Welcome to the first-ever “3 Things I Think” about the Big Ten. Like the title says, each week I will discuss 3 topics going on in the Big Ten hockey world.
In a way, this blog has been a long time coming. It has been nearly 3 years since Terry Pegula donated $88 million (later adding a cool $14 million) to Penn State to kick the wheels in motion for the conference. Since then, the thought of Big Ten has been in the back of college hockey fans’ minds as the 2013-14 season drew closer and closer.
In a different way, this blog is about the present. Enough has been written about college realignment in the last few weeks to last a lifetime. Most has been fitting. This season is different than past years and the effect one way or another will be felt for years to come. Or as College Hockey News managing editor Adam Wodon put it, “not since the Louisiana Purchase has the stroke of a pen changed the landscape so much.” Honestly, it’s weird to see the Big Ten on the ice rather than WCHA or CCHA.
But right now all that matters is opening weekend. Let me tell you, being back at the rink is great.
(After the jump, the Big Ten’s opening weekend, Pegula Arena & the best goal in conference history)
The Big Ten got to a B1G start
Although saying that all eyes are on the Big Ten might be a little conceited, the conference got off to a big start on opening weekend. The five teams playing went 7-2 in non-conference games with only Ohio State losing twice to now #1 Miami. Michigan upset then #4 Boston College, who went on to beat RPI 7-2. Wisconsin swept Northern Michigan with freshman Grant Besse scoring the game-winning goal Saturday. Minnesota defeated #12 New Hampshire to win the Ice Breaker Tournament.
The point is, though, that there were no embarrassing upsets like those seen throughout college hockey this weekend. Things went about as well as it could have. Even at Mariucci Arena, the much-maligned Big Ten hockey ad was not booed.
That might be the biggest win of them all.
Pegula Arena looks fantastic on television
One weekend doesn’t make a season. That’s important to remember early even if the highs and lows from watching a season one game at a time come back in midseason form. Still, Penn State opened Pegula Ice Arena with a 4-1 victory over Army on national television. In this case, it’s okay to make a little more out of one game.
As big of a moment as Friday night was for Nittany Lions head coach Guy Gadowsky, the players on the ice, Joe Battista, Pegula himself and the 6370 fans in attendance, it would have been win or lose. Winning makes it better, as does three players – Curtis Loik, David Goodwin and Eric Scheid – scoring in their PSU debut. At the same time, it goes further. Those who have been championing the program got the opportunity to showcase Penn State hockey to the nation.
(And on that note, it was nice to see defenseman Nate Jensen get the arena’s first goal.)
From afar, Pegula was rocking and looked fantastic on television. It’ll fit in nicely with college hockey’s mix of old and new arenas. As nice as it looks on television, I want to experience Pegula in person. I doubt I’m alone.
Seth Ambroz scored the best goal in Big Ten history on Friday
Not even hyperbole. One weekend in and the University of Minnesota junior forward raised the bar high for goal of the year. Ambroz hit the post with his initial shot and chased down the puck behind the net and in the corner. He then shot the puck between his legs, off of Mercyhurst goalie Jordan Tibbett and into the back of the net.
Ambroz’s goal has everything Adam Oates doesn’t like and more, even if it wasn’t the prettiest.
“Ambroz could probably try that 100 times and I don’t think it’d work,” Gopher head coach Don Lucia jokingly said after Friday’s 6-0 win. “He’s not twinkletoes.”
On a serious note, getting a goal from a bottom-six player like Ambroz is something Minnesota needs for a team trying to replace 162 points of production from five juniors who left early last year. He wasn’t alone. The Gophers’ depth came through this weekend as Minnesota scored 8 goals from 7 players in the two wins.