It’s the most wonderful time of the year! In other words, Big Ten league play begins this week! B1G Hockey is 42-22-9 in nonconference play to start the season, with a Division I-leading .637 win percentage.
This is how Drew Claussen and I are doing so far.
Drew: 3-4-1 (.438)
Paula: 3-4-1 (.438)
Drew: 37-25-9 (.585)
Paula: 40-22-9 (.627)
There are two Big Ten series, there is one nonconference series and Michigan State plays the U.S. Developmental Team in exhibition Sunday afternoon. All times are local.
No. 20 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State
Drew: Penn State has averaged five goals per contest during its nine-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions lead the nation with an average of 4.77 goals per game this season. Michigan, which struggled mightily on defense last year, seems to have shored things up this season as it is allowing 2.17 goals per contest. So we have the best offense going against an improved defense. I’m giving the advantage to the offense. Michigan is still semi-unsettled in net and I think Penn State will be able to outgun the Wolverines at home this weekend.
Paula: The Wolverines lead this all-time series 8-6-0 and have won the last five contests between the teams, but Penn State holds a 3-2-0 advantage in State College. The teams last met in Big Ten playoff semifinal action, with Michigan winning 7-4. This may be a defining series for each team, for the whole B1G season. Penn State ends a 10-game home stand this weekend. Thursday’s contest begins at 6:30 p.m. and is televised by ESPNU. Friday’s contest starts at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised.
Drew’s picks: Penn State 4-2, 5-4.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 4-2, Michigan 4-3.
No. 10 Ohio State at No. 11 Minnesota
Drew: The Gophers are 2-3-1 in Friday games this season. Only one of those losses, against St. Cloud State in late October, has been followed up by another loss, but slow starts are an area of concern for the Gophers this season. I could see this weekend going the same way. Ohio State has gotten off to fast starts in its games this season, so I could see the Buckeyes grabbing the first two goals in Friday’s contest and holding on for the road victory.
Paula: Minnesota’s lose-win pattern is why I’m picking similarly. Minnesota owns this all-time series with a 24-3-1 record against Ohio State, and the Gophers have won the last six meetings between the teams, five of which were played last season. Minnesota beat Ohio State in last year’s Big Ten semifinals. Friday’s game in Mariucci Arena begins at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s rematch at 7:00 p.m. will be televised by Fox Sports North Plus.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-2, Minnesota 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, Minnesota 3-2.
Omaha at Wisconsin
Drew: The Badgers have split all four of the series in which they have played the same opponent twice this season. I see that happening again this weekend at home. Wisconsin is good enough to not get swept, but too inconsistent to sweep.
Paula: The Mavericks are 7-5-2 but 1-2-1 in their last four, including last week’s tie and win versus Northern Michigan. Friday’s game at the Kohl Center begins at 7:37 p.m. and is carried by American Sports Network. Saturday’s game starts at 8:07 p.m. and is televised by The Wisconsin Channel.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 4-2, Omaha 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Omaha 3-2, Wisconsin 3-2.