Teams searching for answers heading into conference play

Five B1G teams were in action this weekend with Wisconsin taking another weekend off. Here’s how the games played out:

  • Minnesota was swept at home by St. Cloud State
  • Ohio State was swept on the road by Nebraska-Omaha
  • Michigan State was swept at home by North Dakota
  • Michigan beat Dartmouth on Friday before the same two teams tied on Saturday
  • Penn State downed Vermont in a Sunday-afternoon matinee

Here are the three things I saw this weekend:

1. Sweeps galore

St. Cloud State, North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha were each the favorite in their respective series against Big Ten foes this weekend, but the fact that Minnesota, Michigan State or Ohio State collectively weren’t able to steal a win this is a bit surprising.

The Gophers, which were the only team out of the three that got swept that I got to see a lot of this weekend, lost a close games against their in-state rivals on Friday. They we’re right in the thick of things again on Sunday before the Huskies put the game away on a five-minute major power play that was the result of a dumb hit by Nick Seeler. St. Cloud State scored twice on the major power play and Minnesota was unable to catch up after that. Minnesota’s power play looked decent this weekend, but undisciplined play also gave its opponent multiple chances with the extra man.

If there’s one thing that this weekend confirmed, it’s that the NCHC is a really good conference top-to-bottom. The B1G’s collective nonconference record may mean that we are only going to see one representative in the NCAA tournament this year. All that being said, the season still isn’t half over.

2. Good and bad for Michigan

Friday night couldn’t have gone any better for Michigan. Its offense was firing on all cylinders, as it has for most of the season, but the more important part was the team’s  defensive-play and more importantly Steve Racine’s 33-save shutout. The goaltending remained good on Saturday, but the offense went quiet as the Wolverines tied Dartmouth 1-1.

If Michigan can get its offense, defense and goaltending to click at the same time, it could be one of the better teams in the country. There have been snippets so far this year where that has happened, but it will need to be a more common occurrence for the Wolverines to make a long postseason run.

3. Penn State looks good

If I redid the preseason conference picks now that we’re done with the first chunk of nonconference play, Penn State would jump a couple spots. I think that the Nittany Lions are as good as any other team in the conference. They’re getting solid goaltending, timely goal-scoring and are very good on home ice.

The nonconference play so far has shown us that the Big Ten is going to be a wide-open conference this season. A strong argument could be made for Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State or Minnesota having a shot at capturing the regular-season crown. I’d need to see some more out of Wisconsin and Ohio State to say that they have a shot, but those two teams  aren’t going to be easy to beat.

34 COMMENTS

  1. A couple things: 1) Michigan hasn’t played an NCHC team this season 2) The NCHC also has CC, one of the worst teams in college hockey. let’s not give them too much credit beyond UNO, SCSU, UND and Denver. UMD is decent and WMU is on par with the B1G Ten.

    • Things: 1) Michigan has avoided losing to an NCHC team by not playing one. Being shutout at home by Robert Morris and tying Dartmouth at home is not great for their resume. 2) UMD would win the B1G, WMU would finish 2nd, and CC would not be last.

      • CC would probably be last in the big 10 too. Western would be mid pack cause I don’t se them sweeping Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan. I miss the old days of good Rodent and Badger hockey and hope they can figure out what’s wrong before it’s too late. Good luck the rest of the way!

      • Sorry to interupt your ignorant coronation as the most arrogant and condescending league in the NCAA’s. CC wouId struggle to compete in the AHA this season and short of the last couple of years in the CCHA, WMU was an annual doormat, too.

        Truth is, fans don’t have much of a say in their team’s scheduling. Last I checked, Michigan didn’t back down going out East the last few years against the league that actually won the NCAA title last season and the league that won it the previous season. Also- may want to check the pairwise and see where UMD is right now with their .500 record. RMU may win their league, no embarrassment losing to an older and more experienced team that should make the big dance. Give the Colonials credit, it wasn’t a fluke. Dartmouth played 200% better on Saturday after being embarrassed, too. Both games the goaltenders stood on their heads.

        • There was no coronation, simply the fact of how schools with great hockey tradition (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State) have fallen off talent-wise in a relatively short time. Worse yet, they might have a hard time recruiting, since the B1G has become a minor player nationally. Going East for a few years is the right move, DU has played BC/BU for the last 12 and it helps to see where your team compares to really class teams.

