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Pick Six: 6 Things to Watch in Big Ten Play This Weekend

Four Big Ten teams play between now and Tuesday. One of those is in a REAL GAME!

Good news! We don't have to use the basketball B1G logo anymore
Good news! We don't have to use the basketball B1G logo anymore
Matt Christians

College hockey kicks off this weekend with several exhibitions and a few real games. One of those, Michigan visiting Ferris State Saturday to take on the defending MacNaughton Cup champion Bulldogs, involves a Big Ten team in what has to be considered 2014-15's first game of the week. (At least outside the UP.) The Wolverines also face the US Under-18 team at Yost, joining tree other Big Ten schools - Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State - who open the year with exhibitions.

None of these games are on television with the exception of Ferris State-Michigan, which can be seen on Comcast if you live in or near the Great Lakes State. None count in the conference standings either. Never mind that, though. Here are six things this weekend to keep in mind whether via radio, online (if possible), internet or the next day.

1. With the Bulldogs hosting Michigan in a battle of top-ten teams, the game sets up as the latest chapter in the Motte on Motte family rivalry. Senior goaltender C.J., who last season was named a Hobey Baker finalist, plays for Ferris State. Sophomore forward Tyler (Chicago Blackhawks draft pick) is a Michigan player. While these games are tougher for the parents (who last year wore split jerseys), the event is still a noteworthy one for both Motte brothers.

"It was special," the younger Motte told SB Nation College Hockey last year about playing C.J. "I just tried to have the mindset of ‘just another hockey game.' Obviously it was tough and a lot of pressure and a lot of people looking our way. Looking back at it now it was a special moment, but at the time it was just another hockey game."

2. Freshmen like forwards 2014 first round pick Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings), Dexter Dancs and defensemen Zach Werenski wearing maize and blue for the first time isn't the only thing that seems new. Michigan is opening the season on the road for the first time since the Cold War kicked off the modern outdoor hockey craze in 2001. Indoors is a little longer. Not including Ice Breaker in 2007, the Wolverines have not had a true indoor road opener since playing Notre Dame in 1999 (or one year before new BU commit Jack Wise was born).

3. Continuing an annual series that stretched back to Michigan joining the CCHA in 1981, last year's Ferris State-Michigan game at Yost ended in a 2-2 tie with Wolverines forward Alex Kile's shootout goal giving an unofficial win that counted for nothing.

4. In exhibition games, Ohio State hosts Canadian school Guelph on Saturday. The Buckeyes have a couple new wrinkles against the Gryphons. Sophomore goalie Christian Frey makes his fall semester debut in net. Frey, last year's Big Ten all-freshman goalie, came in at Christmas and made an immediate impact in 16 games, backstopping Ohio State to the B1G Tournament Championship Game with a .929 save percentage.

Besides Frey, OSU returns Tanner Fritz for its second season in the Big Ten. This time around the senior forward has a new role as Buckeyes captain. Wearing the "C" is an opportunity Fritz relishes.

"Some people might say (there's pressure being captain), but I wouldn't say there's added pressure. I think it's just a great opportunity and I'm just looking forward to grasping (the chance) and going with it. I wouldn't look into it too much, it's just a thing for the media," Fritz told hometown media outlet Grande Prairie (Alberta) Daily Herald-Tribune. "I'm just looking forward to the opportunity ahead of us and I think the team could do some damage this year."

5. Minnesota plays Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), which besides having an acronym I can get down with gives the Gophers an opportunity to test out some line combinations against the Ooks (apparently an owl and also a nickname I can get down with). Having to replace the departed D Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau, the Gophers plan on playing all eligible defensemen and also see how a couple forwards adjust to new situations.

Two of those forwards Minnesota head coach Don Lucia mentioned by name are freshman Leon Bristedt, who is eligible to play against the Ooks before missing the opening weekend, and redshirt sophomore Connor Reilly. Reilly is in his second season following a major knee injury.

Both will have an opportunity to play in the top-nine, which lost seniors Nate Condon and Tom Serratore from last season's national runner-up.

"The puzzle's going to be I'd like to have 3 strong lines like we did last year, so we're going to have to replace two of those nine," Lucia said. "So whether it's Leon or Connor or some of these guys who are in that mix. We have to re-establish our fourth line again."

6. Michigan State opens with an exhibition game against Windsor. The last time the Spartans and Windsor played was in 2012. That game, a 6-1 Michigan State win, saw the unofficial debut of MSU captain Michael Ferrantino (an assist) and goaltender Jake Hildebrand (4 saves in 1 period) along with 9 other freshmen. This time around it's the unofficial debut of defensemen Josh Jacobs (New Jersey Devils) and Carson Gatt while Ferrantino and Hildebrand are part of Tom Anastos' leadership core.


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