Three things from the Big Ten show us that anything can (probably) happen this season

As the league begins conference play in earnest this coming weekend, this past weekend of nonconference play — the past two weeks of play, really — taught us that nearly anything may happen as the rest of the season unfolds.

1. Joel Rumpel can play. And when the Badgers play in front of him, Wisconsin can beat anyone. After being pulled in the first period of Friday’s 8-1 loss to Michigan Tech, having given up three goals in 10 minutes, Rumpel gave a career performance Saturday in Wisconsin’s 2-0 win over the Huskies, stopping 47 shots in the game. The team in front of him blocked 27 shots; the Huskies tried to put the puck on net a total of 102 times. The Badgers gave the No. 5 Huskies their first shutout loss of the season and their first road loss. They’re young, but with a little confidence the Badgers could make at least a little noise in the heart of the Big Ten schedule between now and the end of March.

2. Minnesota is beatable. And the Golden Gophers are especially beatable in their own holiday tournament. Minnesota outshot Merrimack 42-17 in Friday’s 3-2 loss in Mariucci Classic semifinal action and needed overtime to beat RIT 3-2 in the tournament’s third-place game Saturday. The Gophers have captured the Mariucci Classic title twice since 2007; Minnesota captured their tournament championship for eight consecutive years (1999-2007) prior to that. This particular Mariucci Classic performance proved that this particular Minnesota team needs to have every player performing at 100 percent every game to win. With a few players out for the IIHF World Junior Championship, the Gophers were vulnerable. Any injuries or illness will leave the Gophers struggling like other mere mortals for the remainder of the season.

3. Ohio State can score some goals. Not every game, mind you, but when the Buckeyes score, they look as competitive as any team out there. In their 6-2 win over Mercyhurst Friday, the Buckeyes outshot the Lakers 43-18 and senior Matt Johnson led all Buckeyes in scoring with his first career hat trick. In Saturday’s rematch, the Buckeyes came from behind — a welcome sign — and tied the Lakers, 2-2, with shots 28-26 in favor of Ohio State. Johnson’s goal at 10:50 in the second put OSU on the board and Anthony Greco had the equalizer at 11:32 in the third. The Buckeyes ended the first half of the season with an 8-3 road loss to Michigan (Dec. 5) but beat Notre Dame 5-1 in the third-place game of the Shillelagh Tournament the week before. If they find some consistency, the Buckeyes may play spoiler before the Big Ten season ends.


  1. Interesting commentary on the three things this week. #1 Rumple can play. Huh? Has there ever been any question that Rumple is a very good goaltender? I guess maybe to the casual boxscore only watcher. Anyone who has watched any Wisconsin games knows that Rumple isn’t the issue in Wisconsin. The issue is the team around him has wildly vasilated between ok and god awful. I would think that their play could only improve and in the meantime as long as they can count on Rumple to pitch a 47 save shutout each time out they can keep hanging up the W’s.
    #3 Ohio State can score. The Buckeyes actually have a good deal of offensive talent, thought it always doesn’t show up. I guess as long as they play teams that have a goalie with GAA of almost 3.5 they should fair better, of course that didn’t seem to help in the 2-2 tie on Saturday.
    #2 The Gophers are beatable….News flash I think everyone else knows that given that they have gone 3-4-1 in their last 8 games. I left the game Saturday night scratching my head. What is wrong with this team? How can you generate so much offensive, zone time and shots but not score? The Gophers had 91 shots over the weekend, yet only 5 goals in 2+ games. In re-watching both games I found that the Gophers had zero net front presence in either game and the result was only 2 rebound shots the whole weekend (Kloos was robbed on one and Rau scored the OT winner on the other) Almost all the shots came from a ways out so with no screen so there were few rebounds and when they did happen no one was there to claim them anyway. Last year Ambroz and Fasching both had 14 goals and most of them were right around the crease, this year Fasching has 5 and Ambroz 1. They need to get back to that part of their game. Also the one thing that was good before the break was the PP, and it was awful last weekend. While I don’t expect them to keep up a 34% avg all year, they generated very little offense with the extra man. They seem to rely on two variations of the same play, setup Boyd in the left faceoff circle for a one timer or setup Connor Reilly for one timer from the right faceoff circle. Both Merrimack and RIT must have watched some tape of the Gophers as they floated a forward out to those players to take away the one timer, so the Gophers were left passing the puck around. Time for a few other plays on the PP. While early in the season the play on the defensive side of things was suspect, with the freshmen in the lineup, they have improved greatly in their play and while the Gophers were missing players on Friday, it seems that the same pattern would happen, they would carry the play for long stretches and then the opposition would come down and score. It seem that it is the attention to detail that is lacking. That big save at a critical time near the end of the game that Wilcox always made last year, or the extra pass on a odd man rush (sometimes just take the shot you don’t always need to score on the first shot) or the missed assignment, or not clearing the puck out of your zone, is what is missing. Not time to press the panic button, but this team has some work to do and they have the talent to turn it around, it is a question of whether they will or not?

    • Good observations, 92. I watched Friday and attended Saturday with my son, who played HS hockey a few years back. He was an Ambroz-style forward. If he played in the safe area 20+ feet from the net, his coach liked to ask him if he was playing without his shin pads. The expectation was that he play near the crease, screen the goaltender, and look for loose pucks. He had to be willing to take some whacks on the ankles. None of the Gopher forwards are spending much time in the tender’s kitchen, and this is making for a lot of routine saves.


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