Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 5-7

With 2018 in full swing, there are three B1G series on tap this weekend and a highly anticipated tilt between St. Cloud and Minnesota. First, how Drew Claussen and I are heading into the new year.

Last week

Drew: 7-1-0 (.875)
Paula: 5-3-0 (.625)

This season

Drew: 60-35-9 (.620)
Paula: 65-30-9 (.668)

This week

Everyone plays. All times are local.

No. 2 Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Drew: Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten are probably hoping that Notre Dame cooled off over the holiday break. The Wolverines went 1-1 at the GLI last weekend, giving up 10 goals over the two games. I like the Irish to keep their streak going for another week.

Paula: These two teams have a long history, and fans of both programs are eager to see the rivalry renewed. Michigan leads the all-time series 75-54-5, but the last two meetings between these programs were especially meaningful. Michigan won the last time out, a 3-2 overtime victory March 25, 2016, in the NCAA Midwest Regional. The time before that, though, belongs to Notre Dame and is historic, with the Fighting Irish capturing the last-ever CCHA playoff championship March 24, 2013, a 3-1 win in Joe Louis Arena. Like Drew, I see no reason to call against Notre Dame until they lose — although I can see the Wolverines somehow stealing one this weekend if their goaltending and team defense are steady. Both of these games are televised, which is very good news. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. in Yost Ice Arena following a dedication of the rink to Red Berenson. That game is carried by the Big Ten Network. Sunday’s 3:05 p.m. rematch in the Compton Family Ice Arena is televised by NBC Sports.

Drew’s picks: Notre Dame 4-2, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Notre Dame 3-1, 4-1.

No. 8 Ohio State at Michigan State

Drew: After a better-than-expected start to the season, Michigan State has now dropped five of its last six games. The Spartans will welcome an opponent that ended the first half on a high note by sweeping Minnesota at home. Michigan State is 7-3 at home this season, with two of those losses coming to Notre Dame, so it is a tough opponent on home ice. I’ll pick a split.

Paula: The Spartans lead this all-time series 87-38-12, but the Buckeyes are 7-2-1 against Michigan State in their last 10 meetings. Last year, Ohio State was 4-1-0 against Michigan State and the Buckeyes are 3-0-1 in the last four games the teams played in East Lansing, most recently having swept the Spartans in February. In 10 of the last 11 meetings, the games have been decided by two or fewer goals, with one goal separating the teams in six of those contests. The Buckeyes are 7-1-1 on the road this season. Games are Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Munn Ice Arena. Neither is televised.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 6-3, Michigan State 2-1.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-1, 3-1.

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 14 Penn State

Drew: I think this series has the potential to turn out like Wisconsin’s series at Minnesota in early December, with two close and entertaining games. Both offenses have the ability to score so it’ll come down to which defense and goaltender can limit the damage. I’ll pick a split.

Paula: The Nittany Lions ride an eight-game unbeaten streak into this series (6-0-2). The Badgers were 3-4-1 in their last eight games of the first half. Neither team has played a game since Dec. 9, a break of 26 days. The Nittany Lions are 5-3-1 at home; the Badgers are 4-2-0 on the road. Penn State is 13-8-0 all-time versus Wisconsin and the teams split a high-scoring series the last time they met in Pegula Ice Arena, a 7-4 Wisconsin win and 6-0 Penn State win. A split seems like a logical choice. Games are Friday and Saturday at 7:07 p.m., and the Big Ten Network has Saturday’s game.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 6-4, Wisconsin 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 3-2, Wisconsin 3-2.

No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State

Drew: Luckily the Vikings got a bye in the playoffs, because if they didn’t this Sunday game at Mariucci could have been sparsely-attended. The Gophers are coming off a sweep of Army at home and St. Cloud is coming off of two road ties at Princeton. The Huskies are No. 1 for a reason, and I think they’ll pull off a sweep of their in-state rivals this weekend.

Paula: The Golden Gophers lead this all-time series 54-33-12 but the Huskies have taken the last five from the Gophers, dating back to Oct. 31, 2014, and by collectively outscoring Minnesota 23-14. The last time the Gophers beat the Huskies was 4-3 overtime home win Nov. 1, 2014. Sometimes, one team just has another’s number and I think it would take a lot for Minnesota to overcome that this weekend. Minnesota hosts Saturday’s game in Mariucci Arena at 6:37 p.m. That game will be televised by CBS Sports. Sunday’s game in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center begins at 6:07 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports North.

Drew’s picks: St. Cloud State 5-3, 3-2.
Paula’s picks: St. Cloud State 4-3, 4-3.

Tweeting from happy places

I’ll be braving the cold this weekend, heading to Yost Ice Arena Friday and Munn Ice Arena Saturday. Sunday, I’ll be losing my mind (from the comfort of my own living room) as my Buffalo Bills play postseason for the first time since the last time Santana topped the music charts. (It was “Smooth.” Saved you a Google search.) You can follow me on Twitter (@paulacweston) all weekend long. Be kind to me on Sunday. I will likely be in need of kindness.