Three Things I Think: Big Ten Week 3

Posted by: Nate Wells

This past week for the Big Ten felt right. After week 1 having the positive vibes that comes with being welcomed back to school and week 2 bringing out the negative “oh crap I’m back in school” feeling, week 3 was just college hockey. There were highs. There were lows. In Michigan’s case, underclassmen scored all three goals – including a penalty shot by Alex Guptill against BU – in a weekend split against the Terriers and UMass-Lowell.

No one played incredible for all 120 minutes while no one was outclassed all weekend, either. It was regular season hockey complete with all the highs and lows.

(After the jump: Ohio State takes steps, Penn State learns a lesson, non-conference shootouts and a bonus thought about Friday’s Minnesota-Boston College game)

Ohio State takes a step forward in a pair of wins

Only one team in the Big Ten won two games last weekend. It wasn’t Michigan after the Wolverines suffered a loss for the first time this season. It wasn’t Minnesota, who tied and beat Boston College, and it wasn’t Wisconsin because frankly the Badgers are letting its embarrassing trip to Boston fade away for another week. That’s what happens when a team is idle.

No, the only team that swept was previously winless Ohio State. The Buckeyes won a pair of games against Robert Morris. The Colonials followed up Bowling Green coming back from a 3-0 deficit against OSU last week by scoring two goals on three shots Friday in the opening 2:51. Nick Oddo scored twice en route to being named the conference First Star of the week.

Saturday was the opposite where Ohio State went up 4-0 before RMU came just short, losing 4-3. It wasn’t the prettiest pair of wins and that’s fine. Winning a game – especially one Saturday that mirrored a collapse and loss last week – is a step in the right direction. Obviously it isn’t perfect. Holding off a collapse still means there was a collapse, however, the win is a boost for Steve Rohlik’s team. Especially when OSU is playing Bowling Green again tonight.

With the Buckeyes’ sweep and Michigan State defeating the Terriers, all six Big Ten teams are in win column.

Penn State can only surprise once

A surprise is not effective the second time around. The Nittany Lions have gone 0-3-1 since an opening night win against Army. The latest, a 5-2 loss to Vermont in Philadelphia, saw Penn State give up five straight goals.  More importantly, PSU has scored just 8 goals in the past 4 games; a figure two Big Ten teams passed just this weekend.

“A lot of guys, including myself have got to look in the mirror and figure it out here,” Nittany Lions Captain Tommy Olczyk told The Daily Collegian following Saturday’s game.

While mistakes and undisciplined penalties have been made, the four teams the Nittany Lions played so far are seeing PSU for a second time. That seems to help because there is something to prepare. Penn State went 5-1 last year against them.

Shootouts are still a work in progress

Friday’s 3-3 tie between Minnesota and Boston College was one of the best regular season games in terms of atmosphere and suspense. Four days later I’m still giddy enough about it to sound like Joe Rogan selling a UFC pay-per-view. Honestly it’s too bad BTN only replayed the game once in the early AM. I don’t know why the Big Ten wouldn’t want to show and promote it to sell college hockey.

It’s great to see the game rewarded and that was the case when Ian McCoshen’s glove save (or penalty depending on your maroon and gold affiliation) was the #1 play on Sportscenter. Boston College’s three goals in 11 seconds was also “The One” on Fox Sports Live.

Not often does college hockey make the Sportscenter Top 10. Having two different plays from the same game be shown as the top one on two different sports networks speaks wonders. Even both coaches were raving about the play and atmosphere of the opening game following the second game in the two-game series.

Still, the end of Friday’s game – along with Penn State and RIT earlier that night – featured a non-conference shootout. Big Ten teams have the option to add a shootout at the end of non-conference home games even though it adds nothing other than possible momentum the next night. There are no points on the line. The game counts as a tie.

Besides practicing for when there are points on the line, a shootout in non-conference games count as much as points in “Whose Line Is It Anyways?”

Not everyone agrees. Some people, like Minnesota forward Travis Boyd, love the shootout.

“We lost the shootout but it was a lot fun,” he said Friday. “There’s been a lot of talk about it even going back to the WCHA the last couple years and I’m one of those guys who is for it. I think it’s cool. It’s an exciting thing for fans and players.”

Others seem indifferent. Although the shootout is here to stay, my biggest problem with Friday’s shootout was its execution. There was confusion about what was going on prior to overtime. There was confusion during it, such as whether or not Bill Arnold’s shot should have counted. There was confusion afterward.

Maybe it’s good that these problems are coming up in non-conference play. Even referees need practice. Many coming over the WCHA haven’t had to deal with shootouts. If this is still a problem when conference play begins next month, though, then it will be hard to forget about these when the points count.

Bonus Thought: I wrote about Friday’s game and how teams would rather not be seen as a top opponent in October because it is a double edged sword. All of this happened, yet like the shootout, wasn’t discussed in the feature.

-Hudson Fasching scoring a goal 30 seconds into the game and then having his lid stuck on Brady Skjei. That celebration also got shown on Fox Sports Live.

-Johnny Gaudreau scoring the first Eagles goal from an almost impossible angle. Boston College also came close to doing it again later in the game.

-Multiple saves on breakaways by Adam Wilcox and Thatcher Demko.

-Sam Warning nearly winning it with ten seconds left with a breakaway shot falling down (a la Neal Broten in 1979 or Blake Wheeler in 2007). Mariucci Arena would have been brought down if he pulled that goal off.

-The rarity of seeing two teams shaking hands after a Friday game when there is still another one left to be played.

-Seeing a car with a pink mustache on the grill on my way to Mariucci. No really. That should have been an indicator how crazy things would get on the ice.

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