Archive for the 'Big Ten' Category

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 12

Friday, February 12th, 2016

All six teams are back in action this weekend. It features the top three teams playing the bottom three teams. Michigan will play Wisconsin, Penn State will play Michigan State and Minnesota will play Ohio State.

While the bottom three teams most likely can’t get a top two seed, the race is heating up for the top three times. And Michigan’s series is important for the PairWise, because a loss to the Spartans last weekend really hurt the Wolverines.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

After just four Big Ten teams played this weekend with mixed results, it’s hard to learn anything new. I’m left with more questions than answers, and am even more unsure of where each team stands.

Minnesota beat Penn State 4-1 before losing 5-3. Michigan State beat Michigan 3-2 in overtime on Friday night, snapping Michigan’s eight-game unbeaten streak. The Wolverines rebounded with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

After the weekend (and before the Beanpot), Michigan dropped to sixth in the PairWise. Penn State is 16th and Minnesota is 21st. The Wolverines and Gophers are tied for first in the Big Ten while Penn State is third – six points behind both teams. The Buckeyes are fourth with 12, Michigan State has nine and Wisconsin has six. 

(After the jump: Is this the norm for Michigan State, Michigan will still probably win the Big Ten Tournament and anyone can beat anyone.)

Is this the normal for Michigan State?

The Spartans now have two wins in their last four games, and have stopped a couple of good offenses in Michigan and Ohio State. Despite losing to the Wolverines on Saturday, only allowing four goals isn’t bad – especially because Michigan State’s defense has really struggled this year.

The win over Ohio State was impressive, but it was hard to tell if it was a one-time thing for the Spartans or an indication of improvement. But beating Michigan and holding their offense to six goals over the weekend makes me believe the Spartans are improving.

Michigan will probably still win the Big Ten tournament 

As much as I enjoy changing my preseason picks in the middle of the season, I have to stick with Michigan. While the Wolverines can lose one game in the tournament, it’s not likely going to be in an offensive shootout. I think the only Big Ten team that can stop Michigan is still Michigan State, but I’m not sure the two will face off in the tournament.

Anyone can beat anyone 

The only thing I really learned after last weekend is that any team in the conference is capable of beating any other team in the conference (well, that’s hard to say for Wisconsin right now.) But Penn State and Minnesota have already played in a couple of tough series, Ohio State has hung in with Michigan and now even the Spartans have proved they can beat the conference’s elite.

This makes it really hard to predict the tournament and the regular-season standings. It will most likely be Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota in the top three spots, but it’s hard to tell who’ll finish first and second. 

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 5

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Conference play is back in action for just four teams this weekend. The Gophers, Nittany Lions, Spartans and Wolverines are playing this weekend while Wisconsin and Ohio State take a break.

Minnesota and Penn State will play while Michigan and Michigan will face each other. These are two series that have already happened earlier this season. The Wolverines dismantled the Spartans, while the Gophers and Nittany Lions split.

While Michigan and Michigan State are far apart in the standings, Minnesota and Penn State are separated by just six points. And remember, because of shootouts there are three points up for grabs in each Big Ten game. Three points are awarded for a regulation/OT win, two for a shootout win and one for a shootout loss. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 1

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Another weekend of the season featured an in-conference matchup, a different stage and the last pieces of non-conference play for these teams. My biggest takeaway from this weekend is that the conference is a mess – and you can’t make much out (aren’t they all, though).

Minnesota and Michigan are tied for the conference lead while Penn State is third, Ohio State is fourth, Michigan State fifth and Wisconsin last. I know several weeks ago I said the Spartans would finish last, but now I’m not so sure.

Michigan State split its series with Ohio State, winning 4-2 before falling 2-1. The Wolverines swept Penn State. Minnesota dropped both its games at the North Star College Cup, while Wisconsin swept Alaska in non-conference play.

After the sweep this weekend, Michigan has moved really high in the PairWise – standing in fourth place. They’re the only team safely in the PairWise, though. Penn State is next at 17th and Minnesota is 20th.

(After the jump: Maybe MSG was a better idea, weaknesses non-conference play exposes, and the same dilemma with Michigan) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 28

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

This weekend features a mix of in-conference and out-of-conference series. Michigan plays Penn State and Ohio State faces Michigan State in the two Big Ten series, while Wisconsin hosts Alaska and the Gophers play in the North Star College Cup. The out-of-conference series are pretty big for Big Ten teams in the pairwise, since they struggled earlier in non-conference play.

Michigan against Penn State will probably be the most exciting series, with two powerful offenses facing off. This weekend will also be a huge test for the Gophers, who haven’t faced much of a test recently – especially out of conference.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Another week in the Big Ten produced some surprises. Actually, the only series I thought was surprising was Wisconsin-Minnesota. but I’ll get to that later. The Gophers swept the Badgers by a combined score of 13-2. After shutting out Wisconsin on the first night, Minnesota won 9-2 the second night.

