All six teams are in action this weekend. It’s the first edition of this year’s border battle and an early rematch of Penn State-Ohio State. In the other series Michigan and Michigan State face off again for the first time since the Great Lakes Invitational.
In the Pairwise there are three teams currently sitting inside the bubble – Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. The Nittany Lions are almost a lock for the tournament, Minnesota is kind of towards the middle but the Buckeyes are in danger of dropping out.
Thwo teams are tied for first in the conference – Penn State and Minnesota. The Gophers are six points behind, while Ohio State is fourth and nine points out of first.
Michigan vs. Michigan State: Jan. 20 at 6:35 p.m.; Jan. 21 at 7:05 p.m.
The Wolverines and Spartans resume their rivalry just a few weeks after facing off at the Great Lakes Invitational. The Wolverines won that consolation game -5-4 in overtime. Neither team is good this year, but Michigan State’s struggles are worse than Michigan’s. The Wolverines, have only won two games in their last eight and just got swept by Minnesota.
Michigan does have one of the best freshmen goaltenders in Hayden Lavigne, who has a .932 save percentage. He’s been splitting duties with Jack LaFontaine and was in net for one of the games against Minnesota last week. Rookies Will Lockwood and Jake Slaker are tied for Michigan’s scoring lead with 13 points. The Wolverines don’t have the offense, don’t have the defense but they do have better goaltending than in years past.
But Michigan State has none of those things. At best the Spartans have Mason Appleton – who’ a good forward. He has 19 points and nine goals, which leads the team. Ed Minney has struggled in net with a .884 save percentage, but some of that comes from the mess of a defense in front of him. Michigan State hasn’t won since Nov. 25 when they upset North Dakota.
I wasn’t surprised that the GLI consolation game was so close. Both teams are struggling but the Wolverines gain the advantage in goaltending.
Prediction: Michigan sweeps.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Jan. 20 at 7:07 p.m. CT; Jan. 21 at 5:07 p.m. CT
The border battle resumes this week, and sadly I am not there (I took the trip last year, which was the worst timing on my part). The Badgers are, obviously, a lot better this year than they were last year (and last year Minnesota destroyed them). Anyway, this is the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Minnesota is on a six-game winning streak after sweeping Michigan State, Michigan and winning the Mariucci Classic. The Gophers may not have as many wins as other teams, but they test themselves the most in their non-conference schedule and it usually pays off for them. (Although it was weaker this season than last season). Tyler Sheehy leads Minnesota with 28 points while Eric Schierhorn is another netminder who’s struggled with a .895 save percentage.
Grant Besse leads Wisconsin with 22 points while Luke Kunin has 19. Matt Jurusik is healthy and has a .865 save percentage. The Badgers are coming off a sweep of Michigan State but has mostly been exchanging wins and losses.
The Gophers are, I think, still the best team in college hockey. But what makes this series unique is that both teams have lethal offenses and can strike quickly, so this weekend should be a fun one.
Prediction: Series split
Penn State vs. Ohio State: Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
These two teams meet again after facing each other not too long ago. The big difference in that series was that Penn State was returning from a very long break and Tanner Laczynski was still out. The teams split the series with Ohio State winning 3-0 and Penn State winning 4-2. It was the only time all season Penn State had been shut out. This is still a battle of the top two offenses in the country.
The Nittany Lions’ loss to Ohio State snapped a 12-game winning streak, but Penn State has still won three in a row. It has the most powerful offense in the country, a biproduct of taking a lot of shots per game. Denis Smirnov leads the team, and freshmen nationwide, with 29 points. Peyton Jones has a .918 save percentage.
The Buckeyes are a little banged up, with Nick Schilkey day to day. Schilkey leads the team with 25 points. Laczynski is back, but didn’t play much against Arizona State. Christian Frey has started the last five games and has a .917 save percentage.
Prediction: Series split