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Big Ten Hockey Weekend Preview: Winning matters most in Michigan vs. Minnesota series

While the Big Ten focuses attention on the national championship game next Monday, the weather outside has made us all remember that hockey season is upon us. It has been with us for some time really, but things are about to heat up as the temps freeze us all in.

So, let’s take a look at what is on tap for Big Ten hockey teams this weekend.

Big Ten Standings:

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 5.43.29 PM

Weekend Schedule:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 9

No. 9 MINNESOTA at MICHIGAN 6:30 p.m. (BTN)

U.S. NTDP at MICHIGAN STATE (exh.) 7 p.m. (FSD+)

OHIO STATE at PENN STATE 7 p.m. (American Sports Network)

No. 2 Boston University at WISCONSIN 8 p.m. (Wisconsin Channel)

SATURDAY, JANUARY 10

OHIO STATE at PENN STATE 3 p.m. (American Sports Network)

#9/9 MINNESOTA at MICHIGAN 4 p.m. (FSD/FSN+)

#2/2 Boston University at WISCONSIN 8 p.m. (Wisconsin Channel)

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Series to Watch: Minnesota at Michigan

With just six teams in the conference this would be a big series no matter what, but when you consider these are programs No. 1 and No. 2 in all-time wins in college hockey history it is always going to be a series to watch.

That’s especially the case this season as the Big Ten’s biggest names have really taken a hit on the chin. Wisconsin is awful, Michigan has struggled to stay above .500 and about the only team to still matter on the national stage is Minnesota.

Both of these teams come in with 10 wins on the season, but the Gophers have played just two Big Ten contests all season long while the Wolverines have played three games against conference foes.

This is the start of a long stretch of conference play for both teams and getting a sweep will be huge for either of these teams. However, Minnesota really needs to avoid the sweep, as they are already five points off the conference lead — held by Penn State.

Can Minnesota exploit a Michigan defense that has been shaky at best or will the Wolverines hold serve at home and start to take control over winning a regular season championship?

Michigan’s offense is No. 5 in the country (3.65 goals per game), but it’s defense ranks 37th according to USCHO.com and that’s been a major issue for this team all season long. That top 5 offense will face a Minnesota defense that gives up just 2.19 goals per game.

A split does nothing for either team this weekend, so expect some very entertaining hockey all weekend long.

Potential for Upset: Wisconsin over Boston University

Wisconsin got pounded on, 8-1, by Michigan Tech in the opener after Christmas break. However, they responded by blanking the No. 5 Huskies in the series finale and for a team who has won just two games all season long that’s a massive accomplishment.

Things don’t get easier with BU coming to the Kohl Center this weekend, but if head coach Mike Eaves wants his team to build any momentum for the second half of the season (and keep his job, frankly) a win or at least respectable showing against the Terriers would be huge.

It will also be a chance to avenge a 7-3 butt-kicking that happened in Boston last season. Avenging that loss won’t be easy, as BU has two of the top 10 scorers in college hockey (Jack Eichel and Danny O’Regan) and are in the top 10 of both team offense (No. 7) and defense (No. 6).

Still, last week had to boost the confidence for a very young Wisconsin hockey program, and on a great night they can beat that.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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