Whether it’s regular season champion Minnesota or last-place Penn State, in a single-elimination format, anything can happen. So who will win the tourney? I’m going to tell you who and how they’ll do it, with a surprising deep run in the forecast for the green and white.
Ohio State: 2 (OT)
The MSU-Ohio State season series easily has been the tightest of the Big Ten, with three of the four games needing a shootout to decide the winner.
The tournament prevents shootouts, but I once again forecast extra time needed to decide the winner here. MSU has found the back of the net often lately, with 12 goals in the last three games.
I see MSU scoring three times on Thursday, and the Spartans are 10-2 when scoring three goals or more. With that being said, junior forward Matt Berry scores in overtime to send MSU to the semifinals.
Penn State: 3
Part of me wants to pick Penn State in this matchup because the Nittany Lions have had success against the Wolverines this year, splitting the series.
But U-M is playing with desperation, knowing a loss to the Nittany Lions could be detrimental to the team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines come from behind in the third period, getting a goal from freshman forward J.T. Compher late in the final frame to win 4-3.
Here’s my shocker of the tournament, but it shouldn’t come as such a surprise.
Despite Minnesota having more talent than MSU, the Spartans have played well against Minnesota each game, including two shootout wins this season.
Mix that with MSU’s desperation factor and you create a chance for Sparty. Sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand brings his A-game, making 30-plus saves and leads MSU to the championship game.
The Badgers know a Big Ten Tournament championship can land them on the No. 1-line in the NCAA tourney, and will use this as motivation on Friday against U-M.
Wisconsin takes advantage of poor Wolverine goaltending to find the back of the net early in the first period and cruise to an easy 4-2 victory.
Everyone loves a Cinderella story, but the carriage is going to turn into a pumpkin before the Spartans can complete an improbable run to the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is simply too good, and with a full lineup, the Badgers will be able to play sound defense and keep MSU out of the net.
Senior forward Greg Wolfe will score a goal late in the second period to make it 1-1 heading into the third, but Wisconsin will score late in the game to regain the lead.
Add one more empty net goal in the final minute and you have the Badgers of Wisconsin as the first Big Ten Tournament champions.