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Big Ten Hockey Tournament Semifinals Preview & Open Thread

Mike Eaves has been let go by Wisconsin after back-to-back terrible seasons. Penn State will take on Michigan in the afternoon game while Ohio State and Minnesota face off in the night cap. The two spots in the B1G Tourney championship game are on the line and either one or two team's seasons will end tonight.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

General Updates

Mike Eaves Fired

Mike Eaves was let go earlier this morning, with Barry Alvarez saying "I feel we need a change."  This news was expected as Eaves' Badgers finished last in the Big Ten the last two years with the program's two worst records ever. There is talent in Madison, they need to find a coach who can better manage and develop players if they want to get back to an elite level.  The one knock on Eaves was that his teams were very cyclic, building towards a great season then dropping off for a rebuild.  Unfortunately, recruiting misses and early departures robbed him of what should have been another peak and instead botttomed out the program.

Tourney Projections

Wisconsin and Michigan State were eliminated last night, increasing Penn State and Ohio State's chances at winning the crown while hurting Michigan and Minnesota's chances.  The 3 and 4 seeds are undefeated in semi-final play over the last two seasons.  PSU and OSU were swept by MI and MN, respectively, during the regular season.  Michigan dominated Penn State, but Ohio state lost 4 toss-ups to Minnesota.  Updated table is below:

Change in Championship %:

MN -2.34%
OSU +5.04%
MI -4.01
PSU +5.79

Game 3
(3) Penn State Nittany Lions at (2) Michigan Wolverines

Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, MN
Friday @ 5 et/4 ct on BTN/BTN2Go

Penn State comfortably beat Wisconsin 5-2 last night.  The Nittany Lions were outplayed for stretches of the game, but found ways to capitalize on Wisconsin mistakes to break out a 3 goal lead after two periods.  Michigan's defense is prone to lapses so I would look for Penn State to continue their opportunistic play.  That being said, Michigan's offense will not miss the chances that Wisconsin did and will do a better job at controlling the puck while on the attack.  Michigan won all four games, including two last weekend by a combined score of 26-9.  I think we see something similar to last night, but with Michigan coming through where Wisconsin didn't and Penn State getting less counter-attack opportunities.

My Pick: PSU 3 - 6 MI
KRACH: PSU 34.70% - 65.30% MI

Game 4
(4) Ohio State Buckeyes at (1) Minnesota Golden Gophers

Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, MN
Thursday @ 8:30 et/7:30 ct on BTN/BTN2Go

The Buckeyes survived last night against the Spartans in overtime.  Not only did Ohio State play and extra 13:47 last night, but they played the final 45:16 (of 73:47) with only 5 defenders.  The Buckeyes will have some tired legs on the blue line tonight.  I expect adrenaline to carry them early, but look for late miscues to give Minnesota chances.  The Gophers won all 4 contests against Ohio State with three coming in Overtime.  Ohio State forced OT with the extra attacker twice.  Minnesota will need to be disciplined late in the game to prevent any extra attacker goals, something they have struggled with throughout the season.  Ohio State looked incredible at even strength last night, out scoring Michigan State 4-0 and out-shooting them 43-21.  OSU seemed to have an extra gear and was flying around MSU defenders, constantly cutting across the goal mouth alone.  Minnesota will need to weather a fast OSU start since the Buckeyes need to take advantage of adrenaline before the fatigue sets in.  If Minnesota can get out of the fir 10 tied or ahead, they will be in good shape.  If the Gophers can score quick, they may be able to run away with this game.  I see a tight back and forth game with Minnesota holding on for dear life at the end.

My Pick: OSU 3 - 4 MN
KRACH: OSU 37.70% - 62.30% MN