSU is 14-6-0 against Air Force, but the teams haven’t met since 1994.
Check out Jack and Sean’s WCHA team capsules for a look at Denver. Jim Connelly and Dave Hendrickson have the short look at each Hockey East team, and Chris Lerch and Dan Rubin preview Atlantic Hockey.
Friday’s game against Denver begins at 7:30 p.m. MT in Magness Arena. According to Denver’s schedule, the Pioneers play the late game Saturday regardless of opponent, so Ohio State will play the early game at 4:30 p.m.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4, Denver 2 and Boston College 5, Ohio State 2.
Paula’s picks: Total homer pick, even though I think that Denver emerges with the title. OSU 3-2, 3-2.
Wisconsin vs. Northern Michigan
Drew: If the Badgers want to prove that they’re a different team under Tony Granato this season, a sweep of a team picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the WCHA would be a good start. I predict a good performance from Wisconsin’s returning forwards and Matt Jurusik doing well enough to win two close games.
Paula: I don’t think I’m confident enough in the Badgers to call a Wisconsin sweep. I’m sure Wisconsin will be fiery in the opening weekend, but I’ve learned never to discount the Wildcats. Each of these teams played the University of Victoria in exhibition last weekend and each team won 10-1, so that’s really no help. The Badgers are 47-29-8 all-time against the Wildcats, but are 5-7-3 vs. Northern Michigan in the last 15 meetings. Early last October, the teams skated to back-to-back ties in the Kohl Center. Again, Jack and Sean have the WCHA team capsules for a look at Northern.
Games are at 7:07 CT Friday and Saturday in Green Bay’s Resch Center.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 4-3, 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, Northern Michigan 3-2.
Union at Michigan
Drew: The loss of Cooper Marody for half of a season certainly doesn’t help things in Ann Arbor. That means that the Wolverines will have to lean even more on unproven players, including a freshman group that Red Berenson himself said did not include a Dylan Larkin or Kyle Connor-like recruit. Michigan also lost two defensemen to the pros, and its defense was nothing to write home about last season with those two skaters in the fold. To complete the hat trick of problems, it also has a question mark in net. I believe that the Wolverines will take a large step back this season, but I think they’ll split at home this weekend.
Paula: The Wolverines are one big question mark this season, a young and unproven team that can mean one of two things — youthful energy that helps to propel a talented team early, or a team that will struggle all season to find a cohesive identity. It’s impossible to predict with Michigan. Union leads this series 1-0-1, with the teams having tied 5-5 in Schenectady last season. These are the first games of the year for the Dutchmen, while the Wolverines warmed up with a 2-0 exhibition win over Windsor last weekend. Nate Owen and Michael Leboff have a little more about Union in their ECAC preseason capsules.
Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. in Yost. Saturday’s 5:00 p.m. game will also heighten awareness of ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Former Wolverine Scott Matzka, who assisted on the overtime goal to secure Michigan’s 1998 national championship, was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. Matzka will participate in a ceremonial puck drop before Saturday’s game.
Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, Union 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 3-2, 3-2.
On the Twitters
Follow Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston and @PaulaBonaFide) throughout the season. I’ll be live-tweeting from Yost Arena tonight.