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Big Hockey: Weekly Preview

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3 weeks to go in the race for the regular season crown. Michigan State heads to Minneapolis for a Thursday Friday set with Minnesota. Penn State heads to Columbus and Michigan hosts Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

We're entering the home stretch in conference play.  Ohio State and Wisconsin played the roles of spoiler last week, helping Minnesota and Penn State.  February wasn't kind to Michigan and Penn State so they look to change their fortunes in March.  Minnesota and Michigan State were stellar in February and look to continue hot streaks.  Minnesota has vaulted up to 10th in the PairWise but their position is precarious as there isn't much separating 9-15.  Michigan's loss to Ohio State means they will likely need to win out and lose in the B1G Tournament championship game to have a shot at an large bid to the NCAAs.  Wisconsin and Ohio State seem to have woken up a bit the last two weekends as both teams have gone 2-2-0-0.

Michigan State at Minnesota

Mariucci Arena; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Thursday @ 9 et/8 ct on BTN
Friday @ 9 et/8 ct on BTN

The Spartans and Gophers will face off in a (weird) Thursday-Friday series.  Minnesota has taken 4 points in each of the three series against Michigan State, losing 3 shootouts.  These are the two hottest teams in the B1G with Minnesota at 6-1-1 in their last 8 and MSU at 6-2-0.  Michigan State will be without freshmen Dylan Pavelek and Carson Gatt who were suspended indefinitely.  Gatt has played in all but 1 game (last saturday against Wisconsin) and Pavelek has played in 20 of 28 (sat out last week).  These two don't light up the score sheet but losing depth can be a killer this late in the season.  KRACH sees Minnesota grabbing 4.2 points.  I'd like to call a Minnesota sweep, but MSU seems to win a shootout every time so I'll say Gophers win 1 and lose a shootout in the other.

MSU 2 - 4 MN

Penn State at Ohio State

Value City Arena; Columbus Ohio
Friday @ 6:30 et/ 5:30 ct on BTN
Saturday @ 7 et/6 ct on American Sports Network

The Nittany Lions roll into Columbus fresh off a home split with Minnesota (their first points against the Gophers).  Ohio State split with Michigan and looks to be gaining some confidence going 2-2 in their last 4.  Penn State's OT victory on Sunday ended a 3 game losing streak.  Penn State and Ohio State split a series in Happy Valley earlier this year with OSU stealing a game in overtime. KRACH sees Penn State grabbing 4.0 points.  I think OSU continues to improve and grabs their third straight split.

PSU 3 - 3 OSU

Wisconsin vs Michigan

Yost Ice Arena; Ann Arbor, Michigan
Friday @ 7:30 et/6:30 ct on FSWisconsin and FSDetroit+
Saturday @ 4 et/5 ct on BTN

Wisconsin travels to Michigan looking for its third straight weekend with points.  Joel Rumpel has only given up 8 goals over the last two weekends.  If Rumpel can maintain his great play of late, the Badgers can steal a game from the Wolverines.  Michigan ended a 3 game losing streak last Sunday against Ohio State and will need more consistent play in net if they want to win the regular season crown.  The two keys to the series are Joel Rumpel and Andrew Copp.  Rumpel can steal a game, especially if Copp is still not at full strength.  KRACH projects Michigan earning 4.9 points.  Michael Downing will be suspended for the game Friday thanks to his third game misconduct penalty last Sunday.  Any more game misconducts will lead to additional 1-game suspensions.  I think Rumpel will be good enough to earn a tie in one of the games.  Since Wisconsin is 2-0 in the shootout and Michigan hasn't gone to the beauty pageant this year, I'll give Wisconsin the extra point.

WI 2 - 4 MI

UNO @ UMD

UNO is on the road again, this time heading up to Duluth.  UNO is in a bit of a free fall, losing 4 of their last 5.  The Friday game is on My9 in Duluth and the Saturday game is  on FSN and FoxCollegeSports.  KRACH predicts UNO grabbing 2.75 points this weekend.  A split would help slow their descent in the PairWise as road wins count as 1.2 wins in the RPI.  Duluth has split their last 2 so they aren't exactly on a tear either. I like UNO to pull of the split this weekend.

UNO 3 - 3 UMD