Three Things I Think: Big Ten Week 2

Posted by: Nate Wells

Making snap judgments after one weekend is a recipe for disaster. Or shows we’re human. Remember the whole “Big Ten did not embarrass themselves” narrative I wrote about opening weekend last week? That flipped faster than a virtual banner. It was an ugly Friday night on the road for anyone not named Minnesota. Penn State looked like a team developing against Air Force. Michigan State was overmatched against Massachusetts. Wisconsin…well the Badgers learned the Boston College goal celebration.

In fact, Wisconsin left Boston losing games to the Eagles and Boston University by a combined 16-5. Not quite the results the Badgers (nor the Big Ten, which went 3-6-1) were looking to get. Fortunately, a new narrative is always a week or two away.

(After the jump, Ohio State missing Brady Hjelle, Sam Warning’s early success and Michigan went 1-0-1 on the big Whittmore Center ice.)

 Ohio State is 0-3 and continues to wait for a goalie to take the reins

The Badgers weren’t the only ones who struggled this weekend with defense and goaltending. Wisconsin was without starting goaltender Joel Rumpel, however, both BC and Boston University consistently were able to create odd-man rushes and Grade A chances against the UW defense.

Last week started with the most devastating loss in the Big Ten on Tuesday when Ohio State fell 4-3 to Bowling Green. The Buckeyes led 3-0 when Darik Angeli scored his second goal of the season with 9:57 remaining in the second period. Things went downhill from there. Bowling Green scored four goals in just 14 minutes; including the game-tying and winning goals just 27 seconds apart.

Ohio State first-year head coach Steve Rohlik knows his team, but you have to wonder how much he is missing graduated goalie Brady Hjelle. Entering this season Rohlik’s plan between the pipes was a platoon of Matt Tomkins and Colin Olson to pick up the slack.

So far that hasn’t been the case. Tomkins, who was in net for the Buckeyes’ loss to Bowling Green, has a .862 save percentage. Olson’s is worse (.842%) after giving up six goals on 38 shots in his lone appearance. It wasn’t going to be easy to fully replace Hjelle, who finished last season with a .935 save percentage in 34 games, but Ohio State so far hasn’t come close. It’s hard to win when giving up over five goals per game.  No surprise that the Buckeyes are 0-3.

Sam Warning’s early season success shouldn’t surprise

While not a haunting snap judgment (or believing I have real powers to influence sporting events), writing “getting Sam Warning back in the lineup to complement his talented linemates certainly wouldn’t hurt either,” right before Minnesota lost to Yale last season feels stupider in October.

Not because how the game ended, but because how Warning has started this year. The junior forward hasn’t been “complementing his talented linemates” with occasional flashes when staying healthy. He’s not overshadowed by Nick Bjugstad, Zach Budish or Erik Haula (both of which he played with last season) and Kyle Rau, who he plays with this season.

Instead, Warning is the talented linemate teams are game-planning against.

The Chesterfield, MO native is tied with Kevin Roy for the most points (9) in college hockey this season and is a key reason why the Gophers are 4-0 after sweeping Bemidji State on the road last weekend. His start is the best for a Minnesota forward since Haula scored 17 points in his first 7 games two seasons ago.

Warning has five goals – all even strength – and at least one in every game this season. Minnesota saw success when he scored a point last season, going 13-1-2, and to no surprise the same is true this year.

It’s just that we’re paying a little more attention to Warning.

Michigan’s comeback bodes well for the Wolverines past October

The Wolverines came away with an overtime win and a tie against New Hampshire after Tyler Motte scored the OT winner Saturday on Casey DeSmith. It’s a big win for Michigan early in the season because as head coach Red Berenson told our own Josh Seguin, “we felt last night we didn’t put our best foot forward, but we survived the tide.”

Surviving a talented Wildcats team on the road – containing the UNH power play to 1 goal in 12 chances – and on the big ice at Whittemore Center is important this season. A lot is made about teams going from Olympic size rinks (200 feet x 100 feet) to playing on a NHL size rink (200×85), but it’s never easy for teams to go the other way around. Some teams are better suited for the larger ice. Michigan has conference games this year at Wisconsin and Minnesota, both of which play on large rinks. Those series may well play a role in the regular season championship once conference play begins in late November.

Getting off to a good start on the big Olympic size ice, surviving the tide, is…well big for Michigan.

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