Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 1

Posted: February 1st, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

Another weekend of the season passed, bringing us closer to the end. The Gophers split the last-ever North Star College Cup, falling to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 and beating Bemidji State 4-0. Penn State lost to Princeton, while Wisconsin swept Ohio State.

The Pairwise have shifted quite a bit. Unsurprisingly Penn State has dropped to fifth, while Ohio State has fallen to 16th. The Badgers are creeping up and now sit at 18. Minnesota is seventh. In the Big Ten Wisconsin now is tied for first place with Minnesota. Penn State is two points behind, while Ohio State is back by five points. It looks like Michigan and Michigan State, while not mathematically eliminated, most likely won’t get a bye.

Over the past few years the bye day has been huge because teams needed to win the tournament to get into NCAAs, but this year it looks like at least a couple teams will be high up enough for an at-large bid.

Tanner Laczynski returned for Ohio State but Nick Schilkey is still out. The Buckeyes have still been playing well, and it’s a testament to them they’ve won without their top scorer. Speaking of the Buckeyes, Josh Healey was suspended for Friday’s game against Michigan for making a hit he wasn’t supposed to on Saturday. In that game Grant Besse was also hurt and didn’t return. After the game Tony Granato said Besse was sore so the trainers didn’t want him to come back.

(After the jump The Badgers are on fire, Who’s going to make the NCAA tournament and Penn State is going to struggle)

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NCHC: More on WMU goaltender Ben Blacker

Posted: January 27th, 2017 / by Avash Kalra

Western Michigan freshman Ben Blacker has emerged as the starter for Andy Murray’s Broncos, following a recent run that seemed to start with an early December win at North Dakota. In that game, Blacker made 21 saves in the third period alone, and aside from an anomalous outing at Denver in mid-January, he’s been stellar for WMU — 8-1-0 this season, and has helped propel the Broncos to the No. 5 position in the Pairwise.

I spoke with Blacker on Wednesday, and you can read the full story here.

Not included in the feature was our conversation about his transition to college hockey. As a freshman, he’s had plenty to adjust to, including the college game itself. Before starting his college career, Blacker played two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. In the 2015-16 season, he led the USHL in wins with 33.

“The pace is a lot faster, guys are a lot bigger, shots come a lot faster,” said Blacker of NCAA play. “You learn your game through practice. That’s what coach stresses a lot with your team — that you get better every day. And that comes in practice and off the ice.”

Blacker has matured quickly in all aspects. He’s one of four goaltenders on the roster and is by far the youngest, with a 1997 birthday (the other three, including senior Collin Olson, who was a 2012 NHL draft pick, were born in ’94).

“We all have a pretty good relationship, and we push each other,” Blacker said. “We make each other better. Having that kind of support, and the competition between us, I think that’s making the team better.”
Blacker and Western Michigan begin a two game series at Miami tonight. Blacker will match up against Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin, a former teammate of his with the RoughRiders.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Posted: January 24th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

Michigan and Michigan State will be on break this week, leaving Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota in action. Penn State will play Princeton while the Gophers will compete in the last-ever North Star College Cup.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 23

Posted: January 23rd, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

It was an okay weekend in the Big Ten, but it didn’t really teach us anything new. Michigan State had a good weekend against the Wolverines, posting a win and a tie. Ohio State took five of six points at Penn State in the same manner (with a shootout win) while Minnesota and Wisconsin split at the Kohl Center.

The results did have a pretty big impact on the Pairwise, which is going to fluctuate a lot between now and the end of the season. Penn State dropped from first to fourth because of its loss, while the Buckeyes jumped up to eighth because of the win. Even after losing to Wisconsin, Minnesota has nestled itself in at seventh. The Gophers also have the lead in the conference, but it’s a two-point margin over Penn State. The Buckeyes are seven points out of first place and the Badgers (which I’m not surprised about) are six points out.

The Spartans had their three goals spaced out amongst all three periods in Friday’s win. Ed Minney made all 24 stops for his shutout, while Jack Lafontaine started for Michigan. The Wolverines countered with Zach Nagelvoort on Saturday, continuing the weird rotation they have in place, and he made 23 stops.

