Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 20

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

Big Ten play has been picking up, although not every team in the conference has faced off yet. All teams, except for Michigan, have now played at least six league games. Minnesota leads Big Ten play with a 7-0-1 record over eight games.

Michigan and Wisconsin were idle over the weekend, while Michigan State swept Penn State and Minnesota swept Ohio State.

With the limited amount of conference games, it’s hard to tell which teams — aside from the Gophers — are elite in Big Ten hockey. But the Buckeyes proved over the weekend they’re capable of playing against the best.

The Nittany Lions are still searching for their first conference win, and their four wins this season have all been against Atlantic Hockey teams. In Saturday’s contests against the Spartans, Penn State lost 3-2 but played well and tied the Spartans twice during the game.

But the rest of the season is only going to get harder for the Nittany Lions, who resume against Boston College. The Eagles defeated Penn State 8-2 earlier in the season. After that, Penn State will play 14 games against Big Ten teams.

(After the jump: Minnesota’s offense, Ohio State’s goalkeeping and Ryan Dzingel)

Minnesota has a scary offense

The Golden Gophers ran their unbeaten streak to 10 games over the weekend, defeating Ohio State 1-0 and 4-2. On Saturday, the Gophers were trailing the Buckeyes 4-2. Minnesota responded with three unanswered goals for the win. Sam Warning recorded a hat trick — the first of his career and Minnesota’s only of the season. Warning’s 26 points leads the Golden Gopher offense, which averages 3.82 goals per game.

Minnesota has the second-best offense in the nation, behind Boston College. Unlike the Eagles, the Gophers don’t have a player who ranks in the nation’s top-10 in individual scoring. Warning is one of three Golden Gophers with over 20 points this season, while 11 players have double-digit point totals.

The Gopher offense has managed to do well despite a power play that ranks 40th in the nation. The Gophers have scored 17 goals on 103 man-advantage tries, good for a 16.5 percent conversion rate.

Goalkeeping by committee

After returning from his injury, Matt Tomkins started three straight games before sitting in favor of Christian Frey, Tomkins has played in 12 games this season, while Frey, a midseason addition, has played in three. Before Frey joined the program and Tomkins returned, Logan Davis was the Buckeyes starter.

Behind Frey and Tomkins, who split the weekend’s starts in net, the Buckeyes played well against a Minnesota team that hadn’t lost since Nov. 24. In Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes were leading the Golden Gophers 2-0 during the first period and finished the opening frame ahead 2-1, despite being outshot 16-7.

On Friday the Buckeyes limited the Gophers to one goal. It’s the only time the Gophers scored less than two goals over the team’s 10-game unbeaten streak. Notre Dame was the only other team that kept Minnesota to one goal, and that was on Nov. 8.

Ryan Dzingel is pretty good

Ohio State’s offense averages 3.55 goals per game, tied for fourth in the country. Pacing the Buckeye offense is Ryan Dzingel, who’s a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.

His 28 points lead all Big Ten players, and he has four game-winning goals and a hat trick this season. He averages 1.40 points per game, which is good for eighth in the nation. He’s the second-highest scoring junior, behind only BC’s Johnny Gaudreau.

I had the chance to catch some of Ohio State’s games against Minnesota this weekend and was pretty impressed with the junior, who netted an assist in the 4-2 loss to the Gophers.

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