Both Drew Claussen and I began the season on a high note, each choosing Ferris State for the win over Michigan last week, so we’re each 1-0-0.
There are two nonconference series and two tournaments. Four Big Ten teams are playing this weekend.
Notre Dame hosts the 18th annual IceBreaker Tournament in the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Rensselaer round out the field. For more detailed information about the whole field, check out Notre Dame’s excellent central site for this year’s tourney. Minnesota plays Minnesota-Duluth at 2:00 p.m. Friday and then either Rensselaer or Notre Dame at noon or 3:30 p.m. Sunday, depending on how things go in each Friday game. None of this is televised.
Drew: The Gophers will travel to South Bend to face an in-state rival on Friday afternoon. I have a bad feeling that a Friday 2:00 p.m. start for the first game of the season will lead to some sloppy play from both teams, but that should also produce a close game. One thing I’ve noticed from closely covering the Gophers during the last couple seasons is that their game isn’t fluid when the game is being played while the sun is still shining. A 1-0 Sunday-afternoon victory over Canisius two seasons ago comes to mind, where the Gophers scored 12 seconds into the game and that was it. I am excited to listen to the game at work, though; that should make Friday afternoon go much faster. The Gophers and Bulldogs split a series at Mariucci Arena last season and Minnesota beat Duluth in a shootout to win the inaugural North Star College Cup, although the game went in the books as a tie.
Paula: I have to agree with Drew about the potential for sloppy play in that first game. Unlike my partner-in-writing, though, I don’t see the Gophers as the ultimate victors this weekend. While the Fighting Irish are very young, Notre Dame has a tendency to knock off No. 1 teams. They did so twice last season — including a 4-1 win over Minnesota in the Compton Center (Nov. 8, 2013), the first game of a split weekend against the Gophers — and the Irish have beaten No. 1 opponents 14 times in their history.
Drew’s picks: Gophers beat UMD 2-1 and downs Notre Dame 4-1 on Sunday.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota over Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2, and Notre Dame over the Gophers in the title game, 2-1.
Kendall Hockey Classic
Alaska-Anchorage hosts the 24th annual Kendall Hockey Classic in Sullivan Arena. The field also includes in-state rival Alaska, plus Maine and Wisconsin. Wisconsin plays the host at 5:00 p.m. local time Friday and takes on the Nanooks at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. None of this is televised.
Drew: Mike Eaves said in his presser this week that this trip to Alaska would serve as a good bonding experience for the young Badgers squad. He sounded calm, cool and collected, but this trip could present an early season speed bump for Wisconsin. These two games will revolve around Joel Rumpel’s play. If he’s on this weekend, then Wisconsin will easily prevail take these two games; however, Fairbanks is a good team, Anchorage is not the pushover that the Badgers remember from the old WCHA and the Badgers were pretty brutal on the road last season. A good thing for Eaves is that not a lot of his players had the experience of playing Anchorage in the old WCHA.
Paula: Yes, a telling weekend. If the Badgers can ride their late-season momentum from 2013-2014, they’ll take the tournament — but I don’t think it will be easy. The Badgers are 54-15-9 all-time against the Seawolves, splitting a series with UAA last season at home (Jan. 3-4). The Nanooks have never beaten the Badgers (7-0-0), but the two teams haven’t met since 1993.
Drew’s picks: Alaska-Fairbanks over Wisconsin 3-1, Wisconsin over Alaska-Anchorage 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Badgers 3-2, 4-3 — and, yes, I know how improbable that is given Wisconsin’s road record last season.
Connecticut at Penn State
Drew: Connecticut posted a respectable 18-14-4 record last season before being swept out of the playoffs by Robert Morris. Things will get a lot tougher for the Huskies this season when they join Hockey East. Penn State will get the benefit of playing at home, where they won 50 percent more games than on the road last season. That stat becomes a little less impressive when you realize that it’s four wins compared to two. Penn State fans have seemed welcome hockey last year, however, and Pegula is definitely a home-ice advantage for the Nittany Lions. I could see either team sweeping this, so I guess I’ll pick a split.
Paula: I have zero idea of how Penn State will be this year. Seriously. I suspect that the Nittany Lions don’t have a real clue, either, as to how this season will unfold. I know they play hard, that they believe in their PSU cause, and that they have a good year of league affiliation under their collective belts entering their third full year of Division I play. I’m just going to suggest they begin the season on a high note.
Drew’s picks: Penn State 3-2, Connecticut 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Let me begin with a disclaimer that has practically nothing to do with these picks. Well, practically nothing. I’m a diehard Buffalo Bills fan. Terry Pegula just purchased the Buffalo Bills from the estate of the late Ralph Wilson, and Pegula has vowed to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Penn State 3-2, 3-2.
Providence at Ohio State
Drew: Just like last year, I seem to be a little bit higher on Ohio State than everyone else outside of Columbus. It must be the Minnesota sports fan in me that causes me to root for the underdog to do well. (I was about three months old the last time one of the main four professional teams won a championship here, the Twins in 1991). That being said, I can’t find a reason to put Providence on upset alert this weekend. These two teams aren’t very familiar with each other, only meeting twice in 1977 and once in 1991. For what it’s worth, which is pretty much nothing, Ohio State is 2-1 in those three meetings. Scraping out a split would be a great way for the Buckeyes to start the season, but I’m going with a Providence sweep.
Paula: I love that Drew loves the Buckeyes, the program I covered so closely for over a decade in Columbus. I like this Buckeye team, too, under the direction of Steve Rohlik. I like how the Buckeyes didn’t let a little thing like six goalies on the roster last season interfere with their run to the Big Ten title game. I like the team’s chemistry. I just don’t know where the goals will come from. And I don’t enjoy being reminded repeatedly that I could be Drew Claussen’s mother.
Drew’s picks: Providence 4-2, 5-3.
Paula’s picks: In the past, the Buckeyes had trouble on Friday nights. That’s what I’m going with. Providence 4-2, Ohio State 3-2.