What an interesting weekend in college hockey. After looking at all the scores, I’m not sure anything makes sense. But when does it ever? The Buckeyes finally were defeated, and by Robert Morris by 6-2. The next night they skated to a 4-4 tie, so the Buckeyes still have just one loss on the season. Matt Tomkins started on Friday and Logan Davis came on in relief, so Christian Frey is most likely still injured. Ohio State took 37 shots on net on net in both games and John Wiitala accounted for two goals on Saturday. The Buckeyes led by two goals in the last game but the Colonials tied it.
The renewal of the great Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry featured a couple of exciting, fast-paced college hockey games (until the third period of Saturday night’s game, but I digress). Friday’s game was a back-and-forth scoring affair. The Fighting Hawks took a 2-0 lead in the first, but the Gophers tied it. The second was scoreless and the team exchanged goals in the third with Tommy Novak tying it with 1:17 left. Minnesota won 2-0 on Saturday but the game was still close and the Gophers won because of Eric Scheirhorn’s impressive play in net. And of course the teams got into a scuffle when the game ended.
Michigan unsurprisingly defeated Arizona State. In the 4-1 win, Will Lockwood scored twice and Zach Nagelvoort made 31 saves. That was Nagelvoort’s second start of the soon and first since Michigan opened its season against Union. The fact that Red Berenson chose to start Nagelvoort, finally, against Arizona State says a lot about his role with the team so far.
The Spartans split their series with Michigan Tech. The first night Mason Appleton tied the game late in the third and scored the game winner in overtime. Both of Appleton’s goals were power play goals. Ed Minney made 22 saves in the start, but he didn’t look extremely solid. John Lethemon got the nod the next night but, from what I saw, didn’t look too stellar either. He made 23 saves in the 5-1 loss. The Spartans have now won two of their last three.
Penn State swept Niagara by 5-1 scores each night. The Nittany Lions took 56 shots on Thursday and followed with 51 on Friday. The Nittany Lions oddly do not lead the country in shots, but they’re second and have been peppering opponents. That isn’t surprising given their recent opponents and that taking a lot of shots is part of coach Guy Gadowsky’s strategy. On Thursday, Peyton Jones got a night of rest in favor of Chris Funkey. Andrew Sturtz added three goals on the weekend and now had eight.
The Badgers again split their series with Northern Michigan, following a 5-2 loss with a 2-0 win. In the loss, Matt Jurusik gave up four goals on 10 shots, which isn’t good. Jack Berry made six saves in relief. Berry made 22 saves in the shutout win the next night, which was also his first career start. The worst news of the weekend for the Badgers was that Grant Besse was hurt on Friday. He did not play Saturday, but per Wisconsin State Journal reporter Todd Milewski, head coach Tony Granato said Besse could’ve played Saturday and wanted to, but the coaches chose to sit him.
(After the jump: Rohlik deserved his extension, Minnesota is lethal, the good in Michigan State’s offense)
Rohlik deserved his extension
Steve Rohlik was given a contract extension at the beginning of the year and the Buckeyes finally started the season well. The Buckeyes have a loss now, and I’m not sure how they’ll finish, but I think giving Rohlik a contract was the right move. Record-wise the Buckeyes haven’t accomplished much and still haven’t made it back to the NCAA tournament but Rohlik has kept the team competitive over the past few years. He’s also kept their offense producing, even after Ohio State lost Max McCormick and Ryan Dzingel.
He’s also faced quite the challenges – most notably his first season when both his goaltenders were injured and he had a third-string goalie and a baseball catcher as his two options. He navigated the team through it, and the netminding mishap didn’t phase the team.
Whatever their record has been, his Buckeyes have always been a tough team to play against. That’s been especially true at the end of each season, when they’ve been one of the best teams in the Big Ten down the stretch. Unfortunately it’s been a few down years for the conference and that’s affected all of the teams, but Rohlik has done a great job with the Buckeyes all things considered.
Also it’s been three years, which has given Rohlik enough time to recruit his own players. And some of them are pretty good.
Minnesota is lethal
I have to take back some of what I said about the Gophers last weekend. I finally got to watch them closely this weekend (although it’s important to remember that Clarkson/St. Lawrence and North Dakota are very different teams, so it’s hard to compare what I saw this week to what happened last), and I was pretty impressed. Minnesota is definitely better than I thought it was, but North Dakota also probably isn’t as good as everyone thought they were. What impressed me the most with Minnesota, which I shouldn’t be surprised over, is how lethal they can be.
I believe that was something North Dakota mentioned in pre-game press conferences and something we noticed last weekend. There’s a ton of talent on that team on paper, and it translates well on ice. The Gophers can strike quickly and can create good scoring chances out of almost nothing. It makes Minnesota a fun team to watch, and I believe they can become a team capable of winning the Big Ten.
Michigan State’s offense is also better
As strange as this is to type, it’s true. This may never show up on the scoresheet in shots, goals, points or wins, but it’s evident if you watch the Spartans play this year. The forward core is pretty young, with Michigan State relying on players like Mason Appleton. There are some Spartan veterans who can score, like Joe Cox and William Haag, but right now the underclassmen are leading. Appleton has three goals and eight points, freshman Taro Hirose has six points and sophomore Zach Osburn has five.
I’ve only been able to watch one game, and it was the overtime win over Michigan Tech, but the players were able to set up, pass easily to each other, find the right lanes and create some good chances that I can’t remember seeing from the Spartans recently.