Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 16

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

The biggest matchup of the weekend is the second series between Minnesota and Penn State. The games will be played at Penn State, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to prove if they can be a dominant team in the Big Ten this year.

The Badgers and Buckeyes should have an easy time this weekend, as Wisconsin faces Michigan and Ohio State faces Michigan State. Both the Wolverines and Spartans have struggled this year.

Here’s the Big Ten standings:

1. Minnesota (27)
2. Wisconsin (24)
3. Penn State (22)
4. Ohio State (17)
5. Michigan (10)
6. Michigan State (8)

Minnesota is fourth in the Pairwise, Penn State sixth, Ohio State 15th and Ohio State 21st.

The Buckeyes will be without Josh Healey for the weekend as he was, wait for it, suspended two games for a contact to the head major penalty and game misconduct on Feb. 11 against Minnesota. Guy Gadowksy told reporters this week that defenseman Kevin Kerr will be out this weekend.

Ohio State at Michigan State: Feb. 17 at 7:05 p.m., Feb. 18 at 7:05 p.m.

The Spartans aren’t good, but the Buckeyes lost to Michigan so who knows. This is the first meeting between the two teams, and these are must-win games for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are on the edge of the Pairwise, and a loss to┬áMichigan State would drop them further than they want to fall.

The Buckeyes are a little healthier now, but have lost four of their last six games. Goaltending has shifted back to a rotation, which means neither Matt Tomkins or Christian Frey is particularly hot.  Nick Schilkey has been great all year long but especially since his return and has 24 points. Sophomore Mason Jobst leads the team with 40 and both players are towards the top nationally in scoring.

Michigan State’s offense is a little better, with Mason Appleton leading the team with 23 points. The Spartans move the puck better than they have in recent years, but that’s all they have going for them. Ed Minney has really struggled in net. While the Spartans seem to be a better team than the Wolverines, they don’t have Ohio State’s number like Michigan does.

Prediction: Ohio State sweeps

Wisconsin vs. Michigan: Feb. 17 at 8:07 p.m. CT; Feb. 18 at 7:07 p.m. CT

The Badgers host the Wolverines as both teams try to snap skids. The Wolverines are winless in three with losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, while Wisconsin is on a two-game losing streak after getting swept by Penn State.

All of Michigan’s goaltenders have save percentages above .900, which is a rarity for the Big Ten. Jack LaFontaine has leapfrogged Hayden Lavigne with a .919 save percentage. Jake Slaker leads the team with 19 points.

Luke Kunin now has 29 points. The Badgers have relied on a goaltending rotation for the latter part of this season, although neither goaltender has a save precutting above .900. The Badgers are better than last year and had a winning streak of five games before Penn State snapped it. Wisconsin has lost just four conference games and is looking at one of the top two conference spots.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Minnesota vs. Penn State: Feb.. 17 at 6:30 p.m.; Feb. 18 at 8:00 p.m.

In the anticipated matchup of the week, Penn State will have a chance to prove itself at home. Minnesota earned the sweep the last time these teams met – convincingly. Now the Nittany Lions are at home and coming off an impressive sweep over the Badgers, while Minnesota split with Ohio State in a high-scoring affair.

Penn State still has a powerful offense, with Denis Smirnov’s 34 points leading the team. Peyton Jones’ save percentage is .903 and has dropped over the second half of the season. Penn State’s wins over Wisconsin snapped a five-game winless streak.

Minnesota has won four of its last five ames and just has three losses since the turn of the new year. The Gophers are quietly coming together, led by Tyler Sheehy’s 24 points. The question mark for Minnesota comes down to goaltending, as Eric Schierhorn has a .897 save percentage.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

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