On Friday the Gophers had the 2-0 lead going into the second. The Badgers tied it in the middle frame but the Gophers took a 3-2 lead. Freshman Trent Frederic tied it in the third period, but Justin Kloos won it in OT. Eric Schierhorn and Jack Berry started. Matt Jurusik started the next night and had 32 saves (the same as Shcieirhorn) as the Badgers won 5-3.

So as it stands now, here’s the Pairwise:

4. Penn State
7. Minnesota
8. Ohio State

And here’s the conference standings:

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

(After the jump: Why Penn State lost, Wisconsin will contend and is Michigan State really progressing)

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Yale Continues its Upward Trend in the ECAC

Posted: January 21st, 2017 / by Josh Seguin

From game one to now, there is no team that has come further in the ECAC than Yale. Early in the season, the Bulldogs struggled to find an identity, had head-scratching performances against Colgate and RPI and in its first five league games the Bulldogs gave up 22 goals. The defense, which I wrote about in a feature last week, struggled to find a rhythm after losing its top four defensemen from last season.

Honestly, though, any team would struggle in this situation and it would have been understandable if Yale had its first bad season since Keith Allain took over, a decade ago. Yale left the first half near the bottom of the standings and in the low 40’s of the Pairwise rankings, a place you would never expect an Allain coached Yale team to be.

Those days seem all but over for the New Haven team. Big wins against Connecticut and defending Hockey East champion Northeastern, got the second half going on the right foot. In those games the Elis scored nine goals. Those games were undoubtedly positives, but then a  setback against Providence may have provided a turning-point. Despite losing by a 3-1 score, Yale was pushed around in a big way. Entering the third period, the Bulldogs had a meager six shots on goal and never got going. Considering how Yale plays, that was a head-scratcher and even Allain admits that. Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten: Jan. 20

Posted: January 20th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

All six teams are in action this weekend. It’s the first edition of this year’s border battle and an early rematch of Penn State-Ohio State. In the other series Michigan and Michigan State face off again for the first time since the Great Lakes Invitational.

In the Pairwise there are three teams currently sitting inside the bubble – Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. The Nittany Lions are almost a lock for the tournament, Minnesota is kind of towards the middle but the Buckeyes are in danger of dropping out.

Thwo teams are tied for first in the conference – Penn State and Minnesota. The Gophers are six points behind, while Ohio State is fourth and nine points out of first.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 16

Posted: January 17th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

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

Posted: January 13th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

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: ECAC 1/9

Posted: January 9th, 2017 / by Josh Seguin

As the season goes along I try to find trends within how teams are playing and the form of each. Although I have seen the struggle of ECAC teams in non-conference play, I know that the quality of games in the league isn’t down. This season teams have been filling holes from last season, left and right, but as a league fans can point to the five ECAC teams in the top 18 of the Pairwise to realize maybe things aren’t so bad. The thing with that is, is the top teams have a ton of wins, while the bottom teams have struggled to pick up points against them. The top three (Union, SLU and Harvard) have a combined 22-3-4 record, while the bottom six are 12-37-5 in ECAC play this season.

One interesting stat that I have found, is that although defenses are struggling the offenses are still clicking at a high rate. In comparison to last year, most teams have a higher goals/game ratio. At this time last season, there were just two ECAC teams that were averaging north of three goals a game, Quinnipiac (3.78) and Harvard (3.93). The rest of the league was tightly bunched in a range from 2.33.2.93 goals a game.

This season the Crimson are off the charts at 4.58 goals scored a game, while Union (3.90), Yale (3.21), Clarkson (3.19), St. Lawrence (3.18) and Princeton (3.0) are each averaging higher than three. That realistically proves what many know, many teams are rebuilding defenses and the goaltending is a tad down from the last season. I suppose most fans like this kind of hockey and teams have adjusted to their strengths. Whatever it is most teams are scoring at higher rates.

Also read my thoughts on RPI’s Struggle this season, I feel they are an important case study of what can happen when things go seriously wrong.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week… Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 9

Posted: January 9th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

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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