Archive for the 'Big Ten' Category

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 16

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

The weekend of Big Ten/non-conference play featured two and a half sweeps. The only half sweep came in non-conference competition as Ohio State defeated and then tied Arizona State. It was not the best game for the Buckeyes, who did lose in the meaningless shootout. The Gophers swept Michigan while Penn State swept Michigan State..

Penn State is still No. 1 in the Pairwise and it would probably take a lot (maybe losing every remaining game) to knock them out of the tournament. The Buckeyes, however, are on the bubble and they’ve dropped down to No. 13. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 points each. Wisconsin is third with nine.

Per Scarlet & Grey Radio’s Miles McQuinn, OSU’s leading scorer Nick Schilkey is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He was hurt in Saturday’s tie against Arizona State. The Gophers announced that Tommy Novak is out for the rest of the season.

(After the jump: The inconsistency returns, a Pairwise update/NCAA tournament outlook and a national scoring update)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten Dec. 12

Friday, January 13th, 2017

This weekend again there are two Big Ten series with Michigan State traveling to Penn State and the Gophers hosting the Wolverines. Wisconsin has a bye week while Ohio State will host Arizona State.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 9

Monday, January 9th, 2017

The second half of the season officially began and the four games this weekend were not very surprising. Wisconsin swept Michigan State while Penn State and Ohio State split. a bunch of NCAA players, including a few from the Big Ten, secured gold at the World Juniors on Thursday and then returned home – although they did not play on Friday (understandably). The Wolverines, who were off, held their alumni game against Red Wings alumni to benefit Scott Matzka, who has ALS.

The Gophers, who were also off, are tied for first with Penn State and Wisconsin, who all have nine points. Ohio State is fourth with six points (remember, regulation and overtime wins count for three points) and Michigan is fifth with three. The Spartans still have no conference points, and each team has played four Big Ten contests.

Luke Kunin, after captaining America to gold, was back in Wisconsin to watch the Badgers win 5-1 over the Spartans. On Saturday Kunin helped the Badgers win 5-1 after potting two goals. Matt Jurusik returned from his injury on the same day and stopped 20 shots. Michigan State’s Ed Minney made 61 saves over the weekend.

Tanner Laczynski was another World Junior gold medalist, although he didn’t play for the Buckeyes over the weekend. Ohio State won 3-0 on Friday and then fell 4-2 with a last-minute comeback attempt failing. Without one of their leading scorers, Ohio State got five goals from three different players while Christian Frey made 46 saves in the win and 39 saves in the loss. Peyton Jones stopped 24 in the win and 18 in the loss. While freshman Denis Smirnov was kept from scoring, his assist on Saturday gave him 28 points – a new program record for points in a single season by a freshman.

Michigan’s Joe Cecconi and Minnesota’s Ryan Lindgren also came home with gold, although both their teams were off.

(After the jump: What this means for Penn State, the problem for Ed Minney and what Wisconsin’s offense should be)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 6

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Conference play, and the official second half of the season, starts this year. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are in action, while Michigan and Minnesota are off and will resume next weekend when they face each other. Currently

Luke Kunin, Joe Cecconi, Ryan Lindgren and Tanner Laczynski all spent the last week-plus at World Juniors. They should be back in time for the weekend, but some players are still question marks for this weekend.

This seems to be, again, the year of scoring for the Big Ten. Four Big Ten teams are in the to 15 in scoring – Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin. I think this year, like last year, the offensive production is a mix of talent and of poor defense and goaltending.

Last year’s theme was how weak and inconsistent the conference was, and so far it looks like more inconsistency as the second half of the season begins. But we’ll see. Before I go, though, here’s my “revised” Big Ten prediction:

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

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 2

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Happy New Year! It’s the first 2017 edition of Three Things I Think. A few teams have already kicked off the 2017 portions of their schedules, mostly through holiday tournaments (which I think shouldn’t exist, but more on that later). The first holiday tournament, the Great Lakes Invitational, ended with Michigan and Michigan State facing each other in the Big Ten consolation game, I mean the GLI consolation game. Michigan narrowly won that contest in overtime. The Wolverines dropped the opening round to Michigan Tech while the Spartans fell to Western Michigan.

At the Mariucci Classic, Minnesota reclaimed its home tournament after defeating…. UMass and Mercyhurst. Nothing to write home about. The Gophers won by a combined score of 9-2, and I’d be surprised if they hadn’t. Ohio State was the only other Big Ten team in action as the Buckeyes lost to Miami 6-3.

