This weekend features two interesting series. The Badgers and Nittany Lions will face off as will the Gophers and Buckeyes. Those games will all have major Pairwise and Big Ten standing implications. The Michigan-Michigan State will also be interesting, but neither team has a chance at a top-two seed in the conference or the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State has been slipping badly in the Pairwise and a win would be huge for them. Meanwhile Penn State has a lot to prove this weekend.
Michigan vs. Michigan State: Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 11 at 7:35 p.m.
The Spartans and Wolverines resume their series just a couple weeks after last facing off. That didn’t go well for Michigan, which tied and lost to the Spartans. Both teams have been struggling. The Wolverines have won just once in the New Year, but that was a 5-4 victory over Ohio State.
Freshman Jake Slaker is having a phenomenal year for Michigan and has a team-high 18 points. Fellow freshman and linemate Will Lockwood has 14. The Wolverines have used a goaltending rotation all season, and now Zach Nagelvoort and Jack Lafontaine have save percentages of .917, slightly higher than Hayden Lavigne.
Michigan State’s goaltending has not done so well. Ed Minney’s save percentage rests at .838. The offense has been more successful this year, or seems to actually be playing better, and sophomore Mason Appleton has 20 points. Michigan State’s only win since Dec. 4 was that victory over Michigan.
I still think Michigan is the better team, and I’m still not sure why they lost last time.
Prediction: Michigan sweeps
Ohio State vs. Minnesota: Feb. 10 at 7:05 p.m. CT; Feb. 11 at 7:05 p.m. CT
This will be an interesting series. Ohio State has had success against Penn State and Wisconsin, but I think Minnesota is coming into its own and is better than both teams. The Buckeyes, despite injuries, have played well the past few games. I’m not sure what happened against Michigan, though. The Buckeyes are finally fully healthy, which means their offense will still be a threat.
Mason Jobst now has the team lead with 37 points (the most in the Big Ten), but Nick Schilkey and Tanner Laczynski are great players. The Buckeyes have only won once (injuries didn’t help) over their past four games. Christian Frey has been on fire in net.
Minnesota is coming off a sweep over Penn State, where the Gophers scored 10 goals in the series. Penn State’s not great, though, so it’s hard to tell what those wins mean. The Gophers, in general, seem to be playing better lately. Tyler Sheehy has a team-high 36 points. Goaltending is still a weakness, but Eric Schierhorn’s save percentage has risen to .904.
Prediction: Minnesota sweeps
Wisconsin vs. Penn State: Feb. 10 at 7:07 p.m.; Feb 11 at 7:07 p.m.
The Badgers host Penn State in what could be a make-or-break series for the Nittany Lions. It’s not that two losses will doom Penn State from making the tournament, just that these two games will show if Penn State can keep up with the better teams. The Nittany Lions struggled against Minnesota, a team that has some quick-striking lethal power. The Gophers are better than Wisconsin, but the Badgers have the skill that can hurt, too.
The Badgers have won five in a row (two against Michigan State) and are slowly creeping into the top-15 in the Pairwise. Matt Jurusik has looked good in net, and, as I mentioned above, their offense is dangerous. Luke Kunin leads the team with 26 points.
Penn State’s offensive production has stalled – for reason I’ve mentioned in the past – but they still lead the country with 4.17 goals per game. Wisconsin’s defense is suspect, but it’s doubtful Penn State can pin the Badgers in their own zone. Peyton Jones has been stellar in net for Penn State, though. Denis Smirnov has 29 points.
Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps