Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 20

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

Well, things aren’t going well for Big Ten hockey. The conference went a combined 2-7-1 last weekend, with Michigan and Michigan State picking up the only wins. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State were swept, while Penn State lost and tied at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush.

Michigan started the weekend with a 5-1 loss to UNH at home. After starting Zach Nagelvoort on Friday, the Wolverines opted for Steve Racine on Saturday. Behind goals from Michael Downing and Cutler Martin, Michigan salvaged the weekend with a 2-1 win on Saturday. Even with the win, losing 5-1 at home for Michigan is a scary thought.

The Spartans split their series with Massachusetts, earning a 5-3 win and then falling 4-3. It’s early, but that puts Michigan State ahead of their 2.19 goals per game average from last season. It’s early, but the Spartans offense has really gotten a boost from a healthy Matt Berry, who recorded three points (2g, 1a) in each game over the weekend.

(After the jump: Ohio State’s possession problems, Penn State’s surprise start, Ohio State’s goalkeeping)

Possession Problems

If you missed it, last week I began calculating Big Ten Corsi – which is essentially the best way to track possession. I calculated the numbers from the weekend, and it was a rough tale for Ohio State. The Buckeyes recorded a total Corsi of 35.29 percent and 25.74 percent in their Friday and Saturday losses, respectfully.

Scoring seemed to be the preseason issue, as the Buckeyes lost their top two scorers from last season. And while it’s still been a problem, it’s even harder for Ohio State to score without the puck. The Buckeyes gave up over 70 shot attempts in each game to Miami. That’s a hard way to start the season.

(Note: I calculated Corsi by looking through the play by play logs. For Ohio State’s game against Miami, there was no data available for the third period.)

Christian Frey is Good

While we’re on the subject of Ohio State giving up a lot of shots, it’s a good time to mention Christian Frey. He’s still splitting starts with Matt Tomkins, who started on Oct. 17 – the 5-1 loss to Miami. To be fair, Frey allowed four goals in the season-opening win over Providence.

But Frey earned the nod on Saturday, and stopped 60 shots in the 2-1 loss.

It’s a small reminder of how stellar Frey was during the Big Ten tournament last year. He’s one of the reasons why Ohio State knocked off Minnesota to make the championship contest.

Penn State’s Surprise Start

I thought the Nittany Lions would be better than last season, but I’m surprised — in a good way — at their start to the season. Penn State, after routing UConn 7-1, “lost” two close games to Alaska and Alaska Fairbanks at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush. (The first game ended in a 3-3 tie, and Penn State lost in the shootout.)

That’s a better start to the season than I expected from Penn State. The Nittany Lions might not be flashy, but they’ve turned in a number of strong performances over the last season. With the entire team returning, Penn State can only grow from last season. The biggest issues for the Nittany Lions is winning the close contests, and that’s something coach Guy Gadowsky noted before the season. With two ties and a failure to hold the lead against Alaska, that’s something Penn State needs to work on. Still, a 1-2-1 record against UConn, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage isn’t bad.

Right now, a bunch of other teams in the Big Ten — besides Minnesota — have been playing inconsistently. The Nittany Lions could actually turn out to be the most consistent team behind the Gophers, depending on how Michigan reacts to this past weekend.

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