(After the jump: Penn State’s pairwise, holiday tournaments and each team’s New Year’s Resolution.)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 12

Monday, December 12th, 2016

The teams finished the last weekend of play and the results weren’t very surprising. The Big Ten – and the teams in it – have been pretty inconsistent since the league’s second year. Michigan and Wisconsin split, while the Gophers swept the Spartans. The Gophers are currently first with nine points but also have played two more games than all teams except for Michigan. Penn State is second with six. Reember – each regulation/OT win counts for three points because of the added shootout wins.

The Badgers held on for a 7-4 win on Friday night but the Wolverines took down the Wisconsin 4-1 on Saturday. Hayden Lavigne played in both games and earned the win on Saturday but allowed six goals on Friday. Zach Nagelvoort also played on Friday.

Minnesota won both games 4-2, and the Spartans struck first in both contests. The Gophers scored four unanswered on Saturday to win the game while they netted three of the last four goals on Friday to take the win.

There have also been a few injuries in the Big Ten this year – notably Wisconsin’s Trent Frederic and Matt Jurusik, both of whom missed some games. (Ferderic is back but Jurusik is not). But you can add another freshman phenom, Will Lockwood, to the list. Lockwood was hit from behind last weekend and suffered an injury. Per Wolverine 247’s Zach Shaw, sources said Lockwood has a dislocated shoulder and there is no timetable for his return.

(After the jump: What we know so far, Penn State’s second half and what teams need to work on for half No. 2)

What we know so far

Well, not much. Conference play has only just begun and the first half of the season never gives us much ti interpret. The two things about the conference we know for certain are that goaltending is still having a down year, scoring is still better than defense and the freshmen are making a big impact.

Penn State’s Denis Smirnov leads all rookies nationally with 27 points for 1.80 points per game. Tanner Laczynski is tied for second in the country amongst freshmen with 20 points. The Buckeye rookie has averaged 1.22 points per game and has tallied six goals. In the Big Ten, those are in the league top three for scoring. On the other side, redshirted Jerad Rosburg is having a great season for the Spartans defensively. And between Jack Berry, Hayden Lavigne, Jack LaFontaine and Peyton Jones, the freshmen are getting some good chances in net.

Big Ten defenses have been lagging since last year (a combination of bad defenses and really talented offenses) and that trend has continued. Lavigne has the best save percentage, and he’s a good goaltender, but most goaltenders are hovering close to .900 or below – including both of Ohio State’s netminders, Wisconsin’s netminders and Eric Schierhorn. And as far as offense goes, the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10 nationally – Penn State (first – 4.87 goals per game), Ohio State (second – 4.53 goals per game), Minnesota (T-6 – 3.62 goals per game) and Wisconsin (T-9 – 3.44 goals per game).

We’re in for another inconsistent year and, if Minnesota doesn’t strengthen, could see another season without a clear favorite for the Big Ten tournament. At this point the Gophers are probably still the favorite, but the Buckeyes are a close second.

Penn State’s Second Half

Penn State is in the midst of a long break. The Nittany Lions last played on Dec. 2 and won’t play for over a month with their next game slated for Jan. 6. While Penn State’s second-half schedule isn’t very difficult, it’s still tougher than the first half. And teams like Minnesota, Ohio State and even Wisconsin can pose threats on the offensive end.

This season playing in the Big Ten equals a relatively easy route through an automatic bid through the conference tournament. But Penn State would still need a first-day bye to have a chance at winning the tournament, so things get crucial once the calendar flips to 2017. These teams are still a little tougher than most teams Penn State played in the first half, and the Nittany Lions have a lot to prove. The key question here is if Guy Gadowsky’s game plan of “shoot as much as you can” will work against these teams. My guess is it won’t work so well against Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, because matches against those programs turns into more of an offensive, back-and-forth, transition shootout.

What teams need to work on for half No. 2

The big thing is consistency. I don’t like saying consistency because it’s an odd concept to peg as a weakness – how do you fix consistency? So the key is if Minnesota can get stronger down the road and can Ohio State, which traditionally loses in the first half and wins in the second, keep its stretch of second-half success alive.

Another big issue is defense and goaltending. Michigan’s Hayden Lavigne is probably the league’s best goaltender but Michigan’s defense is not good. Maybe Lavigne can steal games for them in the second half, but a Will Lockwood-less offense might not be able to help enough on the other end. You can apply this to Michigan State, although their offense is improving and Ed Minney’s numbers in net do not look good.

With Penn State it’s near impossible to tell. To know a teams weakness you first have to know the tea, but it’s hard to know a team when they play an easy non-conference schedule. And the teams Penn State will face now are much different, and that might change Penn State’s game plan of possessing the puck and shooting around.

