Archive for the 'Big Ten' Category

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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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 24

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

If you’re searching for some post-Thanksgiving hockey, look no further. Four Big Ten teams are playing this weekend – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State. It’s the last weekend before Big Ten play, so it’s the last chance for teams to get a tune up.

The toughest challenge of the week is definitely for the Spartans, who will face North Dakota. But the young Badgers also will have a tough weekend in a road trip out to Denver. Minnestoa’s trip to Boston may also be difficult though, as the Gophers are still struggling to find their identity.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 21

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Four Big Ten teams were in action over the weekend. Minnesota split with Minnesota State, rebounding for a 1-0 win after a 4-1 loss. The Badgers also split their series, a home contest against Merrimack. Wisconsin won on Friday and Jack Berry made 17 saves. In Saturday’s 2-0 loss, Berry and Matt Jurusik split the game.

Ohio State won both games at RPI. Friday’s contests was a 4-0 victory, but Saturday’s game was much closer. The teams were knotted 2-2 until freshman Tanner Laczynski scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period. Matt Tomkins started both games.

Penn State swept Arizona State, scoring 15 goals on the weekend. On Friday Penn State won 7-4 and on Saturday the Nittany Lions won 8-0. Chris Funkey got a chance to start, making 18 saves on Saturday. (Yes, Penn State took over 50 shots in each game).

Also a brief injury update – per the Wisconsin State Journal’s Todd Milewski, Trent Frederic was injured and miss the series against Merrimack.

(After the jump: Big Ten offenses, Michigan’s best goaltending, things each team should be thankful for)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 18

Friday, November 18th, 2016

This weekend features four Big Ten teams in play. For some, this is the last weekend of non-conference action before Big Ten play begins. Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin all have easier slates than Minnesota, which faces Minnesota State in a home-and-home series. Michigan is playing the NTDP while the Spartans have a bye week.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 14

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

The weekend featured a couple of interesting wins from Big Ten teams, including a 4-3 victory by the Spartans over Ferris State. Penn State swept Alaska-Anchorage (shocking, I know) and holds the longest unbeaten streak in the country along with Boston College. But, the Nittany Lions aren’t that good (more on that later) and this is another great reminder that a) polls mean literally nothing and b) it is way too early to look at the Pairwise.

The win was Michigan State’s first “real” victory (I say “real” because beating a team that has not played a regular season game yet when you’ve already played four seems a little skewed). The Spartans lost 4-1 on Thursday, with Ed Minney in net. He was in net during the win, though, and made 20 saves. In not surprising news, Mason Appleton is Michigan State’s leading scorer.

The Wolverines split their home series with Boston University, but the Terriers were without Clayton Keller. It was more impressive that Michigan shut BU out 4-0 on the first night, but the Terriers rebounded with a 4-2 win. Again it was Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine who split netminding duties, and the freshmen seem to be doing well so far.

Ohio Sate defeated UConn 7-4 and then tied the Huskies 3-3. The Buckeyes are now 1-2-1 in their last four games but are still undefeated in their last three. Christian Frey is healthy and started both games over the weekend. Frey’s consecutive starts are probably less a sign he’ll take the starting role and more a sign that Steve Rohlik is trying to make up some of the playing time that he missed.

(After the jump: Penn State is not good, Ed Minney musings and a possible end to the North Star College Cup)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 7

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

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.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 3

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

This weekend features an easier non-conference schedule for some Big Ten teams. Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin have easy competition for this weekend. The Spartans will have a tougher test against Michigan Tech, and Minnesota will have a really hard time against the Fighting Hawks.

It’s way too early to look at the pairwise, but it’s never too early (and this is the only time, really) to compare non-conference records. The Big Ten is still second to the NCHC, but their winning percentage stands at .618. The Big Ten has played six games against Atlantic Hockey, while the NCHC has only played two.

The matchup to watch is really Minnesota against North Dakota. The Gopher still have to prove themselves, and North Dakota is a pretty good test. Not to mention the two teams are rivals, and those feelings haven’t changed despite the great shift in college hockey conferences.

