Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 16

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

It’s a full slate of conference play this weekend, with a couple rivalries resuming. The Buckeyes visit the Wolverines, while Minnesota hosts Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan State will play two in Pennsylvania.

Michigan and Penn State are tied for first in the conference, while Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the bottom two slots. Yes, Minnesota is just slightly above Wisconsin, which is in the Big Ten basement,

The Wolverines have been rising in the PairWise, while Minnesota has been dropping – and now is No. 16. This is a big weekend for the Gophers, and it should be a pair of easy victories for a team struggling to win.

The Penn State and Michigan State series should be interesting. The Nittany Lions seem to have shaken off their winter break sleepiness, while the Spartans have played well in their past few contests.

As for Michigan-Ohio State, well, the Wolverines are just too good right now. And Ohio State isn’t really healthy. 

Ohio State (7-10-2, 2-3-0 B1G) vs. Michigan (12-7-0, 4-1-0 B1G): Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.

Michigan begins an eight-game road trip with a game at Ohio State. These teams met before winter break, when the Wolverines destroyed Ohio State 8-3.

Ohio State has really struggled this season, while Michigan is taking off. The Buckeyes have been hurt by injuries, and are 2-1-1 in 2015. They battled Penn State to an overtime in last weekend, but let a 4-0 lead disappear in the third period.

The Wolverines are on a four-game winning streak, including a pair of GLI wins. Right now, Michigan looks like the team that can win the Big Ten. Or get an at-large bid, if they can keep climbing the PairWise.

Either way, this is a huge mismatch for the Buckeyes. Michigan has the nation’s second-best offense, helped by Zach Hyman’s superb senior season. Ohio State allows 3.21 goals per game.

Unless Michigan goes back to last season’s inconsistent team, I can’t see Ohio State winning.

Prediction: Michigan wins

Penn State (10-7-2, 4-2-0 B1G) vs. Michigan State (7-10-1, 1-2-1 B1G): Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 17 at 5 p.m.

This is the first meeting between Penn State and Michigan State this season. Last year’s series between these two were interesting, and three of them were close games. The only difference between this year and last year is that Michigan State was 3-0-1 in the series last year. Now, Penn State is the better team.

The Spartans are coming off a 4-1 exhibition win over the NDTP. They played well in the GLI, but fell 2-1 to Michigan in the championship game. Secondary scoring has stepped up for the Spartans, who’ve missed Matt Berry for the past three games.

Penn State really struggled in its return from break, but found its offense last weekend against Ohio State. Casey Bailey had a hat trick as Penn State erased a 4-0 deficit to tie the game last Friday, while Taylor Holstrom netted two assists against the Buckeyes.

Michigan State is always a tough team to play against, and has played well since its return from winter break. But Penn State is a much better team than last year, and should win at least one of these games.

Prediction: Series split

Minnesota (10-7-1, 1-2-1 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (2-12-2, 0-2-0 B1G): Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. CT; Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. CT

Minnesota-Wisconsin is an intense rivalry, but the Badgers are just really bad this season. Surprisingly, the Badgers are 1-1-1 in their last three games. The win against Michigan Tech was impressive (and really good for Big Ten teams trying to move up in the PairWise).

But the Badgers are still bad. No player has topped 10 points this season, but the goalkeeping is a bigger issue. Joel Rumpel has been inconsistent. When he’s like last year’s Rumpel, the Badgers have a chance at winning. But, Rumpel – who was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots on Jan. 2 – hasn’t been like his last-season self.

After dropping two games to Michigan last weekend, the Gophers have moved to the PairWise bubble at No. 16. Minnesota isn’t playing badly, they’re just struggling to win, with two victories in their past five games.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

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