Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 21

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

Michigan (14-9-3, 6-5-1-1 B1G) vs. Penn State (5-19-2, 12-1-10-1 B1G): Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.

Penn State’s only Big Ten win of the season came over Michigan back on Feb. 8, the last time these teams met. This will be the first series between the two teams in Michigan.

Two Wolverines have three points against Penn State — JT Compher and Mac Bennett. Zach Nagelvoort has a 4.91 goals-against average and a .867 save percentage against the Nittany Lions, while Steve Racine replaced Nagelvoort in net in the Feb. 8 loss to Penn State.

Michigan has struggled to score in the first period of late, surrendering five goals and scoring one in the first frame over the last three games. Penn State has led in its past four games, but is 1-3-1 in that stretch.

Zach Hyman — who was verbally committed to Princeton when Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky was there — has netted four goals and three assists over the last seven games.

The Wolverines won’t have Andrew Sinelli and Michael Downing in the lineup because of suspension issues by the league.

Matthew Skoff has started the past three games for Penn State and has given up three goals total over that stretch. He was in net for Penn State’s victory over Michigan, stopping 32 shots in the shutout win.

Nittany Lion leading scorer Eric Sheid as well as Rickey DeRosa have a team-high three points against the Wolverines.

Michigan is on a three-game losing streak, but the past two losses came against Minnesota, Big Ten’s best team.

I think Michigan is still a better team than Penn State, and two of Michigan’s last three losses came against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions have been playing well lately, and I think they should be able to take another game from the Wolverines.

Prediction: Series split.

Wisconsin (17-9-2, 8-5-1-0 B1G) vs. Michigan State (9-13-7, 3-5-6-4 B1G): Feb. 21 at 9 p.m., Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Last week the Badgers earned their first road win since Nov. 16, and they’ll be back at home to face Michigan State.

The Spartans, with one of the best defenses in the country, have been playing their opponents well over the second half of the season. A win last weekend over Penn State snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak that consisted of four ties.

Michigan State’s goalkeeper, Jake Hildebrand, has played pretty well. His numbers have been improving all season, and he’s been backed by a team that blocks a lot of shots. In 10 of the last 11 games Michigan State hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game.

But the Spartans have struggled to score over their last eight games, failing to tally more than two goals in a game. It hasn’t been enough to turn Hildebrand’s effort into wins, even if the Spartans did win a game last weekend despite taking 13 shots on goal.

Last weekend, the Badgers put Nic Kerdiles, Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes back on a line together, and the trio responded with three goals and an assist in the win over Ohio State on Saturday.

The teams, who are meeting for the first time this season, will be playing at the Kohl Center. At home this season the Badgers are 15-2-1, and if they sweep they’ll have a 17-2-1 record, the best in Badger history at the Kohl Center.

Before the win, Wisconsin hadn’t netted more than two goals in six contests in a row. So the Badger offense might struggle against a Spartan team that doesn’t surrender many goals.

But the Badgers are just too good at home.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps.

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