Oh, and the Buckeyes are now the only undefeated team in college hockey.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 31

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

In the Halloween edition of Three Things I Think, we’ll go over some of the scariest things happening in college hockey/the Big Ten. (Maybe not, but I really love Halloween.) Things aren’t scary for the Big Ten, but probably for everyone else in college hockey who’s slowly watching the Big Ten’s non-conference record grow. It’s the kryptonite that’s kept multiple Big Ten teams out of the NCAA tournament for the past few years, but will most likely be the reason the Big Ten gets more than one team in this year.

Leading the conference is still Ohio State, which is still undefeated. But the Buckeyes did play Niagara and easily defeated the Purple Eagles by scores of 10-2 and 6-2. The Buckeyes are the only undefeated team in the country (not including the Ivies, which just began playing this weekend). That’s a little bit of a flip for the Buckeyes, who usually start the season slowly but end strong. Speaking of the Buckeyes, head coach Steve Rohlik was signed to an extension recently.

Ohio State wasn’t the only team to sweep the weekend, as Wisconsin came back from the North Country with a pair of wins. The Badgers defeated St. Lawrence 5-2 and then Clarkson 5-4. The Saints and Golden Knights are more along the top of the ECAC (although I’m not sure what being at the top of the ECAC actually means right now), so it’s a pretty good showing for the Badgers. Minnesota also took a trip to North Country but left with a split. The Gophers gave up three goals early to Clarkson but came back and won in overtime. They scored twice in roughly 20 seconds on Saturday night to take St. Lawrence into overtime for the tie.

Penn State also swept the weekend, but that’s not surprising with a pair of games against Canisius. The Nittany Lions took the first game 4-1 – and took 65 shots on net. Yes, 65 shots on net. On Saturday they followed with a shameful 47 shots and won 4-2. The Spartans picked up their first win of the season, defeating Princeton 6-2. It’s good the Spartans won, but keep in mind it was Princeton’s first game of the season. It’s always tough for teams to take the ice for the first time against a team that’s already played four times.

Michigan was the only team that didn’t win this weekend. The Wolverines dropped their first game 3-0 to Vermont and then the second 3-2 at Dartmouth. It’s not a good sign when you lose to a team that’s playing their first game of a season, and this weekend showed us Michigan still has a long road ahead. It looks like Zach Nagelvoort has officially been removed from the rotation, as both Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine took to the net this weekend. I haven’t seen them play, but 39 saves for Lavigne and 32 for LaFontaine isn’t bad.

There might not be anything scary to talk about, except apparently the pairwise is floating around. In the end of October? If that’s not scary I don’t know what is. (Actually I do and it’s Providence’ mascot, the Friar. Also possibly Quinnipiac’s mascot, who proposed to me in Albany last year and I’m fairly certain was going to kidnap me.)

(After the jump: I’m not impressed with Minnesota and Lucia, what’s good for Michigan and who’s going to win the conference)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 29

Friday, October 28th, 2016

All six teams are in action for the Big Ten this weekend. A few teams are hitting the east coast, starting with a trip to the North Country from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Michigan will also be on that side of the coast to play Vermont and Dartmouth while Ohio State will face Niagara.

Michigan (3-1-1) at Vermont (2-1-1): Oct. 28 at 7:05 p.m.; at Dartmouth: Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The Wolverines will try to extend their unbeaten streak as they head east to face the Catamounts and the Big Green. Michigan has won three of its last four games and haven’t lost since dropping the season opener to Union. The Wolverines have used a goaltending rotation, and so far the freshmen Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine are proving they can hold their own in net. That’s not the only place rookies are contributing, though, as Will Lockwood and Jake Slaker lead the team with three goals and six points each.

The Catamounts are unbeaten in their last two after tying and beating Nebraska-Omaha. Vermont also split with Clarkson. Craig Puffer leads the team with five points while Stefanos Lekkas and Mike Santaguida have split goaltending duties with a .930 and .907 save percentage, respectively. The Big Green have not played yet this season.

This will be an interesting test for Michigan, but it’s still too early to tell what kind of test it will be. But Michigan, while it may not have played the toughest schedule yet, has shown some positives early. The Wolverines do have a hand up on Dartmouth, as Saturday night’s contest will be the first this season for the Big Green.

Prediction: Michigan splits

Michigan State (0-4-0) vs. Princeton: Oct. 28 at 7:05 p.m.

