Last week was a good one for the Big Ten when it came to the win-loss column. The five teams playing (Minnesota was idle) went a combined 8-1-1. That includes a two-game sweep by Michigan over Michigan Tech and Penn State overcoming a 4 goal effort by Robert Morris’ Cory Wydo to snap a 4 game winless streak. Wisconsin, meanwhile, came back from a week off tying and defeating a previously unbeaten Lake Superior State team.
And of course there were plenty of things to think about and discuss. Here are three.
(After the jump, Nic Kerdiles continues to consistently score, freshmen goaltenders shining and extended non-conference play is not helping break in the Big Ten mindset)
Nic Kerdiles once again is dependable for Wisconsin
Although the Badgers looked to right the ship this weekend, there have been two consistent things for Wisconsin this year. The first is outlandish hockey scores. Some, like Saturday’s 8-1 shellacking of Lake Superior State, have been good. Others, like a 9-3 loss to Boston College, have not.
The 3-3 tie Friday with the Lakers was an outlier score-wise and even that saw Wisconsin overcome a 3-0 deficit in the first four minutes. Is there a score that would surprise anyone at this point?
The second consistent aspect for Wisconsin has been sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles. Last year’s turnaround began when Kerdiles finished serving a 10 game suspension and he has continued to be a rock for the Badgers. Kerdiles, who moved from wing to center this season, scored three points (2G-1A) in the two games against the Lakers; including two goals in Saturday’s win.
“I love it actually,” he told Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal about playing center. “Center’s a little easier for me just because I can use my speed. I think I’m quick, so I’m able to pick up on my mistakes if I’m out of position.”
With eight points (4G-4A) in 6 games, Kerdiles is now up to 18 consecutive games with at least one point stretching across the last two seasons. Only teammate Mark Zengerle (20) and head coach Mike Eaves (21) have had longer streaks for the Badgers over the last 40 years.
Michigan and Ohio State are benefiting from freshmen goalies
Speaking of consistency in the face of unpredictability, every year there seems to be at least one or two freshmen goalies that come out of nowhere. Last year Adam Wilcox did just that for Minnesota. Two seasons ago it was Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson for Wisconsin.
If there was one in the Big Ten to start the year my guess would have been Penn State freshman Eamon McAdam. He came into the Nittany Lions with both a winning pedigree in the USHL and a third round draft pick by the New York Islanders.
My guess would have been wrong. So far McAdam has played in two games, having a .836 save percentage while splitting time with Matthew Skoff.
Instead, it’s a pair of freshmen goalies in Michigan goaltender Zach Nagelvoort and Ohio State goaltender Matt Tomkins who are taking the reins for their teams. Nagelvoort has started Michigan’s 5 games after Steve Racine was injured. He currently leads the NCAA for goalies who have played more than two games in save percentage with a .948% while the 6-1-1 Wolverines are tied for third nationally in team defense.
Tomkins, a 2012 7th round pick by Chicago who has started OSU’s last four games, is going to be the guy for the Buckeyes after sophomore Colin Olson left the program. It has not been the easiest transition to the college level. Tomkins’ first two games were struggles. He gave up 9 goals in a pair of losses to Miami and Bowling Green, which brought up questions as to if he (or anyone) could come in and replace Brady Hjelle. Since then, Tomkins has posted a .918 save percentage and 2.4 GAA in his last 5 games as Ohio State has gone 4-1.
No B1G camaraderie yet
If you haven’t checked out Ryan Lambert’s Second Thoughts on the Hockey East-Big Ten Challenge, it’s a great read. He also echoed my opinion that through the first month of the season it is hard to have any feelings towards the other Big Ten teams.
(I’m trying. It’s my job. But if I were a fan of one of the six Big Ten teams, what incentive is there right now?)
The Big Ten-Hockey East Challenge was an okay, if not convoluted attempt to fix it. On the surface, it is new while keeping in the spirit of traditional college hockey. In theory that gives the Big Ten something to hang its hat on before conference play begins November 29.
At least that’s the way it came off when the challenge was hastily announced in late September. In actuality, the challenge was little other than single non-conference games. There was no Big Ten camaraderie. There were no spontaneous “B-1-G” chants like Midwest hockey fans all of a sudden became southeastern college football crowds.
In the first year of a new conference, there should be something to unite or look forward to right away. Maybe it’s the lack of national TV games or the fact conference play is another month from beginning, but right now there is nothing to take away from taking things one week at a time. There is no comparison to one another. Everyone is on their own island.