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Pick Six: 6 Things to Watch in the Big Ten (October 24, 2014)

Minnesota returns to action and the Michigan schools travel East.

Hudson Fasching (24) and the top-ranked Gophers return to action this week
Hudson Fasching (24) and the top-ranked Gophers return to action this week
Matt Christians

This week's Pick Six is going to sneak in a seventh thought right off the bat. It will be hard for the 8 games this week to go as poorly as the 10 this past weekend.

No seriously it was bad. The 5 Big Ten teams playing went a combined 2-7-1. Every school besides idle Minnesota, who matched that win total by itself in the Ice Breaker, lost at least once. Last weekend was so bad SEC fans were chomping at the bit before realizing this wasn't Big Ten football.

This weekend continues the non-conference play which will go through the end of November along with the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. Michigan and Michigan State travel to Massachusetts to each play UMass-Lowell and Boston University once apiece for games that will count in the Challenge (Hockey East currently has a 10-9 lead). Penn State hosts Holy Cross at Pegula Arena. #1 Minnesota plays its first home game since March 1 when the Gophers host Bemidji State.

Games (all times local to team's home):

Friday October 24

Michigan @ UMass-Lowell - 7:00 p.m .ET
TV: NESN (Tom Caron play by play, Billy Jaffe color), Radio: IMG Sports Network, Stream: None

Holy Cross @ Penn State - 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: None, Radio: 103.1 WRSC FM, Stream: GoPSUsports.com ($$$)

Michigan State @Boston University - 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: None, Radio: WVFN 730 AM/Spartan Sports Network  Steam: GoTerriers.com ($$$)

Bemidji State @ Minnesota - 8:00 p.m. CT
TV: BTN, Radio: 1500 ESPN (Minneapolis), Stream: BTN2Go.com

Saturday October 25

Michigan @ Boston University - 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: None, Radio: IMG Sports Network, Stream: GoTerriers.com ($$$)

Michigan State @ UMass-Lowell - 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: None, Radio: WVFN 730 AM/Spartan Sports Network, Stream: None

Bemidji State @Minnesota - 7:00 p.m. CT
TV: Fox Sports North Plus, Radio: 1500 ESPN (Minneapolis), Stream: BTN2Go.com

Sunday October 26

Holy Cross @ Penn State - 12:00 p.m ET
TV: None, Radio: 103.1 WRSC FM, Stream: GoPSUsports.com ($$$)

Thoughts

1. Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) will be honored before Saturday's game for being named a 2013-14 First Team All-American. He hasn't had the same offensive success against Bemidji State, however. Reilly only has 1 goal in 5 career games against the Beavers. Fellow defenseman Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) leads the Gophers with 4 goals in 8 games.

2. For more Gophers tidbits, read our Notebook.

3. Penn State went to Alaska  last weekend and came back the most disappointed out of a disappointing weekend. Twice Guy Gadowsky's squad had a third period lead and twice gave it up. Alaska-Anchorage came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie with two goals in the final 5:41. The next night Alaska's Austin Vieth scored twice in a 27 second span to give the Nanooks a 4-3 lead.

Gadowsky had an idea as to why.

The Nittany Lions aren't the only ones. Despite four goals from Matt Berry on the weekend, Michigan State split with Massachusetts after giving up the winning goal with 9.9 seconds remaining. The good news for Penn State for this weekend's series, besides being in position to win games and getting shots on net by players like Eric Scheid, is that sophomore defenseman David Thompson isn't seriously injured after a skate laceration in Friday's game.

4. While the Gophers are more than ready to get going and not have an early week off, having two in a row seems beneficial for Wisconsin. The Badgers are 0-4 on the year after getting swept by Northern Michigan and with only three goals is near the bottom of every offensive category. UW is 0-19 on the power play to start the year and only Northeastern has averaged less goals per game.

It's not a shock Mike Eaves was going to have a tough job replacing the vast bulk of his scoring. Nor is it a shock that the Badgers are struggling - there were moments when the bulk of scoring was around and struggles existed. With a schedule that includes top-10 North Dakota and Ferris State along with an undefeated Denver in the next month, the road doesn't get easier. Sounds like the Badgers are trying new line combinations for when Wisconsin returns to action November 7th.

5. Ohio State is also off this week after getting out-played and out-shot by Miami in a two-game sweep. Christian Frey made a career-high 60 saves Saturday in a 2-1 loss (the winning goal being a wraparound). Even more, the possession numbers are abysmally bad (or good if you're part of The Brotherhood). As Jashvina Shah of College Hockey News points out, the even strength Corsi numbers for the Buckeyes were under 20% for the first 40 minutes. The third period saw the RedHawks out-shoot Ohio State 23-6.

6. Michigan finally got a win on the year Saturday after dropping two games; the latter being a 5-1 defeat to new Hampshire. More importantly, Michigan gets a B1G crack at Jack Eichel. It's not often that two draft-year eligible players go against one another in college hockey, but this year sees it happen several times and kicks off with Eichel and Wolverines defenseman Zach Werenski.

Still, this weekend is one where Michigan needs to do well against UMass-Lowell and the Terriers. With 14 non-conference games, having a winning record is important towards the end of the year when the Pairwise determine the NCAA field. A 1-4 start against non-conference foes is a big hole for a team that began the year with aspirations to return to the final 16.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --