Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 16

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

It was a non-eventful week in the Big Ten, as two teams played regular-season games. Michigan State defeated Clarkson 6-4, while Michigan fell to Boston College 5-1.

The Badgers faced the NTDP-U18 team in an exhibition game, and lost. Wisconsin actually held a 1-0 lead in that game, but the NTDP scored four times in the last frame. The only positive is NTDP goalkeeper Luke Opilka is a Badger commit.

(After the jump: Midseason thoughts, World Junior preparation and what we expect to happen won’t happen.)

Midseason thoughts

Before the season started, I ranked Wisconsin and Michigan in the top three. I thought about placing Penn State fourth, but decided against it and kept them last.

Not smart on my part.

Since early in the season, I’ve been impressed with Penn State. I thought it would take longer for the Nittany Lions to be a force in the league. Not only are they a force in the league (which isn’t saying much, because the Big Ten is weak), but they’ve been a good non-conference team as well. Penn State uses a high-shot mentality, and it’s helped the high-powered offense.

A lot of Big Ten teams are inconsistent, especially Ohio State and Michigan State. It’s assumed that the Badgers will just keep losing, because it’s been a tough year for Wisconsin. I’m still unsure of Michigan, although I was very impressed by Dylan Larkin and Zach Werenski when I saw the pair play in Boston back in October.

Speaking of Larkin and Werenski, there are a bunch of good freshmen in the Big Ten. Josh Jacobs has been solid on Michigan State’s blue line, while Penn State has relied on both Scott Conway and Erik Autio this season

I’m surprised by the Big Ten goaltending, or lack of it. Last year Adam Wilcox, Joel Rumpel and Jake Hildebrand were easily the top three, and they landed on the preseason Mike Richter Award watch list. Zach Nagelvoort has struggled this season, and neither Rumpel nor Hildebrand have looked quite like their last-season selves.

Those are just a few midseason ramblings. There might be more later…

What we expect won’t happen

This refers to the Clarkson-Michigan State game. Two teams which rarely score combined for 10 goals – yes, 10 goals – on Sunday. Michigan State hadn’t scored six goals since an 8-2 victory over Princeton last December.

The Spartans scored six goals without Matt Berry in the lineup, which is more impressive. It helped that Michigan State received a five-minute power play because of this very odd, what-was-he-thinking play from Clarkson on a Joe Cox breakaway. Cox tied the game on the play, and Clarkson had to unsuccessfully kill off a five-minute major.

Odd penalty aside, no one was expecting this kind of offense. Both teams are known for defensive play, and not scoring. Clarkson entered the game averaging 1.82 goals per game, while Michigan State was averaging 2.13 goals per game.

And they combined for 10 goals.

On to World Juniors

Along with winter break comes everyone’s favorite tournament! Okay, but it’s one of my favorites. USA’s World Junior┬ácamp starts tomorrow at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena. The team will face the Terriers at the same rink.

(For those who don’t know, Walter Brown Arena is where BU’s men’s hockey team played before Agganis Arena was built. Walter Brown now houses the BU women’s hockey team.)

The Big Ten has a bunch of players representing their teams on preliminary rosters. For the USA, it will be Ryan Collins, Hudson Fasching, J.T. Compher, Michael Downing, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Motte, Zach Wereknsi and Jack Dougherty. Internationally, it will be Erik Autio and Leon Bristedt.

USA’s final roster will be announced on Dec. 24.

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