          • That is what Michigan State tried to do this season with scheduling the likes of Denver, BC, UNH, MTU, and UND. See how they match up. They just proved to the rest of College Hockey that they are nowhere near what they once were. And are years (if not forever) away from being relevant in Hockey again.

          • Don’t say “forever”. College hockey is like other sports, cyclical. The powers to be that thought the forming of a hockey league to resemble the Big Ten football equivalent were not very realistic. Too many hockey “rivalries” far out weight a “newly formed” conference. Taking teams from the old WCHA and CCHA, along with a “new” Penn State has not worked so far.

          • Oh I agree. Cyclical. But this could be the fourth year in a row that MSU will have missed the tournament. The last such stretch was 1978-81. But, there has been very little improvement (with the exception of being able to make a cross ice pass now.) in the program. This is what happens when you hire a marketing person as your head coach.

          • Got to believe Hildebrand will “steal” enough games to keep the Spartan mid-pack, maybe enough to host a first round game. When I saw him at the beginning of the year, he reminded me of Rumpel last year for a poor Badger team.

          • Ah…the B10 has no ‘on campus’ play-off games. Given that there are only 6 programs, they all go directly to the tournament finals site. It really takes away from the excitement of play-off Hockey. And Jake’s GAA has gone from low 2.0’s to somewhere over 3. He isn’t even in the top 50 Goal Tenders in College Hockey right now.

          • Look at the teams he has faced, and huge SOG differential. The games I saw, there were no D-Men to clear the puck when he gave up rebounds. Rumpel had same type of stats last year but was still one of the better goalies in NCAA.

  2. 2 Big 10 teams with winning records and PSU’s record (of playing mostly nobody) may be a bit dubious, does not bode well for the national tournament.

  3. I don’t think there’s anything the BI6 can do to get more than one team into the NCAAs this year.
    So far, it’s not clear they deserve even one.

    I am not trying to rag on Lucia, but I will say that his teams are routinely stacked with talent, while not routinely being all that good.
    It seems to me way too many players leave after two years, so the concentration of talent is always in the freshman and sophomore classes.
    These players are generally undisciplined, selfish, and lacking in mental toughness.
    Ergo, they don’t make a great team.

    I predict MN will be around the .500 mark for the season, including a few surprise conference wins and a passel of non-conf losses.

  4. This past week-end shows just how far MSU has yet to go in their ‘Rebuilding’. Five years into the Anastos regime, and MSU is getting pummeled by those they used to be on par with. Even during.the Comley era (which in case anyone has forgotten, produced a NC) they competed well with those types of teams.

    Out scored 20-8 in 6 games by top
    ten teams this season. And if you remove the three goals scored in 2 minutes at BC, that drops to 5 goals scored against those teams. And with Hildebrand struggling……….
    I just don’t see anything good happening with this program. If anyone else see’s a silver lining, please share.

  5. Oh how the mighty have fallen, Minnesota has a 3 billion dollar budget and they still can’t get winning program in Hockey or Football. I have a feeling though you’ll still get some maroon and gold homer whining about how if the state colleges didn’t have athletics that the u would have more money. Never mind the state colleges are D2 with the exception of hockey, and they are all underfunded to begin with and have laughably small athletic budgets.

  6. Get past the fact that I am a Sioux fan to hear this out. The problem started when the 6 teams formed the Big 10 conference. There simply weren’t enough quality teams. Most recruits are ‘over’ the allure of playing for Michigan or Minnesota, etc. It’s possible the Gophers are the 4th best team from Minnesota this year. I think the recruiting battles tipped to NCHC and HE once the Big Ten formed. It’s getting worse for the Big 10.

  7. This is probably an ignorant question with an obvious answer, but I’m going to ask it anyway because, well, things just seem so dire right now.

    Is there ANY chance the BI6 could just stop sponsoring hockey?

    • I don’t get that one either because Crooksten played down at D3 after D2 hockey went belly up. So no scholarships were involved and that is one of the biggest expenses in a sport, especially a D1 sport. I think there are some at the U of M who would drop a deuce if St.Cloud State or Minnesota State ever went D1, For now they still have a enough control over Duluth to keep the Bulldogs from going D1 but I think U of M views Duluth as a colony that has grown too big and would love to move them down.

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