Archive for the 'Big Ten' Category

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 17

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The Big Ten is ready for another weekend of play, but it will only feature on conference matchup as the Wolverines and Badgers face each other. In non-conference action, Notre Dame will be at RPI, Michigan Sate hosts Ferris State, Penn State will at Arizona State and Minnesota will host Harvard. The Buckeyes are on a bye week after defeating and tying UConn.

Last weekend Notre Dame swept Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State split and Michigan and Minnesota played in a couple high-scoring games with Michigan winning one game and teams tying the other.

(After the jump: The Fighting Irish are back, this is the Gophers and Michigan is good)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 10

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The Wolverines split with Ferris State. After winning the first game 7-2, Michigan lost 3-2 in overtime. Minnesota swept Michigan State by a total score of 7-1. Notre Dame also swept, taking down Ohio State 4-1 and 3-2. Penn State split with Mercyhurst and allowed 12 goals on the weekend. The Badgers lost to North Dakota 3-2 and tied 2-2.

Up next:

Minnesota at Michigan
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Penn State at Notre Dame
Ohio State at UConn

(After the jump: Mitch Lewandowski, Notre Dame’s net, and Penn State’s struggles)

Mitch Lewandowski is the key to Michigan State’s offense

The Spartan offense has fared well lately. And although they haven’t been playing the toughest competition, it’s evident a big boost comes from Lewandowski. He’s a really good player, arguably the best on the team and the best the Spartans have had for a long time. He’s a great playmaker and made some spectacular passes, and the offense is running off his abilities.

The Spartans look like a much better team than they were last year. While, aside from Lewandowski, they don’t really have the talent, they’re working well with the pieces they do have. It’s hard to explain how they look better, but they seem to be more coherent than they have been the last couple of seasons, and it’s working well. Michigan State probably won’t fare this well the rest of the season, but they could finish higher than people (like myself) thought they would.

Notre Dame’s Goaltending

Dylan St. Cyr was expected to be Cal Petersen’s heir in net. but that’s been far from true. The freshman started four games this season but hasn’t played since a 6-4 loss to Nebraska Omaha. In his place is sophomore Cale Morris, Petersen’s understudy. Morris has helped the Fighting Irish to three straight wins and pinned Ohio State to just three goals total last weekend, and even stopped 39 shots in the 3-2 win.

Penn State’s Struggles

While I spent all of last year saying Penn State wasn’t as good as everyone thought they were, I assumed at least that they would beat Atlantic Hockey teams. But it’s only been a few weeks and they’ve already dropped two of the contests. And they gave up 12 goals to Mercyhurst last weekend, which shouldn’t happen. These past few weeks – especially the losses to American International and Mercyhurst – expose the flaws Penn State has, especially defensively. The Nittany Lions thrive when they can set up in the offensive zone and take shots on net.

While that’s worked in the past against weaker teams (no offense, American International), it is odd that formula isn’t working against weaker teams now, and, unless Penn State smooths this out, will make this season very hard for them.

It’s still early, but while it’s easy to let one odd loss slide, it’s harder to let two odd losses slide (I’m looking at you, Denver)

 

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 2

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

It’s November, leaves are on the ground and all but two teams have started conference play. The Big Ten has a record of 26-12-3 against non-conference opponents for a winning percentage of .671, which is best in the country.

The Wolverines and Nittany Lions split. Penn State edged Michigan 5-4 in overtime before the Wolverines earned a 5-2 win the night after. Michigan State swept Lake Superior State, throwing up 10 goals over the weekend. Don’t look now, but Michigan State’s offense is tied for 12th with an average of 3.50 goals per game.

The Gophers swept Clarkson, winning 3-1 and 2-1. Notre Dame split with Nebraska-Omaha in a couple of high-scoring games. The Buckeyes swept the Colonials and are off to a hot start, much like they were last season. Ohio State has won four games in a row and has just one loss this season.

Conference action this weekend features Minnesota vs. Michigan State and Notre Dame at Ohio State. Michigan will host in-state rival Ferris State, Penn State will host Mercyhurst and Wisconsin will host North Dakota.

Notre Dame’s Jake Evans leads the country with 15 points.

(After the jump: Penn State leads the conference, Who’s going to stay consistent and Injuries)

Penn State’s at the top

If you looked at Penn State’s overall schedule, this would be weird. The Nittany Lions sit at an even .500 and lost to American International, but they’re the only team that has won two Big Ten games. They’re also the only team that’s played in more than two.

Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State have all played in two conference games and they’ve all won one. Michigan State and Notre Dame have yet to play a conference match, although that will change this weekend.

Who’s going to stay consistent?

The Big Ten had a rough week a few weeks ago, but the conference still has a pretty good non-conference record. Some teams have fared quite well for themselves so far, although strength of schedule for the most part is so-so.

The hottest team in the Big Ten right now is probably Ohio State, which is taking advantage of a great season from Sean Romeo so far. We saw this from Ohio State last year, though, and that dipped as the season went on. This time I actually think the Buckeyes can keep it up, but that rests on Romeo.

The other team that’s doing quite well for itself is… Michigan State. But again, strength of schedule plays a part. Even so, when you’re a new team with not many skilled players and you lack offense, defense and solid goaltending, a 4-2-0 record under a new coach isn’t bad. Will this hold up? Probably not.

Notre Dame’s depth isn’t here yet

The Fighting Irish, despite losing Anders Bjork and Cal Petersen, still entered the season as an extremely deep team with talent. The problem is, Notre Dame hasn’t been healthy so far this year. Andrew Oglevie missed two games over the weekend with an injury. Junior Joe Wegwerth has missed two contests. Just 10 players have played in all eight games this year.

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 26

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

The past weekend was not a great one for the Big Ten, featuring a few splits. Michigan State split with Western Michigan, Penn State split with AIC, the Gophers split with North Dakota, Notre Dame split with Sacred Heart, Wisconsin split with Northern Michigan. Ohio State and Michigan were the only teams to sweep their opponents, UMass and Vermont, respectively.

There were some other odd things that happened, like Michigan State socring six goals in one game. There were some lackluster defensive performances from Penn State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, who allowed five, six and five goals in one game, respectively.

The Big Ten, though, still has the best inter-conference record with a winning percentage of .629. Most of those wins have come against Hockey East (although the bottom half of the league).

Michigan will travel to Penn State this weekend, Michigan State will host Lake Superior State, the Gophers will host Clarkson, Nebraska-Omaha, the Buckeyes will play Robert Morris and the Badgers will host St. Lawrence.

(After the jump: These losses will hurt, who’s giving up the least goals and good old inconsistency and Michigan State’s offense)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 18

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Big Ten play is already in full swing, which is an interesting thing to see in October. Personally, I like this format more. It’s better to see how the teams stack up against each other now and sprinkle in some non-conference games throughout the season, rather than stacking all Big Ten games towards the end.

Penn State and Minnesota split, Michigan State split with Bowling Green, Notre Dame tied Denver and then lost to the defending champions and the Buckeyes and Engineers skated to 1-1 games on both nights.

Leep in mind that it’s still October. It’s too early in the season and results here don’t indicate whether teams are good or bad. With that being said, here are some very-early-take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt thoughts:

 

(After the jump: Ohio State’s defense, Notre Dame looks good, and that good old inconsistency)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 13

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

The Big Ten regular season concluded over the weekend and it had major effects on Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. Minnesota emerged the victor, and the Gophers have now claimed six-straight regular season titles – split between the WCHA and the Big Ten. The Buckeyes swept the Badgers, giving Ohio State the edge in the Pairwise. Michigan swept Penn State, keeping the Nittany Lions from a bye spot.

For three teams – Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State – their best chance of making the NCAA tournament is through a Big Ten championship. That isn’t to say Ohio State and Penn State can make the tournament without getting the title, but things are very shaky for them.

Ohio State and Michigan State will face off in the first set, and the winner will play Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan will play in the other game, and whoever makes it out alive has to face Minnesota. The matches favor Ohio State more than the other teams, aside from maybe Minnesota, but there could possibly be a few “upsets.”

(After the jump: Who’s going to make NCAAs, Michigan is dangerous and tournament predictions)

Who’s Going To Make The NCAA Tournament

Ah, this is always fun. In the beginning of the year it looked like – okay maybe not beginning but at least midway through – that Penn State was a lock. The Buckeyes were high up there. Minnesota was in the mix. But now, it’s possible that neither Ohio State or Penn State make the NCAA tournament. The conference could have three teams make it, or they could have less than that.

Earlier I said that Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota would be the three teams to make the NCAA tournament, with Ohio State on the outside. But I think it will flip to Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota. The Nittany Lions may be up in the air, but I think they need some strange scenarios to happen for them to be pushed out. Ohio State received a big boost from the sweep of Wisconsin and they seem to have the Badgers’ number this year, so I could see the Buckeyes advancing to the championship game.