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split their series. Penn Statewon 3-2 on Friday before Ohio State won 5-1 on Saturday. Michigan and Michigan State both had exhibitions games against the NTDP. Michigan won 5-2, while Michigan State won 3-2.

Michigan is still the highest Big Ten team in the PairWise at No. 6. The Gophers are 15th while Penn State is 16th. After the losses, Wisconsin stands at 44. Next weekend features another little break in some Big Ten play, as the Gophers get their last non-conference tests in the North Star College Cup.

(After the jump: What’s wrong with Wisconsin, the truth about Penn State and limiting dangerous hits) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 22

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

This weekend features just two Big Ten series, as the Wolverines and Spartans take the weekend off for exhibition games against the NTDP. The Badgers host the Gophers in the border battle, while Penn State travels to Ohio State. This is the last Big Ten matchup for Minnesota until February, as the Gophers take a break from conference play for the North Star College Cup.

Entering the weekend, Minnesota and Michigan are tied for first place. Penn State is third, Ohio State and Wisconsin are tied for fourth and Michigan State is last.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 18

Monday, January 18th, 2016

There were a couple surprises during Big Ten play last weekend, or at least in the Minnesota-Michigan State series. The Spartans played the Gophers closely, losing 5-2 and 3-1. The Badgers and Nittany Lions battled to overtime on Friday before Penn State won 4-1 on Saturday.

Michigan against Ohio State ended exactly the way you would expect a game between two teams with minimal defense to go. They combined for 24 goals over the weekend, ending in a 5-5 tie before Michigan won 8-6. Tyler Motte had a hat trick on Sunday, while Kyle Connor added a couple of goals. Steve Racine and Matt Tomkins started both games.

I can’t say Michigan-Ohio State or Wisconsin-Penn State were surprising series, but I wasn’t expecting the Spartans to play well against the Gophers. Having Jake Hildebrand in net helps, though.

After this weekend’s play, it’s getting harder to separate the “elite” teams in the Big Ten from everyone else. Most of the games and series have been close so far, and I highly doubt anyone expected either Ohio State or Wisconsin to be hanging in games against Michigan.

The Wolverines are seventh in the PairWise, although they still haven’t faced a difficult schedule. Penn State is 15 and Minnesota 16, while Michigan State is 55.

(After the jump: No gaps in the Big Ten, the top line, expecting more from Wisconsin)  (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 15

Friday, January 15th, 2016

This weekend features the big Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, Michigan State vs. Minnesota and Penn State against Wisconsin. At first glance, none of the matchups seem too competitive. But the first and last are certainly intriguing, as Ohio State is playing well lately and the Badgers can score.

There might be some intersecting results from those two matchups, and sweeping Ohio State or Wisconsin won’t be easy – especially since it’s still tough to tell how Michigan and Penn State really stack up against other teams.

I doubt Michigan State-Minnesota will be much of a matchup, unless the Spartans have shored up their defense. The Gophers may not look like their 2014 counterparts, but they’re still at the top of the Big Ten.

At the moment, Michigan is first in the Big Ten. Minnesota is second, Penn State third, Wisconsin fourth, Ohio State fifth and Michigan State last. And since this topic came up on Twitter, I wanted to look at strength of schedule (per CHN’s KRACH) of each Big Ten team. Here’s how they rank:

Michigan: 31
Minnesota: 8
Wisconsin: 30
Michigan State: 26
Ohio State: 24
Penn State: 44

It’s just something to keep in mind.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 11

Monday, January 11th, 2016

The weekend of Big Ten action featured a sweeps, a series split and a win/loss and a tie. Michigan swept Michigan State, Ohio State defeated and tied Wisconsin while Penn State split with Minnesota.Michigan scored 15 goals over the weekend, defeating the Spartans by a combined score of 15-5. Penn State defeated Minnesota 3-2 in overtime on Friday night, while Minnesota won 7-1. The Buckeyes beat the Badgers 2-0 before settling for a 4-4 tie the next night.

The most interesting series of the weekend were Penn State-Minnesota and Ohio State-Wisconsin. I’m not surprised the Gophers and Nittany Lions split, although I am surprised that Minnesota limited Penn State to four goals in two games … and scored seven of its own in one game.

As far as the Badgers and Buckeyes are concerned, the Buckeyes have the edge – for now. The results say that Ohio State, which has played well against most teams all season, is definitely a better team than Wisconsin. But where can the Buckeyes finish?

We learned some things from conference play, but it’s hard to tell if these impressions will hold as the season progresses.

(After the jump: Michigan State’s fate, a defensive test and the surprise team)

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