The curtain closes on historic Joe Louis Arena this season. With the Detroit Red Wings not making the NHL playoffs this year, the 6th installment of the Big Ten Conference tournament will be the old building’s swan song. That kicks off tonight with 2 games, Michigan State vs Ohio State @ 5:30 & Michigan vs Penn State @ 9:00pm (both on BTN). Awaiting the winners are Wisconsin @ 4:30pm & Minnesota @ 8:00pm tomorrow night. Here are my predictions for today’s games.
Michigan St (7-23-4) vs Ohio State (20-10-6)
The 2 have met 4 times this season with the Buckeyes winning 3 of them. 3-2 & 4-3 @ Munn Ice Arena & 5-3 @ OSU, while losing 5-4. MSU has struggled all season. It wasn’t a good year for the Spartans, I’m sure they are ready to close the books on it. OSU on the other hand started off strong in their non-conference schedule but has slipped a bit in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes are still ranked 14th in the pairwise & should make the NCAA tournament next weekend. Both teams have very talented players, from MSU’s Mason Appleton (29pts), Taro Hirose (23pts), & Thomas Ebbing (16pts) to OSU’s Mason Jobst (51pts), Nick Schilkey (39pts), & David Gust (39pts), as well as a few other offensive weapons. MSU is young, especially on D, where they struggled all year. OSU has a great mix of classes across their roster. (For my fellow Townies, keep your eyes open for OSU’s Miguel Fidler, he’s got the right bloodlines) I say OSU 5-3
Michigan (13-18-3) vs Penn State (21-11-2)
These 2 met 4 times also but split 2-2. Penn St won the 1st 2 @ home 6-1 & 5-1 while Michigan won 3-2 & 4-0 @ Yost Arena just last weekend. The Wolverines have had a subpar season by anyone’s standards but more so for them. They’ve struggled out of the gate with a younger squad. As of late they have played better, beating Minnesota & OSU as well as sweeping PSU. For them goaltending has been inconsistent, with all 3 of their netminders seeing action. There was no phenom this year but steady play by the likes of Jake Slaker (Fr), Alex Kile (Sr), & Tony Calderone (Jr). The Nittany Lions also started off strong against a weak non-conference scheduale, and have dipped vs Big Ten opposition since. They are hanging on in the pairwise @ 13, and their recent play hasn’t helped their cause, falling from #1 in mid-season, 6-6 their last 12 with those bad loses to this Michigan squad last weekend. Led by Freshman Denis Smirnov’s 43pts, they have 4 30+pt players & 2 20+pt players, so offense is not in question. Goalkeeping is steady under Peyton Jones. It’s been a bit tricky on D this season but Erik Autio & David Thompson are solid, the rest are young, although Vince Pedrie is a top scorer. I say Penn St rights their season tonight 4-1.