And just like that, it’s a brand new season. While Drew Claussen and I were otherwise engaged in writing our Big Ten season preview last week, Wisconsin was busy beating Michigan Tech, 3-2. We’re not counting that game in our picks blog.
Here’s how we finished the regular season last year:
Drew: 82-50-15 (.609)
Paula: 82-50-15 (.609)
If I were a betting woman, I’d put money on Drew this season. Time will tell.
Five B1G Ten teams will open regular-season play, six teams will play games that count and Michigan State hosts Toronto in exhibition play. All times are local. The most exciting thing about this weekend? There is actual Big Ten conference play and it’s only the second weekend of the season.
No. 19 Ohio State at No. 12 Wisconsin
Drew: It should be interesting having a conference series this early in the season. Wisconsin comes in with the advantage of having played a real game this season and having home-ice advantage. I think Ohio State should be a decent middle-of-the-conference-standings-type team this year, but this looks set up to be a Wisconsin sweep. I say Wisconsin takes advantage of an unsettled Ohio State goaltending situation and wins one close game and one blowout.
Paula: Isn’t this delicious? B1G hockey right now? And Drew is calling against Ohio State? The Badgers were picked third in the preseason coaches poll and the Buckeyes fifth. Wisconsin is 17-9-3 all-time against Ohio State but 5-8-3 against the Buckeyes in Big Ten play. Last season, Wisconsin was 3-2-0 vs. Ohio State, with that rubber match counting the most, a 2-1 win in the Big Ten tournament. These teams will also end their regular season facing off against each other in Columbus. Friday’s game, carried by Fox Sports Wisconsin begins at 7:07 p.m. Saturday’s game starts at 5:07 p.m. and is untelevised.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 5-2, 4-3.
Paula’s picks: Wisconsin 5-2, Ohio State 3-2.
No. 3 Minnesota at No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth and vs. Union/Michigan Tech
Drew: I think the Gophers have more talent than Minnesota-Duluth this season and if this game was later in the season or a home contest for Minnesota, I would pick them. That being said, I’m going with the Bulldogs to open their season at home with a win in a close game. Whether they play Union or Michigan Tech in the second game, and I’ll pick Tech to win the other Friday match up just for kicks, and I believe the Gophers will win on Saturday.
Paula: This is the 21st annual Ice Breaker Tournament, hosted by Duluth at AMSOIL Arena, and it’s a strong field that should produce a good weekend of hockey. Minnesota is picked first in the B1G preseason coaches poll. The Bulldogs are picked fourth in the preseason NCHC poll. Union is picked sixth in the ECAC coaches poll and tied for sixth in the ECAC media poll. Michigan Tech is third in the WCHA preseason poll. My favorite note of the week: Friday’s game is the 232nd meeting all-time between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers lead this series 134-80-17, but the Bulldogs beat the Gophers 3-2 when they met Jan. 27, 2017.
The last time Minnesota played Union was in the 2014 NCAA championship game, a 7-4 Union win. Should the Gophers face the Huskies Saturday, it will be the first time the teams have met since they both belonged to the WCHA. They split a two-game set in October 2012.
Friday’s game against Duluth begins at 7:37 p.m. and is televised by KBJR-DT2, Channel 6.2/Charter 9. Regardless of their opponent, the Gophers play at 4:07 p.m. Saturday and the game is not televised.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 over Minnesota, Minnesota 4-1 over Union.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, Minnesota 3-2.
Alabama-Huntsville at No. 8 Notre Dame
Drew: Don’t really see anything other than an Irish sweep here. Any other result would be massively disappointing for Notre Dame.
Paula: I agree. The Chargers finished ninth in the WCHA last season, which is where they’re picked to finish this season. Notre Dame is 6-1-0 against UAH all-time and the teams last met in 2014, when the Irish outscored the Chargers 12-1 in a two-game sweep. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m., and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: Notre Dame 4-2, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Notre Dame 3-2, 5-1.
Michigan at St. Lawrence and Clarkson
Drew: I do believe Mel Pearson will get Michigan back on track eventually, but this season is looking like it could be a down one in Ann Arbor. Michigan and St. Lawrence have played 15 times over the years, but this will be the first time that the Wolverines will travel to Canton, New York since 1959. Michigan has won eight consecutive games against the Saints, but I’m going to say that ends this weekend.
Paula: The Saints were picked to finish seventh in the ECAC by the coaches in the preseason poll, eighth by the media. The Golden Knights were picked fourth by the coaches, fifth by the media. Michigan is 12-2-1 against St. Lawrence, but the teams haven’t met since 2011; the Wolverines are 3-1-0 against the Golden Knights, but the teams haven’t met since 2008. I think everything depends on Michigan’s goaltending this weekend, and I’m going to call against common sense. The Wolverines play the Saints Friday and the Golden Knights Saturday. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: St. Lawrence 3-2 over Michigan, Michigan 4-2 over Clarkson.
Paula’s picks: Michigan sweeps 3-2, 3-2.
No. 10 Penn State at Clarkson and St. Lawrence
Drew: Both of these opponents finished with winning records last season, so this should be a tough road test for Penn State. Clarkson is missing its top four scorers from last year, so I think the Nittany Lions will be able to out-gun the Golden Knights on opening night. On Saturday, I’ll pick Penn State to get edged in a high-scoring affair.
Paula: This series is the flip side of the B1G road trip to New York’s North Country. The Nittany Lions and Golden Knights have met just once, when Penn State beat Clarkson 5-1 during the 2015 Three Rivers Classic. St. Lawrence leads Penn State 2-1-1 all-time, but that PSU win was last season’s home opener in Pegula Arena. I honestly don’t know how the Nittany Lions will fare this season and I like both of these ECAC teams. Penn State plays Clarkson Friday and St. Lawrence Saturday. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: Penn State 5-2 over Clarkson, St. Lawrence 5-4 over Penn State.
Paula’s picks: Clarkson 4-3, Penn State 3-2.