Michigan Is Dangerous

Watch out for the Wolverines. I’m sure no team envies Penn State right now, since the Nittany Lions drew the worst matchup in facing Michigan – the team that just swept them – in the first round. The Wolverines haven’t been good for much of this season, but they’ve earned a few big wins – over Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State – and have really gotten better at the end of the season.

And they have what no other Big Ten team has – solid goaltending. It may be in the form of an odd rotation, but all players have been putting up good numbers this year and goaltending is usually the difference in this tournament.

Tournament predictions

I have Minnesota over Ohio State for the championship.

Really though, anything can happen this year. While Ohio State is the only top seed that I see winning without upsets, keep in mind the Spartans have played them closely. But I’m still picking Ohio State over Michigan State and then Ohio State over Wisconsin. As I said earlier, the Buckeyes have the Badgers’ number. But it’s tough to put faith in Ohio State when they’ve consistently been one of the most inconsistent teams, so a first-round loss to Michigan State wouldn’t surprise me.

I also have Michigan beating Penn State. While it’s tough to beat a team three straight games in a row, the Wolverines are good right now. And that’s in part thanks to their goaltending, which gave Penn State fits last year. Penn State doesn’t have the same level of goaltending that Michigan does, or defense, so the Wolverines get the edge. And while Michigan beat Minnesota recently, I view that as more of a fluke than a trend.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 10

Friday, March 10th, 2017

The last weekend in Big Ten regular season play is here. Much in the conference will be decided this weekend –  including who wins the regular season championship and who earns the bye spots. Only two teams – Minnesota and Wisconsin – can earn first place. The Gophers are a lock for a bye day, but Penn State has a chance at getting the No. 2 seed, which would give them the second bye day.

Here are the current standings:

1. Minnesota (39)
2. Wisconsin (36)
3. Penn State (31)
4. Ohio State (29)
5. Michigan (16)
6. Michigan State (11)

So here’s the deal. The Badgers and Gophers tied the regular-season series, which means Minnesota must win at least one game to either win the Big Ten or earn a share of the title. The Badgers can clinch a piece of the title with at least a win and either a Gophers loss or shootout win. There are several scenarios where the Badgers can claim the title or a share of the title, but basically they’re good if they win both games, or if they win and Minnesota splits, or if they win one game and Minnesota loses both. (This gets a little more complicated because there are three points up for grabs in each game, so it’s not just wins and losses but also potential shootout wins).

Now for the No. 2 seed. The Nittany Lions are just five points behind the Badgers. Penn State has the season series tiebreaker, but they’ll still need some help. They need to at least win one game and take the other one into the shootout and have the Badgers lose both games. That’s a plausible scenario because the Badgers have a tougher test in Ohio State while Penn State should beat Michigan. But, Penn State is playing at Michigan and the Wolverines are just coming off a big win over Minnesota (that could cost the Gophers a piece of the Big Ten title).

So the last weekend in Big Ten play will be full of drama. And that’s not even including the Pairwise (the Badgers are in the bubble and the Buckeyes are on the outside. But the difference between the two teams isn’t much.)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 7

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

There is now just one weekend left in the Big Ten regular season. Minnesota is first in the conference but has just a three-point lead over the Badgers. That will make for a fun conclusion to the regular season since there are a few things on the line: That regular-season title, a shot at a bye day and a possible NCAA tournament at-large spot for the bubble teams.

Last weekend’s split with Penn State helped the Badgers in that regard. They’re 13th, so still on the bubble. Losing to Michigan State did not really help Ohio State’s cause, as now the Buckeyes are back on the wrong side of the cutoff line. The Gophers split their series with Michigan and while that looks bad, it didn’t have much of an impact for the Gophers. Except for in the standings, where that loss allowed Wisconsin to creep a little closer to the first spot.

Here are the standings:

1. Minnesota
2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan
6. Michigan State

(After the jump: What to watch, why does no one talk about the really good forwards and is Michigan good)

What To Watch

The biggest games of the upcoming weekend will be the ones for Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. So pay close attention to the Buckeyes-Badgers series because that has a lot of meaning in the Pairwise for big teams. Ohio State is now outside the Pairwise bubble while the Badgers are close to the edge. The Badgers are also just three points away from the No. 1 conference spot and five points away from dropping out of the second spot.

Which brings us to Penn State. The Nittany Lions should have an easy time defeating Michigan (should, but the Wolverines just beat the Gophers). For Penn State, a possible Big Ten tournament title is on the line, since they’d need a bye day if they want to win.

