The Mariucci Classic is played this weekend, as well as two nonconference series. First, another chance for you to see how much better Drew Claussen is at this picks thing than I am — at least overall.
Drew: 1-7 (.125)
Paula: 3-5 (.375)
Drew: 46-36-4 (.558)
Paula: 32-49-5 (.401)
The Mariucci Classic
Minnesota has struggled playing in its own tournament in recent seasons and with two ranked teams in the field this year, that could continue. I am selfishly hoping for Minnesota and Lowell to meet on Saturday, but if this tournament plays out like it has in the past, they could be playing for third place. It’ll be interesting to see how the Gophers come out against Merrimack after being idle for the better part of a month. Merrimack also has been off since early December, so both teams could have to deal with some rust. I think that the Gophers will find themselves in the championship games on Saturday, but I do not believe that I will get my Gophers-River Hawks matchup. Playing in an empty arena with few fans will help RIT pull off the upset on Friday.
The Golden Gophers have emerged champions 13 times in the Mariucci Classic, now in its 24th year. The last time Minnesota captured the title was during the 2012-2013 season. RIT is the only team in the field to have bested the Gophers in the Classic, a 4-3 win for the Tigers Dec. 29, 2007.
Minnesota faces Merrimack in the second semifinal game. The Warriors enter the tournament tied for fifth place in Hockey East with an overall record of 10-5-2. The Gophers and Warriors have met once, a 6-2 Minnesota win in the 2004 Mariucci Classic. Merrimack finished the first half with a home series against Boston University (Dec. 5-6), a 1-1 tie and 4-2 loss.
RIT (5-8-2 overall) is in fourth place in the Atlantic Hockey standings, having last played Dec. 12-13, a 4-1 home win over Niagara followed by a 1-1 tie against the Purple Eagles the following night.
The River Hawks (12-3-3) are tied with BU for first in Hockey East and bring a four-game win streak into this tournament with midseason hardware already in their showcase. UMass-Lowell won last weekend’s Frozen Holiday Classic, beating Sacred Heart 6-1 and Connecticut 3-1. The Gophers beat the River Hawks, 5-4, in the championship game of the Mariucci Classic Dec. 30, 2005.
Three Gophers are playing in the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament and will miss the Mariucci Classic. Forward Hudson Fasching and defenseman Ryan Collins are playing for Team USA, while forward Leon Bristedt is playing for the Swedes.
The games are at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Only the second semifinal game between Merrimack and Minnesota is televised, and it’s on Fox Sports North Plus.
Drew’s picks: RIT over Massachusetts-Lowell 2-1 in the first semifinal game and Minnesota over Merrimack 4-2 in the second semifinal. Lowell over Merrimack 4-2 in the third-place game. Minnesota over RIT 3-0 in the championship game.
Paula’s picks: Massachusetts-Lowell 3-1 in the first semifinal game and Minnesota 3-2 in the second. Merrimack over RIT in the third-place game, 3-2. Lowell over Minnesota in the title game, 3-2.
Ohio State at Mercyhurst
Drew: Ohio State had a rough go in the first half of the season, and things don’t ease up at the beginning of the second half. Mercyhurst has an 8-5-2 record and has nice wins over Merrimack, Colgate and Robert Morris this season. Ohio State is going to have to win low-scoring, ugly games if they want to find success during the rest of the season; the Buckeyes just don’t have the offensive firepower to win high-scoring games.
Paula: Mercyhurst is in third place in Atlantic Hockey, having finished the first half of the season with a home split against Robert Morris Dec. 12-14, losing 7-4 and winning 3-0. The Buckeyes last played Dec. 5, an 8-3 road loss to Michigan. OSU leads this all-time series 4-1, with all four games having been played in Ohio. The Buckeyes swept the Lakers, 6-3 and 7-2, when they last met (Dec. 28-29, 2013). Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 2:30 p.m. Neither is televised.
Drew’s picks: 2-2 tie, Mercyhurst 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2 and 3-2.
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin
Drew: I don’t have much to say about this one. Michigan Tech can’t be happy with a disappointing loss to Michigan and a third-place finish at the GLI last weekend. The Huskies are going to roll into Kohl Center motivated and wanting two wins to get back on track. I do believe Wisconsin will improve in the season’s second half, but it won’t start this weekend. I’m calling two Tech victories with goaltender Jamie Phillips stymieing the Badgers’ offense.
Paula: The Huskies (14-4-0 overall) are tied for first place in the WCHA and enter having gone 1-1 in the GLI, losing 2-1 to Michigan and beating Ferris State 4-2. Wisconsin ended the first half of the season with two home losses to Penn State (Dec. 5-6) followed by a 4-1 exhibition loss to the U.S. Under-18 team Dec. 12. The teams disagree as to how many times they’ve met; according to Wisconsin, UW and MTU have played 154 times previously, but the Huskies say it’s 160 previous meetings, with the Badgers owning a 99-50-11 record in those contests. The teams met most recently Dec. 7-8, 2012, when they were WCHA rivals, a series that resulted in 1-1 and 3-3 ties. Games are 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Saturday’s contest is televised by the Big Ten Network.
Drew’s picks: Michigan Tech 3-0, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan Tech 4-1 and 3-1.