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Chris Peters | | February 10, 2017

Games to Watch: Big weekend for Big Ten’s top teams; BU-Harvard set for Beanpot final

  Harvard is set to play Boston University in the Beanpot final.

As the regular season’s end closes in, conference races continue to heat up. The ECAC and Big Ten have particularly tight races, which is part of what will make this weekend so intriguing. With multiple games featuring teams currently in the hunt for the top spot in their respective conferences, there very well could be some shuffling in the standings this weekend.

One of the biggest games of them all in terms of conference regular-season titles involves Union and Harvard. While only one point separates these two, there are essentially five teams in the conference that have a shot at the top.

Then there’s the Big Ten, which still has five weeks of regular-season hockey to get through. There is bound to be a lot of jockeying among the top four teams, but Minnesota and Wisconsin have been pulling away. Penn State and Ohio State have a chance to make up some ground as the Nittany Lions travel to Wisconsin and the Buckeyes welcome the Gophers.

To follow up this packed weekend, Boston University and Harvard – two of the top teams in the nation for much of this season – will meet in the Beanpot final at T.D. Garden. So, yeah, there’s a lot going on this week.

Here’s a guide on what to watch for this weekend:

Friday, Feb. 10

Union at Harvard, 7 p.m. ET: Two of the top teams in the ECAC will go head-to-head for the second time this season. The Dutchmen came away with a 2-1 win just under a month ago at home and sit tied with St. Lawrence atop the ECAC standings with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Harvard is just one point back of Union and SLU in the ECAC, making this a pretty important game in the regular-season title race. The Crimson also have the Beanpot to prepare for, so these next few days may be among the most important of Harvard’s season to date. They’re still in the running for one of the four No. 1 seeds at the national tournament and these two games could go a long way to helping their cause.

Boston University at UMass-Lowell, 7:15 p.m. ET: Any games featuring potential tournament teams at this time of year can be treated as a measuring stick. Boston University has been rolling of late, while UMass-Lowell recently came out of a surprising late-season slide. It is a good time for the RiverHawks to get a challenge like this, especially at home. There is also the chance to catch the Terriers looking ahead to the Beanpot final, which will be played Monday. The last time these two teams got together, an eventful third period with three points from Bobo Carpenter propelled BU to a 4-2 win.

Michigan vs. Michigan State, 7:30 p.m. ET, Joe Louis Arena (Fox Sports Detroit): While it’s been a tough season for both the Wolverines and the Spartans, there is always something special about these two teams going head-to-head in Detroit. This particular game represents the last time the two teams will square off in a regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings and these games will be moving to Little Caesars Arena in 2017-18. Michigan has won 14 of the 29 games played between these two at the Joe over the last 26 years. With how poorly this season has gone for both teams, this is going to be viewed as a monumental game for each squad. That should make for an entertaining bout.

Saturday, Feb. 11

Minnesota at Ohio State, 8:05 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network): Every weekend in the Big Ten is pretty big from here on out in the race to finish first in the league. It’s looking more and more like a two-horse race between Minnesota and Wisconsin, but each have opponents who had great first-halves of the season before stumbling more of late. The Gophers get Ohio State on the road for a pair of games. The two clubs split their earlier series in a pair of games that were drastically different in terms of score. However, since Minnesota lost to Ohio State 8-3 on Dec. 3, they have gone 10-2-0. After sweeping Penn State last weekend, the Gophers are looking as good as they have all season right now. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are trying to get things back on track after posting just three wins in their last eight games.

Penn State at Wisconsin, 8:07 p.m. ET: This series could be a big opportunity for the Badgers to establish themselves as a potential tournament team. They get an opponent that appears to be heading in the opposite direction. The Nittany Lions are winless in their last five while the Badgers are on a five-game winning streak and have won eight of their last 10. Wisconsin still has to play Minnesota one more time and will see both Penn State and Ohio State again before the regular season is over. If they keep the pace they’re on, they’ll have a shot at the Big Ten regular-season title and could surprise everyone with a tournament berth. After a few years of significant frustration, Wisconsin is heading in the right direction in their first year under Tony Granato.

Monday, Feb. 13 – Beanpot Final

Harvard vs. Boston University, 7:30 p.m. ET, TD Garden (NESN): Heading into the weekend, both BU and Harvard are top-five teams in the Pairwise. While each have really big games to think about on Friday, this Beanpot tilt looms large. BU has been absolutely rolling of late, which could make it tougher for Harvard to break their 24-year Beanpot title drought. The two clubs last met in November, with BU taking a 5-3 win. 

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