Michigan and Michigan State will be on break this week, leaving Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota in action. Penn State will play Princeton while the Gophers will compete in the last-ever North Star College Cup.
Penn State vs. Princeton
After dropping both games (if you count the shootout), Penn State is back in action against Princeton, Guy Gadowsky’s former team. It’s technically a culmination of the home-and-home series that stretched back to last year when the Tigers lost at Pegula, but the game will take place at the Wells Fargo Center.
This Princeton team is much different than last year and is characterized by more skill, a fast transition and a better offense. But a stretch of seven wins in eight games, Princeton is winless in their last five. The Tigers had some impressive wins against Bemidji State, Quinnipiac and Minnesota State. Max Veronneau leads the team with 23 points, which is more than last year’s leading scorer, Ryan Kuffner, had. The bad news for the Tigers is they entered break with Veronneau and his linemate Alex Riche hurt. Riche will definitely not be back this weekend and it breaks up the high-scoring, lethal sophomore line. Colton Phinney has not had his best season but has fared better of late. He has a .897 save percentage. The Tigers, however, are coming off their finals break.
Penn State has suffered two of its three losses this month, both to Ohio State. This is the first time Penn Sate is playing a non-conference opponent since defeating Arizona State in November. The Nittany Lions have the nation’s best offense and Denis Smirnov leads the pack with 29 points but has cooled down a bit. Peyton Jones has had a strong freshman season but his save percentage has also fallen recently and sits at .908.
Prediction: Princeton wins
Minnesota vs. Minnesota-Duluth; Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. CT; vs. Bemidji State/St. Cloud State, Jan. 28 at TBA
This is going to be a rough weekend for Minnesota. The Gophers enter their last non-conference play for the season at the North Star College Cup and will play Minnesota-Duluth in the first round and either Bemidji State or St. Cloud State. That first game will definitely be a challenge since the Bulldogs are on
Minnesota just lost to Wisconsin, snapping a seven-game winning streak. Tyler Sheehy has gone under the radar for much of the season but now has 32 points. Eric Schierhorn’s save percentage is rising and now sits at .893 percent. The Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the country and sit first in the Pairwise. Alex Iafallo has 25 points while Hunter Miska, the freshman netminder, has a .920 save percentage. Minnesota-Duluth has lost just four games, but two of those loses have happened this month.
The Huskies and Gophers met earlier in the year with St. Cloud State, which resulted in a sweep by the Huskies. St. Cloud has lost four of its last six games. Mikey Eyssimont has 22 points for the Huskies while Jeff Smith and Zach Driscoll have split starts. Bemidji State has lost four of its last seven. Phillip Marinaccio’s 22 points leads the Beavers while Michael Bitzer has a .935 save percentage.
Prediction: Minnesota loses in the first round and possibly the second
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: Jan. 26 at 7:05 p.m.; Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.
The Badgers are third in the Big Ten standings, ahead of Ohio State. They’re 4-2 in their past six games, all Big Ten contests. Wisconsin recently split with Minnesota at the Kohl Center where – last year – the Gophers destroyed the Badgers. Captain Luke Kunin is back and has 22 points, tied with Grant Besse for the team lead. Jack Berry and Matt Jurusik have swapped starts since Jurusik returned.
Ohio State hasn’t lost since Jan. 7, against Pen State, but has won just two contests in that time. The Buckeyes started the season really well but haven’t been getting as many wins since. Mason Jobst now has the team lead in points with 28. The Buckeyes have been without Tanner Laczynski and Nick Schilkey, and there’s no update on them. Christian Frey has played well in net and is the team’s go-to netminder for now and as a .923 save percentage.
The teams will first meet at Ohio State and then play Saturday’s game at MSG for the Hoops/Hockey doubleheader (which will be interesting since Ohio State’s basketball team will not be playing Wisconsin’s basketball team). Wisconsin is starting to find its rhythm now and the Buckeyes are capable of quick hitters but it’s uncertain how they’ll fare, especially if Schilkey and Lacznyski are still out. But the Buckeyes do win the goaltending matchup.
Prediction: Series split