This weekend features the first foray into Big Ten play, starting with Michigan and Penn State. The Gophers and Buckeyes will also face off, while the Badgers host Nebraska-Omaha in their last non-conference slate before their Big Ten play starts.
After a good weekend the Spartans have the week off the face the U-18 NTDP.
And since Big Ten play is going to start, here is my revised poll:
1. Ohio State
5. Penn State
6. Michigan State
Penn State (11-1-1) vs. Michigan (6-5-1): Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.
This is a big matchup. The Wolverines are going to be the fist “real” test Penn State has faced since playing Notre Dame way back when. Michigan is far from an elite team in their country, but good goaltending has made the Wolverines a tougher team than expected.
Michigan has gotten some wins in the past month and split its series with Boston University and Lake Superior State. For the most part freshmen Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontiane have manned the net, giving the Wolverines their best goaltending in a long time.
Penn State, off last weekend, is on an unbeaten streak of 11 games and a winning streak of nine. The Nittany Lion offense is one of the most prolific in the country (and Penn State loves to shoot the puck) and freshman Denis Smirnov has 22 points.
It’s important to remember that Penn State hasn’t faced much quality competition and their stats are inflated. Michigan is definitely better competition, and the key here will Penn State’s offense against Michigan’s goaltending.
Prediction: Michigan sweeps
Minnesota (6-4-2) vs. Ohio State (8-1-4): Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. CT; Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
The Gophers and Buckeyes meet in a game that’s a contest between a team that was expected to be good and is struggling and an okay team that’s doing really well. This weekend should tell us if Minnesota has gained any stability and if Ohio State can stay consistent.
The Buckeyes, no matter how good they are, have really struggled against Minnesota lately. Right now Ohio State has won two in a row (albeit against RPI) and is undefeated in its last five games. Ohio State has the second-best offense in the country and averages 4.38 goals per game. Freshman Tanner Laczynski leads the team with 18 points while Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey have been sharing starts since Frey’s return.
Minnesota has been struggling to find constancy. After a strong weekend against North Dakota the Gophers have split their last two weekends including a tough loss to Northeastern. Tyler Sheehy leads Minnesota’s offense while Eric Schierhorn has still been the mainstay in net although his save percentage is .896.
Talent-wise the Gophers are better than the Buckeyes. But Minnesota hasn’t been able to put it together while Ohio State has. This will still be an unpredictable series.
Prediction: Series split
Wisconsin (7-5-0) vs. Nebraska-Omaha (7-5-2): Dec. 2 at 7:37 p.m. CT; Dec. 3 at 8:07 p.m. CT
The Badgers finish their non-conference slate against the Mavericks, who are __. Wisconsin has played much better this season, but injuries have hurt them a bit lately. The Badgers recently split their weekend but played a close game against Denver in the loss. Grant Besse has 15 points, which almost half his total from last year. Jack Berry has been getting the starts lately because of Matt Jurusik’s injury and has a .920 save percentage.
The Mavericks haven’t played tough too a schedule and just tied and defeated Northern Michigan. Senior Austin Ortega has a team-high 17 points while Evan Weninger has a .903 save percentage.
Prediction: Series split