The Spartans host Princeton for a one-game set, the first meeting between the teams since a Thanksgiving weekend matchup at Baker in 2014. The teams split that weekend, but the Spartans have won three of the last four contests against Princeton. Michigan State has had an interesting season. The Spartans are winless but did a pretty good job of limiting Denver’s offense last weekend. They’ve also had both Ed Minney and John Lethemon play, although Minney has seen more minutes. Neither has a save percentage near .900. Mason Appleton has three points.

Princeton has yet to play this year but returns much of its roster, including leading scorers Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner. Colton Phinney, the senior, has been solid in net over the last few seasons. It’s hard to tell who’ll win, since Princeton hasn’t played yet this year and Michigan State’s defense seems a little inconsistent.

Prediction: Princeton wins

Minnesota (2-2-0) at Clarkson (3-2-1): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; at St. Lawrence (3-3-0) Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

The Gophers make a trip to the North Country this weekend to visit Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Minnesota just dropped a pair to St. Cloud State, which included a lost third-period lead. The Gophers have the second-best offense in the country with 4.75 goals per game, led by Tyler Sheehy’s three goals and eight points.

Clarkson just defeated UMass-Lowell 4-3 after tying Providence 3-3 last weekend. The Golden Knights have played a range of Hockey East competition so far this season and has a few wins and losses. Freshman Devin Brosseau and junior Sam Vigneault have five points each. Freshman Jake Kielly has a .909 save percentage.

St. Lawrence has also played a heavy Hockey East schedule but did split a series at Penn State to begin the season. St. Lawrence has lost its last two games, which snapped a three-game winning streak. The Saints have one of the best defenses in the country, although Kyle Hatyon’s goals-against average has dipped to .891 so far this season. St. Lawrence has gotten some scoring though, and Mike Marnell has eight points.

The Gophers have offense, yes, but proved they’ll struggle against good teams. St. Lawrence will definitely be a test for Minnesota.

Prediction: Minnesota beats Clarkson and loses to St. Lawrence

Ohio State (3-0-2) at Niagara (0-3-2): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

The Buckeyes look to continue their unbeaten streak with two games against the Purple Eagles. Ohio State has played well to start the season, which is contrary to how they normally play. In years past, the Buckeyes have started playing well midway through the season, but the wins are just too little, too late. Things are a little different this year, and Matt Tomkins has a .936 save percentage, giving Ohio State the goaltending it needs. Three players – Tanner Laczynski, Nick Schilkey and Ronnie Hein have six points. Schilkey has four goals.

The Purple Eagles are winless this season, dropping games to Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, RPI and Union, with some ties sprinkled in. Freshman Kris Spriggs has five points while Joe O’Brien and Jackson Teichroeb have split goaltending duties with a .917 and .843 save percentage, respectively.

It’s getting increasingly harder to pick against Ohio State.

Prediction: Buckeyes sweep

Penn State (3-1-1) vs. Canisius (2-3-1): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

Penn State is quietly putting together one of the best records in the country (even though it’s early) and their schedule actually hasn’t been a too easy so far. The Nittany Lions are unbeaten in their last three after tying and defeating Notre Dame. The only loss came to St. Lawrence. But now things start getting easy for Penn State, which will host Canisius, Niagara, Alaska Anchorage and Arizona State before getting into Big Ten play. Denis Smirnov, Chase Berger and Trevor Hamilton each have six points while Peyton Jones has a .916 save percentage.

The Griffins have won two of their last four games with an overtime win at Alaska and a win over Robert Morris. Ryan Schmelzer and Felix Chamberland lead Canisius’ offense with five points, while Charles Williams has a .927 save percentage. While the Griffins have three losses, two were against defending national champions North Dakota.

The Nittany Lions are probably going to just pad their record over the next few weeks.

Prediction: Penn State sweeps

Wisconsin (2-2-0) at St. Lawrence (3-3-0): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; at Clarkson (3-2-1) Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

After defeating the NTDP U-18 team, the Badgers are back in action to join their border-battle rivals on a North Country road swing. The Badgers are already playing much better than they have in the last two years, and their offense has been playing well. Their defense, though, has not. But that’s to be expected. Head coach Tony Granato wants them to be creative offensively, and for a young team that means some mistakes and turnovers. Trent Frederic and Seamus Malone each have six points, While Matt Jurusik has a .856 save percentage.

So far this season it looks like the Badgers are capable of playing in high-scoring or low-scoring matches, and they’ll probably be able to match the pace of their North Country opponents.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps the weekend