Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 14

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

Michigan State (8-13-6, 2-5-5-3 B1G) vs. Penn State (5-18-1, 1-9-0-0 B1G): Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m.

The Nittany Lions picked up their first Big Ten win on Saturday, defeating Michigan 4-0. Four different Nittany Lions picked up a goal, including David Glen. Matthew Skoff was in net for the victory.

In both games against Michigan last weekend, Penn State scored at least three goals. Several Nittany Lions, including Casey Bailey and team scoring leader Eric Scheid, recorded three points in the series.

Even before the win, Penn State had been playing well. The Nittany Lions turned in some competitive performances against Big Ten opponents, including Michigan State. Ultimately the Spartans swept that series, winning 3-0 and 3-2. Michigan State is 3-1-0 in the all-time series.

The Spartans tied Ohio State in both contests last weekend before losing in the shootout.

Michigan State ranks 10th in the nation defensively, allowing 2.33 goals per game. The Spartans have given yo two goals or less 17 times this season.

The Spartans block more shots per game than any other team, helping out goalkeeper Jake Hildebrand.  In eight of his last nine starts, the Pennsylvania native has allowed two goals or less. Hildebrand has also stopped 30-plus pucks in six of his last nine starts, and his .933 save percentage ranks seventh in the nation.

But the Spartans struggle to score. Last weekend Michigan State adjusted the lineups, putting Greg Wolfe, Lee Riemer and Ryan Keller together again for the first time since December. They scored seven of 11 points against Ohio State,

The Spartans have a stingy defense and Penn State’s offense is almost as bad as Michigan State’s. But, I thought Penn State had a chance to beat Michigan State the last time these two teams played, and I still think they came close.

Prediction: Series split.

Ohio State (14-9-3, 4-5-3-2 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (16-8-2, 7-4-1-0 B1G): Feb. 14 at 7 p.m., Feb 15 at 8 p.m.

Wisconsin just handed Minnesota its first two conference losses, as the Badgers swept the Gophers at the Kohl Center last weekend.

At the Kohl Center.

I’m not surprised the Badgers won at least one of those games, because Wisconsin is almost unbeatable at home. The Badgers have lost twice at home, but one of those losses came against the Buckeyes.

And now the Badgers will travel to Columbus for the first time since 1969.

Ohio State hasn’t lost in its last five games, a streak that started with the win over Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have scored two or more goals over that stretch, led by Ryan Dzingel. His 37 points rank first amongst Big Ten skaters.

Christian Frey, who holds a 2.11 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, has started in the last five games. He was also in net when the Buckeyes took down the Badgers.

Ohio State has a powerful offense, but the Badgers have the best goalkeeper in the Big Ten in Joel Rumpel. His .922 save percentage is tied for first, while is 1.90 goals-against average is the best in the conference.

The Badgers are also 2-14-1 on Valentine’s Day, which irrelevant but interesting.

When I think about some of Wisconsin’s road games, I still question if they can win away from the Kohl Center — no matter how impressive the wins over Minnesota were.

But I was really impressed by those two wins over Minnesota.

Prediction: Series split.

Minnesota (19-4-5, 8-2-2-0 B1G) vs. Michigan (14-7-3, 6-3-1-1 B1G): Feb. 14 at 9 p.m., Feb. 15 at 8 p.m.

Last weekend Wisconsin swept Minnesota, snapping Minnesota’s 14-game unbeaten streak. That’s not really an upset, given how good the Badgers are at home.

The alarming issue for the Gophers is their lack of offense.

Over the past three games, Minnesota — which once had the nation’s second-best offense — hasn’t been able to score more than two goals in a game. In the past three, the Gophers have been limited to one goal.

Sam Warning still leads Minnesota’s offense, but hasn’t registered a point in the last five games.

This is the first conference meeting between Minnesota and Michigan, and the first time these two teams since Nov. 28, 2010. Three Gophers —  Nate Condon, Justin Hall, Tom Serratore — and two Wolverines — Mac Bennett and Luke Moffatt — have played in the series.

Condon, Minnesota’s captain, is the only current player with a goal in the series.

The Wolverines are 3-1-1 in their past four games, defeating Wisconsin and Michigan State.

I know Minnesota is struggling, but there’s nothing about Michigan that stands out to me.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps.

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