And lastly for Wisconsin… Unfortunately for the Badgers, turnovers and defensive mistakes will happen when young players are being creative offensively. That should shake away as the season progresses, but the Badgers aren’t particularly strong – nor have been in a while – on the defensive end anyway.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 8

Friday, December 9th, 2016

It’s almost time for teams to start winding down for the holiday break and then the holiday tournaments. But before that we have a couple more series left, headlined this weekend by … well, there are only two series this weekend. Minnesota heads to Michigan State while Wisconsin will play Michigan at Yost. That first one could be interesting, but the second one should be more exciting.

Michigan (6-7-1) vs. Wisconsin (7-6-1): Dec. 9 at 7:35 p.m.; Dec. 10 at 7:35 p.m.

Last year this would’ve been either a blowout in favor of Michigan or a high-scoring, one-goal affair. But both these teams are very different than last season. Michigan’s strength is goaltending but their weakness is still defense, while the Badgers have the lethal skill that can hurt any team.

Grant Besse now has 17 points for the Badgers, over half of his total from last season. Luke Kunin is right behind him with 14. Goaltending is not Wisconsin’s strongest aspect this year, and an injury to Matt Jurusik has left Jack Berry at the helm. The Badgers are inconsistent, but the talent on the team is undeniable.

Michigan has a weak enough defense and Wisconsin has enough talent to exploit it.

Prediction: Badgers sweep

Michigan State (4-6-1) vs. Minnesota (7-5-2): Dec. 9 at 6:35 p.m.; Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.

Normally this would be Minnesota sweeps Michigan State, but the Spartans did just defeat North Dakota. And Minnesota is still pretty inconsistent.

Like the Badgers the Gophers have the talent but have been too inconsistent. That’s been a theme in recent years, although it’s a little stranger this year since they aren’t relying as much on freshman. Tyler Sheehy has 20 points while Eric Schierhorn has a .882 save percentage.

You know it’s a backward season when scoring is a stronger point for the Spartans than defense. But Mason Appleton is a good offensive player to have, and he’s averaging a point per game. More than that, the offense is just getting better looks and looking more cohesive than it has recently. The defense, not as much. Ed Minney has a .892 save percentage.

Who knows what will happen this series?

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 5

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

The first weekend in Big Ten play taught us… nothing, really. Penn State beat Michigan, a team with spotty defense (and no Hayden Lavigne) 11-1 combined. Ohio State and Minnesota split, although the Buckeyes avenged a 5-3 loss with an 8-3 win. The Badgers had an interesting weekend against Omaha, tying 3-3 the first night and then falling 7-4.

So after two Big Ten series, what do we know about the Big Ten? Nothing new, really.

After the jump: No one in college hockey is good this year, strength of schedule matters for measuring success and the Big Ten inconsistency is killing me)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 1

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

This weekend features the first foray into Big Ten play, starting with Michigan and Penn State. The Gophers and Buckeyes will also face off, while the Badgers host Nebraska-Omaha in their last non-conference slate before their Big Ten play starts.

After a good weekend the Spartans have the week off the face the U-18 NTDP.

And since Big Ten play is going to start, here is my revised poll:

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

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 28

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The biggest storyline from the weekend was Michigan State taking three out of four points in a series against North Dakota. But we’ll talk more about that later. This was a big weekend for the Big Ten and the last one before conference play starts. The Gophers, Wolverines and Badgers all split their weekends.

Wisconsin earned a 2-1 win over Colorado College and followed with a wild 6-5 loss to Denver. The Pioneers had a 5-2 lead heading into the third, but the Badgers scored three goals in the last frame to come so close to tying it. Jack Berry started both games and Trent Frederic did not play.

Minnesota had a two-goal lead as the third period began but gave up four goals in the third period to lose the game. The Gophers have been a team to make comebacks late in the game, not lose them. It’s more proof that the Gophers are struggling with consistency and figuring out how to put everything together. The Gophers then beat BC. While the Eagles aren’t the strongest team, but Joe Woll is a good goaltender.

That win over BC was also Don Lucia’s 700th win. Per Minnesota, Boston College was also the team Lucia earned his first win over on Oct. 29, 1999.

The Wolverines split their series with Lake Superior State, and it was Zach Nagelvoort who was in net for Michigan’s 4-1 win. Jack LaFontaine took the other start but only allowed two goals.

(After the jump: Let’s talk about Michigan State, Jerad Rosberg and when will Minnesota be consistent)

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