It’s only mid-October and already there are games on the schedule that could have significant conference implications five months from now. Six of the league’s seven teams play this weekend, including a two-game Penn State-Minnesota series. First, though, a look at how Drew Claussen and I did last week with our first picks of the season.
Ah, I was bitten by the wrong-way splits on the first full weekend of the season.
Penn State travels to Minneapolis for a Friday-Sunday conference series, but the marquee series featuring a B1G team may be the two-game set in South Bend between Denver and Notre Dame. Everyone plays but Michigan this week. All times listed here are local.
No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Minnesota
Drew: Both of these teams come into this series with a 1-1 record after facing two different opponents last weekend. Penn State got its shots last weekend but ran into a very strong goaltender on Friday night. The Gophers lost to Minnesota-Duluth, again, but rebounded to beat Union in a neutral-site game on Saturday. Minnesota should have a pretty big advantage at home, but I’m going to give Penn State the advantage in the Sunday afternoon game.
Paula: The Gophers are 13-4-0 all-time against Penn State, including a 7-1-0 record versus the Nittany Lions in Mariucci Arena. While Penn State has won its last three consecutive conference-opening games, the Nittany Lions were outscored 20-9 by the Golden Gophers in four regular-season contests in 2016-2017. I’m going with the odds. Friday’s game begins at 7:07 p.m., Sunday’s at 3:07 p.m., and both are televised by Fox Sports North.
Drew’s picks: Minnesota 5-3, Penn State 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 4-2.
No. 1 Denver at No. 4 Notre Dame
Drew: This should be a very fun series, and it’s great for college hockey that both games are being broadcast nationally. Notre Dame has the advantage of having played two more competitive games than Denver and of being at home. I could actually see one or both of these games ending in a tie, but picking ties is boring, so I’m going to be bold and pick Notre Dame to sweep the defending champs.
Paula: The Irish saw their 2016-2017 season end with a 6-1 loss to Denver in NCAA semifinal play April 6. Prior to that, the teams tied twice — 1-1 and 2-2 — in Denver Jan. 1-2, 2016. I’m not as bold as Drew is, so I’m calling a split. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 6:05 p.m., and both are televised by NBC Sports.
Drew’s picks: Notre Dame 3-2, 4-2.
Paula: Notre Dame 3-2, Denver 3-2.
Michigan State vs. Bowling Green
Drew: A team with something to prove playing for a new coach could give Michigan State some hope this weekend, but the Spartans are playing a decent team that had a disappointing start to its season so there is plenty to play for. I’m on the fence between picking a Falcons sweep and a split, so I’ll play it safe and pick each team to win their home game.
Paula: There is nothing about this series that I do not love. Michigan State leads the all-time series between these two former CCHA foes, 76-30-9, and the teams haven’t played each other since their old CCHA days, when they split a home-and-home series in early February 2013. I suspect similar results this weekend, although I can see a BGSU sweep as well. Friday’s game in Bowling Green begins at 7:37 p.m., Saturday’s game in East Lansing starts at 7:05 p.m., and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: Bowling Green 4-1, Michigan State 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Bowling Green, 3-2, Michigan State 3-2.
Rensselaer at Ohio State
Drew: I really liked the way Ohio State played last weekend. Sean Romeo was decent in net and it led to a split with a very good Wisconsin team. If the Buckeyes can get productivity out of their defense and goaltender all season it will go a long way because I think their offense will be able to put up some goals. I like Ohio State to pick up a couple wins this weekend.
Paula: Like Drew, I would like to see a Buckeye team with solid defense and consistent goaltending, because I think that would be a team to contend with. Romeo, a transfer from the University of Maine, was comfortable enough last week to give Ohio State some confidence. These are the first games of the season for the Engineers. OSU swept RPI on the road in last season in November. Friday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m., Saturday’s game begins at 4:05 p.m., and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-2, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 4-2.
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 13 Boston College and Merrimack
Drew: The Badgers have looked good this season, despite Friday’s loss to Ohio State. Their scoring has been spread out and for the first time since Joel Rumpel’s junior season, the goaltending position seems pretty stable. I feel like Boston College might have the slight edge on Friday night because of the game’s location, but this just has the look of a game this is going to be close. I’ll pick the Badgers to edge the Eagles on Friday and use that momentum to blow out Merrimack on Saturday.
Paula: Wisconsin hosted both the Eagles and the Warriors last season, each series resulting in a split. The Badgers beat BC, 3-1, Oct. 14 before dropping the Oct. 16 rematch 8-5. Wisconsin beat Merrimack 3-2 Nov. 18 before losing 2-0 the following night. Boston College leads the all-time series against Wisconsin, 15-10-0, while the Badgers have a 2-1-0 edge all-time against the Warriors. Wisconsin plays BC Friday and Merrimack Saturday. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. and neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: Wisconsin 3-2, 5-1.
Paula’s picks: Boston College 3-2, Wisconsin 3-2.
In the Twittersphere
You can follow Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter this season. There is a chance that I’ll be tweeting live from East Lansing Saturday night when the Falcons play the Spartans.