Penn State is just five points behind the Badgers, which means they’d need at least a regulation/OT win and a shootout win and the Badgers to lose both games. But if the Badgers win one of their contests against Ohio State, the bye day will be out of reach. 

And as I mentioned before, the Badgers have a lot riding on their series – a potential regular season championship, a bye day for the tournament and an at-large bid. 

As for the Buckeyes… this is their last hope.

Why Does No One Talk About The Really Good Forwards

Over the weekend, Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy passed the 50-point mark. Actually he did it last Saturday after scoring two goals and an assist. But no one is talking about it. And no one is really talking about his linemate, Justin Kloos, who has 41 points. And then there’s Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey and Mason Jobst. All of those players are in the top-20 nationally in scoring, yet they’re rarely talked about.

Why?

I can’t really answer that, aside from maybe it’s East Coast bias for Sheehy and Kloos. As far as Schilkey and Jobst are concerned, I think that’s just a side effect of paying for Ohio State, a hockey program that will always kind of be in the shadows. Either way, it’s odd that these players aren’t getting much attention since they’re have great seasons. 

Is Michigan Good?

Of course not. Michigan has an offense that’s struggling and minimal defense, but oddly have good goalkeeping, finally. Although having a three netminder rotation seems odd, that’s niether nere nor there. But the Wolverines have gotten a few spoiler wins against some of the Big Ten’s better teams. 

Michigan’s win over Ohio State could be a reason their rival Buckeyes don’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan’s win over Minnesota could be a reason why the Gophers don’t win the Big Ten regular season title.

They were big wins, but are they indicative of an upward trend for the Wolverines or just a couple of odd wins? I think they were just a couple of out-of-the-ordinary wins, but the Wolverines won’t struggle like this for long.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 3

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

There are just two weeks left in the Big Ten regular season. A couple of Pairwise spots are still up for grabs, along with the first two conference spots. Ohio State is playing Michigan State and Minnesota is playing Michigan, and that should result in sweeps for the Buckeyes and Gophers. The Penn State-Wisconsin series is the only question mark, but two wins would be huge for a Wisconsin team close to making the tournament.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 1

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

With another weekend completed there are just a few contests separating these teams from the Big Ten tournament. Unlike over the past couple of years, the Big Ten tournament won’t be the only path to the NCAA tournament. Minnesota and Penn State are pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament, while Wisconsin is 13th and Ohio State is listed as 15th but would technically be 14th if the season ended today, because St. Cloud State – the 14th team – is under .500. Anyway, that means there’s a lot of fun Pairwise stuff to watch as the season winds down.

Nothing exciting happened again last week, except that Michigan won a 1-0 game against Ohio State. Although it’s strange it was only 1-0 – when’s the last team those two teams combined for just one goal? But it looks like the lost hasn’t actually ruined Ohio State’s at-large bid chances yet. Penn State swept Michigan State and Minnesota and Wisconsin split. So basically we saw more of the same.

(After the jump: Who’ll win,, Mason Jobst and Minnesota’s coming together)

Who’ll Win

The Gophers close out their season with a couple of easy matches against Michigan and Michigan State, so I stand by my preseason prediction that the Gophers will at least win the regular season and lock up the No. 1 spot. Their main competition right now is Wisconsin, but the Badgers have to face both Penn State and Ohio State. While That’s a much tougher slate than what Minnesota has left, and last time the Badgers couldn’t beat the Nittany Lions.

Now, there’s more than just a regular-season championship at stake. The top of the Big Ten standings are pretty tight, with just 10 points separating Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. With three points on the line for each game, that leaves 12 points available now until the end of the season. The bye day means the most for Wisconsin and Ohio State, since their only path may be through the automatic bid.

Mason Jobst

Mason Jobst gets little fanfare, but the sophomore forward is really good, and he has 42 points this year. That ranks 12th in the country and second in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes in general have an underrated offense and Jobst is the leader of that. He’s a small player but extremely impactful.

Minnesota’s Coming Together

The Gophers always start the season struggling, but that has a lot to do with their tough non-conference competition. This year it seems like Minnesota has started to put it together as the season continued, and the Gophers are almost a lock for the Big Ten regular-season title. They’re also the most likely team who can win two games in a row.

This wouldn’t be the first time Minnesota has won a Big Ten tournament and not been a great team (see 2015) but things seem different for the Gophers this year. Their goaltending might not be strong, but don’t pass on their offense – Tyler Sheehy’s 48 points rank eighth in the country.