So far, B1G Hockey has had a solid start to the 2016-2017 season. Here’s how Drew Claussen and I have started.
Drew: 3-3-1 (.500)
Paula: 4-2-1 (.643)
Drew: 8-7-2 (.529)
Paula: 10-5-2 (.647)
Five Big Ten teams are in action this weekend, each playing two-game Friday-Saturday series. Wisconsin is playing the U.S. Developmental team in a single exhibition game Friday night. All times are local.
No. 6 Denver at Michigan State
Drew: Even with the home ice advantage, I saw nothing last weekend to convince me that the Spartans have a shot at upsetting Denver this weekend.
Paula: This will be a telling week for the Spartans, who were outscored 13-4 in two road losses to Lake Superior State last weekend. Denver (2-2-0) swept Boston University last weekend, 4-3 and 3-1. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. in Munn Ice Arena, with the Saturday game starting at 5:00 p.m. Neither game is televised.
Drew’s picks: Denver 4-0, 6-2.
Paula’s picks: Denver 4-2, 4-2.
Michigan Tech at No. Michigan
Drew: After eking out a 2-1 road win over Ferris State last weekend, the Wolverines will return home to face another in-state rival. Like Bowling Green, Michigan Tech has to be desperate to add a few more wins to its name. The Huskies started their season at 0-4 following sweeps at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State and managed a win and tie against Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. Of course, these games carry some extra weight since Tech coach Mel Pearson was an assistant at Michigan from 1988 to 2011. I see this one ending in a split, which I will probably pick the wrong way.
Paula: I, too, see a split — which I, too, will probably pick the wrong way. Last year, the Wolverines beat the Huskies in the title game of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament, 4-2. In 2014-2015, though, Michigan traveled to Houghton and lost two lopsided games to Michigan Tech, 4-1 and 6-2, before beating the Huskies in a GLI semifinal game, 2-1. There is a lot of history between these teams. Games both nights at Yost Ice Arena begin at 7:30 p.m.
Drew’s picks: Michigan Tech 5-3, Michigan 4-2.
Paula’s picks: MTU 3-2, UM 3-2.
No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 14 St. Cloud State
Drew: I actually watched both of St. Cloud’s games against Minnesota State last weekend and the Huskies looked shaky. Whether that can be chalked up to an opening-weekend anomaly or something bigger will be answered at a later date. The Gophers exhibition game should have kept any rust from forming, despite taking a week off from official competition after their opening weekend. St. Cloud has two young goaltenders, so if Minnesota can pounce on them early it will put itself in a great position. If either team does manage a sweep, I think it will be the Gophers, but I’m going with each team winning their home game.
Paula: I think this weekend will show us how good Minnesota really is. St. Cloud swept Minnesota Mariucci Arena in late November last season, 3-2 and 7-4. The Gophers are hoisting the regular season Big Ten banner before Friday’s game, the kind of thing that always boosts emotions — for better or worse. Friday’s game in Marriucci begins at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s rematch begins at 7:07 p.m. in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Both games will be televised by Fox Sports North and Fox College Sports.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota 4-3, St. Cloud State 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 4-3, 4-3.
No. 19 Ohio State vs. Bowling Green
Drew: Ohio State will encounter a desperate opponent this weekend. With an 0-3-1 start, the Falcons have had the type of start that the Buckeyes have been burdened with the past couple seasons. The Buckeyes are off to a good start, not having tasted defeat in their first three games, and coach Steve Rohlik just received a nice contract extension this week. I think Ohio State will extend its road warrior streak going on Friday night before dropping a close game in its home opener.
Paula: Drew knows the Buckeyes well; it would be a very Ohio State thing to win on the road and lose at home. The Falcons lead this all-time series 97-74-9, and BGSU swept OSU in a home-and-home series to begin the 2015-2016 season, 6-3 in Columbus and 2-0 in Bowling Green. This is another series, though, that can define a Big Ten teams’s entire season. Friday’s game begins at 8:07 p.m. in the BGSU Ice Arena, Saturday’s starts at 7:00 p.m. at Value City Arena, and neither game is televised.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-1, Bowling Green 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 2-1, 3-2.
Penn State at No. 3 Notre Dame
Drew: Penn State has already notched a win against a ranked opponent and gotten its first road win of the season, but its most difficult nonconfernce test will be this weekend. Notre Dame split with highly-ranked Minnesota-Duluth on the road last weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nittany Lions stole one this weekend, but I’m picking an Irish sweep.
Paula: I see this series exactly the same way — and not because of the Nittany Lions, but because of the much-improved Fighting Irish. These teams met last season, splitting a pair of games mid-October games in Pegula Ice Arena in which the teams combined for 19 total goals. I can see Penn State winning one of these, too, but I’m not calling it that way.
Drew’s picks: Notre Dame 4-3, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Notre Dame 3-2, 4-2.
Follow both Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston and @PaulaBonaFide) on Twitter. I’ll be live-tweeting tonight from Munn Ice Arena.
Apologies for not mentioning Wisconsin when the blog was published Friday. Drew and I don’t pick exhibition games.