Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 14

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

This is the last weekend in the regular season. Minnesota and Wisconsin have locked up first-round byes, while Michigan is in the No. 3 spot and Penn State is the last seed.

Ohio State and Michigan State will play each other, and either the Buckeyes or Spartans will earn the No. 4 seed. The other team will be No. 5.

The Gophers are guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten title. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have first-round byes, and the Badgers can earn a share of the Big Ten title. 

Michigan (17-11-4, 9-7-2-1 B1G) vs. Minnesota (24-4-6, 13-2-3 B1G): March 14 at 6:30 p.m., March 15 at 7 p.m.

Minnesota defeated and tied Ohio State last week, and the shootout loss snapped a five-game Gopher winning streak.

If the Minnesota claims the conference title, the seniors will be the first Gopher class to claim three straight regular-season titles.

The series will feature the Big Ten’s top two freshmen scorers, JT Compher and Hudson Fasching. The pair played together with the USNTDP and were close friends.

The Wolverines are one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference, and Michigan captain Mac Bennett is still week-to-week with an injury.

Bennett, Compher, Andrew Copp and Zach Hyman each have two points against the Gophers. Steve Racine is the only netminder who’s played against Minnesota and has a .865 save percentage in those games.

Minnesota captain Nate Condon and Kyle Rau, Sam Warning, Vinni Lettieri and Fasching all have three points against Michigan. At Mariucci earlier this season, the Gophers swept the Wolverines.

Minnesota is one of the strongest teams in the country with one of the strongest defenses, so it shouldn’t be hard for the Gophers to sweep the Wolverines.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Michigan State (10-16-7 4-8-6-4 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (21-9-2, 12-5-1-0 B1G): March 14 at 7 p.m., March 15 at 4 p.m.

The Badgers are on a five-game winning streak, thanks to consistent play of late. The sweep at Penn State was Wisconsin’s first road sweep since last March.

Wisconsin’s line of Mark Zengerle, Nic Kerdiles and Tyler Barnes has 24 points in the last six games. Kerdiles and Zengerle both had six points last weekend, while Barnes is four away from reaching the century mark.

These teams met a few weeks ago, when Wisconsin swept the Spartans at the Kohl Center.

Last weekend after losing 7-1 to Michigan, the Spartans rebounded with a 4-3 win. Michigan State is a strong defensive team, partly because of Jake Hildebrand. Saturday’s win marked the first time since Dec. 6 the Spartans scored five goals or more.

The Spartans can finish either fourth or fifth but will face Ohio State regardless.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Penn State (6-24-2, 2-15-1-0 B1G) vs. Ohio State (15-12-5, 5-8-5-4 B1G): March 14 at 7 p.m., March 15 at 3 p.m.

After being badly outplayed in a loss to Minnesota, the Buckeyes tied the Gophers 2-2 before winning in overtime. Christian Frey started both those games, although he was pulled on Friday.

He was also in net the last time these teams faced off and stopped 46 shots in a 5-1 win. The Buckeyes swept the series against the Nittany Lions.

In three games against Penn State, Big Ten leading scorer Ryan Dzingel has 12 points (6g, 3a). He’s also plus-6.

The Buckeyes have the nation’s 13th-best offense but haven’t scored more than three goals in the past eight games.

Eamon McAdam and Matthew Skoff have both started against the Buckeyes this season. Casey Bailey leads the Nittany Lions with five points against Ohio State.

Last weekend Penn State was swept by Wisconsin, losing the second game in overtime.

Prediction: Ohio State sweeps

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