Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 3-5

17 MAR 2018: Tanner Laczynski (OSU - 9), Cal Burke (ND - 11). The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Ohio State University in the 2018 B1G Championship at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, IN.  (Rachel Lewis - USCHO) (Rachel Lewis/©Rachel Lewis)Happy New Year, everyone! We have one more weekend of nonconference play before the battle for the Big Ten title resumes in earnest. First, let’s look at how Drew Claussen and I enter the second half of our season-long picks battle. (Hint: He’s winning by a lot.)

Last week
Drew: 4-3-0 (.571)
Paula: 4-3-0 (.571)

This season
Drew: 58-32-6 (.635)
Paula: 50-40-6 (.552)

This week

There are two nonconference series this weekend plus the Fortress Invitational in Las Vegas. Drew did a great job this week outlining why that tournament is so important to Ohio State. All times are local.

Niagara at No. 8 Penn State
Friday at 7:00 p.m., Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

The Purple Eagles ended their first half by going 3-1-2 in their last six games, most recently having played on the road against American International Dec. 13-14, a 3-1 loss and 0-0 tie. Penn State ended the first half with a road split against Notre Dame, a 4-2 win and 3-0 loss, and the Nittany Lions went 3-3-0 in their last six games. Penn State is 4-0-1 against Niagara all time, with 8-2 and 4-1 wins last season. Both games are at Pegula Ice Arena.

Drew: Penn State 5-2, 4-1
Paula: Penn State 4-1, 4-1

No. 19 Western Michigan vs. No. 15 Notre Dame
Friday at 7:00 p.m., Sunday at 5:05 p.m.

This is Western Michigan’s first action in a month, having ended the season with a home sweep at the hands of North Dakota — a tough 1-0 OT loss and an 8-2 smacking. The Broncos are 2-4-0 in their last six. Notre Dame ended its first half with a home split against Penn State, a 4-2 loss and 3-0 win. That win Dec. 14 halted a six-game losing streak and seven-game winless streak for the Fighting Irish. In this series between former CCHA rivals, Western Michigan leads all-time 43-37-11, but the Irish are 5-2-3 against the Broncos in the last 10 meetings. This home-and-home series has Notre Dame hosting Friday and Western Michigan hosting Sunday.

Drew: Notre Dame 3-1, 3-2
Paula: Notre Dame 3-2, 3-2

No. 2 Cornell vs. No. 6 Ohio State
No. 14 Providence/No. 20 Army vs. Ohio State
Friday at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m.

This is a very exciting field for this tournament hosted by the Las Vegas Knights in T-Mobile Arena, something Jimmy Connelly and I discussed in this week’s TMQ. Ohio State’s first opponent, Cornell (10-1-0), tops the ECAC standings. Cornell began its season with a 10-game winning streak, with its lone loss the last game the Big Red played in the first half, 2-1 to Dartmouth. The Buckeyes are 7-6-0 all-time against Cornell, but they’ve played just once in the last 14 years, an 8-0 Ohio State win in the 2015 Everblades Holiday Classic title game.

Depending on the outcome of the Cornell-Ohio State game, the Buckeyes will face either Providence (10-5-4) or Army (13-5-1). The Friars, who are in first place in Hockey East, played most recently in the Catamount Cup (Dec. 28-29), a 2-1 OT win over Lake Superior State and a 1-1 tie against Union. Including those games, the Friars are 4-1-1 in their last six. The Friars are 4-3-0 against the Buckeyes, with the teams exchanging overtime wins the last time they met for a series in Columbus in 2014.

Army’s most recent game was a 5-4 win over New Hampshire Dec. 29, and before that the Black Knights finished their first half 4-1-1 in their last six American Hockey games, putting them one point behind Sacred Heart at the top of the the AHA standings. Ohio State is 2-0 all-time against Army. Both games were in holiday tournament play, a 6-1 win in the 2009 Ohio Hockey Classic and a 5-3 win in the 2011 Catamount Cup.

Drew: Ohio State over Cornell 3-2, Ohio State over Providence 4-2
Paula: Ohio State sweeps with a pair of 2-1 games, regardless of who they play Saturday

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