Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 6

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

Wisconsin (14-8-2, 5-4-1-0 B1G) vs. Minnesota (19-2-5, 8-0-2-0 B1G): Feb. 6 at 8:30 p.m., Feb. 7 at 9 p.m.

Minnesota is one of the best teams in the nation, but the Badgers have been nearly unbeatable at home this season. When the teams met earlier this year in November, Minnesota won both games in Minneapolis.

The Gophers are on a 14-game unbeaten streak, which is the longest in the nation. Minnesota is 10-0-4 and has killed off 38 of 41 opponent power plays during that period.

Minnesota’s offense dropped to fourth in the country after being limited to three goals in a tie and win against Michigan State last weekend. The Gophers average 3.65 goals per game.

Sam Warning’s 27 points are second in the Big Ten only to Ohio State’s Ryan Dzingel. Justin Kloos and Hudson Fasching have 23 and 22 points respectively, the most by rookies in the conference.

Seth Ambroz has six goals in nine career games against the Badgers, including four this season.

At home, the Badgers are 13-2-1, average 4.06 goals per game and allow 2.00 goals per game. Wisconsin hasn’t lost at the Kohl Center since Jan. 3.

Michael Mersch and Mark Zengerle both have a team-high 24 points, and Zengerle is on a seven-game point streak. The Badgers may have sophomore Nic Kerdiles — who missed six games with an injury — back in the lineup this weekend.

The Spartans proved last week the Gophers are beatable, even if Minnesota hasn’t lost in a long time. And the Badgers are very good at home, so there might be an upset in this series.

Prediction: A series split. Or maybe a Minnesota win and a tie.

Michigan State (8-13-4, 2-5-3-3 B1G) vs. Ohio State (14-9-1,4-5-1-0 B1G): Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

The Spartans head to Ohio State on a four-game winless streak, but Michigan State probably played some of its best hockey last weekend against Minnesota. The Spartans tied the Gophers on Friday and then lost 1-0 the next night, limiting Minnesota’s offense to three goals on the weekend.

Ohio State’s offense ranks fourth in the country and averages 3.62 goals per game. But Minnesota’s offense ranked second in the nation when it faced Michigan State, and the Spartans limited the Gopher attack. The Spartans also block 17.92 shots per game, the most in the nation.

Michigan State’s Matt Berry leads current Spartans in scoring against Ohio State with eight points, while Jake Hildebrand is 0-3-1 against the Buckeyes with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

Hildebrand has started the past 17 games for the Spartans, but Will Yanakeff is 3-1-0 against Ohio State.

These teams faced off earlier in the season and Ohio State grabbed a 5-3 win before the teams skated to a 1-1 tie.

Christian Frey started the last three games for Ohio State and is now 5-1-0 on the season with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Freshman Matt Tomkins last started on Jan. 24, a 5-2 loss to Wisconsin. But Tomkins was in net when the Buckeyes and Spartans played earlier this season. He is 6-5-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Ryan Dzingel’s 36 points rank fourth in the nation and first in the Big Ten, and he netted three points in each game against Penn State last weekend. He’s three points away from reaching point No. 100, and he would be the first junior to do so since RJ Umberger accomplished the feat in 2003.

Michigan State was very impressive against Minnesota, but a couple weeks ago the Buckeyes handed Wisconsin only their second home loss of the season. If the Spartans can find a way to limit Ohio State’s offense as they did Minnesota’s, they should have a chance.

Prediction: Series split.

Penn State (4-17-1, 0-8-0-0 B1G) vs. Michigan (13-6-3, 5-2-1-1 B1G): Feb. 7 at 7 pm., Feb. 8 at 5 p.m.

This is the first meeting between the two teams, but Penn State’s Taylor Holstrom, Nate Jensen and Max Gardiner have all played against the Wolverines. Holstrom has one goal in his career against Michigan.

After dropping two games to Ohio State last weekend, the Nittany Lions are on an eight-game losing streak. Over that stretch, Penn State has given up at least three goals in each game while failing to score more than twice.

Assistant captain David Glen should be back in the lineup after missing a few games after donating bone marrow.

Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky faced Michigan several times while he served as the head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks from 1999-04, when he went 4-8 against the Wolverines.

Over the past four games, Michigan has averaged three goals per game — the Wolverines are 10-0-0 this season when they net at least three tallies.

JT Compher has 21 points for Michigan, third-best amongst Big Ten rookies. Over Michigan’s four-game unbeaten streak, Compher has played with Alex Guptill and Derek DBlois.

This is a tough one to predict. The Wolverines haven’t been stellar, but the lineup changes have helped Michigan lately. The Wolverines did defeat Wisconsin in Michigan, but the Badgers have really struggled on the road.

The Nittany Lions might be winless in Big Ten contests, but they’ve been playing better than their record indicates. They’ve also played in 10 one-goal games this season.

If Penn State can limit Michigan’s offense, the Nittany Lions might have a chance to win their first Big Ten game.

Prediction: Series split.

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