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Face Off Tackle Empire // Weekend Preview and Open Thread March 4-6

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All teams are back for the penultimate week in regular season play. Minnesota travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State have a home and home, Wisconsin hosts Penn State in Madison, and UNO closes out its regular season in Denver.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

(17) Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan State Spartans

Munn Ice Arena; East Lansing, MI
Friday @ 7 et/6 ct on FSD/FSN+/BTN2Go
Saturday @ 7 et/6 ct on BTNPlus

The Gophers close out their road slate at Munn Ice Arena for a pair with the Spartans.  The Mariucci-Bessone Trophy is at stake and I believe the Gophers need one point to retain it.  The Gophers are coming off a home split with Michigan in which they retained the Mariucci-Renfrew Trophy.  Minnesota has a one point lead over Michigan and will need to take at least 5 points to guarantee a share of first going into the final weekend.  The Spartans were off last week and swept the Badgers when they last played.  The Gophers swept the Spartans at Mariucci earlier this year winning 5-2 and 3-1.  I expect this series to be closer as MSU has been better of late but still see the Gophers sweeping. Minnesota clinches a first round bye with a sweep and eliminates Penn State from the Conference title race.

My Pick: MN 6 - 0 MSU
KRACH: MN 4.53 - 1.47 MSU

Ohio State Buckeyes vs (6) Michigan Wolverines

Yost Ice Arena; Ann Arbor, MI
Friday @ 7:30 et/6:30 ct on BTN Plus
Value City Arena; Columbus, OH
Sunday @ 3 et/2 ct on Team Audio Feeds

Michigan hosts Ohio State on Friday before traveling to Columbus to finish their road schedule on Sunday.  Michigan took four points from the Buckeyes earlier in the year, losing a shootout in Columbus and winning at home. Ohio State is one of the few teams that has gone goal for goal with Michigan this year.  Michigan's offense has slown a bit in the past month while Ohio State has been very close to breaking through against top teams.  I see each team defending home ice, splitting the series.

My Pick: OSU 3 - 3 MI
KRACH: OSU 1.17 - 4.83 MI

(14) Penn State Nittany Lions at Wisconsin Badgers

Kohl Center; Madison, WI
Friday @ 8 et/7 ct on ASN/BTN2Go
Saturday @ 8 et/7 ct on BTN Plus

Penn State travels to Madison looking close the gap on Michigan and Minnesota.  Anything less than a sweep means Penn State will need to likely sweep Michigan to earn a first round bye in the conference tournament.  The Badgers took two points from Ohio State last week but should have won more.  They blew multiple 2-goal leads and can't seem to finish games.  I think the Badgers catch Penn State looking ahead to Michigan on Friday, but fall short and get swept during their final home series of the season.

My Pick: PSU 6 - 0 WI
KRACH: PSU 4.55 - 1.45 WI

(15) Nebraska Omaha Mavericks at (7) Denver Pioneers

Magness Arena; Denver, CO
Friday @ 9:30 et/8:30 ct on NCHC Stream
Saturday @ 9 et/8 ct on ASN/NCHC Stream

UNO is in a free fall.  The conference slate has not been kind to the Mavericks and it all started with a home sweep courtesy of the Denver Pioneers.  Denver, on the other hand, has vaulted up in the PairWise and is most likely a lock for the NCAA tournament.  UNO needs to at least split this series to remain above the bubble. Anything less than two ties or one win and they are in the danger zone.  Another sweep for DU could open up a potential at-large spot for Penn State (and to a lesser extent, Minnesota).  Denver has been playing some of the best hockey  in the country lately and has a chance to split the NCHC title, I think the Pioneers roll, sweeping UNO firmly onto the bubble.

My Pick: UNO 0 - 6 DU
KRACH: UNO 2.31 - 3.69 DU