An undeniable offense, the ability to learn and tenacity

After the first full weekend of Big Ten play in 2016, we may be getting a glimpse of a finishing order. The weekend was a very good gauge for every team in the league.

1. Michigan’s offense is undeniable.

If the Wolverines falter in the second half, it won’t be because Michigan can’t score goals. Michigan begins the week leading the nation in scoring offense again after beating Michigan State 9-2 and 6-3 — and in neither game did the Spartans ever really threaten to derail the Wolverines. Writers throw around the word “explosive” when referring to the offensive output of many teams, but in Michigan’s case, it’s warranted. In the first period of the 9-2 road win, Michigan scored its first three goals in the span of a minute and 21 seconds, and those goals included the tying goal, the game-winning goal and one for good measure. Then late in the period, Michigan added two more 43 seconds apart to take a 5-2 lead after one.

In each win, the Spartans scored first. Even though Michigan State came back to make it a 5-3 game late in the second period of Saturday’s game in Ann Arbor, there was no doubt that Michigan’s deep offense would allow the Spartans to catch up. Eight different Wolverines scored, including two defensemen. Steve Racine looked good in net for UM and the Wolverines kept the Spartans’ shots to 53 for the weekend.

2. Minnesota is a team that learns from mistakes.

Against a single conference opponent, the Golden Gophers learn quickly from mistakes made the first night they play. Minnesota began its Big Ten season with a home sweep of Ohio State (Dec. 4-5) and then split its next two B1G series on the road, first against Michigan (Dec. 11-12) and this past weekend against Penn State. Against Michigan, the Gophers lost 8-3 on a Friday night before coming from behind in Saturday’s contest to limit that explosive Michigan offense and win 3-2.

Against Penn State, Minnesota came from behind in Friday’s 3-2 loss to tie the contest in the middle of the third period, but PSU’s Vince Pedrie scored the game-winning goal for the Nittany Lions at 3:57 in OT. By Saturday afternoon’s game, the Gophers had gotten past whatever stymied their offense early Friday night; Minnesota led 2-0 after the first, 3-0 after the second and won the game 7-1. Incidentally, Pedrie had the only goal for Penn State in that loss.

3. Ohio State is awake and Wisconsin is tenacious.

The Buckeyes are undefeated (3-0-1) in their last four, dating back to their Dec. 28 win over Boston College in the Florida College Classic and including their road weekend against Wisconsin, where they took four of six points with a 2-0 win and 4-4 tie. That’s a good story, and kudos to OSU junior Christian Frey on his third career shutout, all of which have come this season.

There’s another equally compelling story here, though, and that’s the tenacity of a Wisconsin team that is fighting hard and playing to the best of its ability. After being shut out Friday, the Badgers came from behind twice to eventually tie the game 4-4, and Wisconsin prevailed in the shootout for the extra point. The story here is Wisconsin’s refusal to be completely defeated. With the exception of their trip to Boston in October in which the Badgers lost to both Boston College and Boston University, the Badgers have been swept by no single opponent in a single weekend. That includes a 1-3-2 record against ranked teams during a six-game stretch Nov. 6 through Dec. 5 — and that win was over North Dakota — and a 1-3-2-1 record in Big Ten play.

Points every weekend is not a bad path to redemption.

P.S.

Detroit’s 2-1 win over Anaheim Sunday night featured alumni from seven CCHA teams, and Notre Dames Riley Sheahan had the game-winning goal for the Red Wings at 16:16 in the third. (If you watched the game, you saw that Sheahan scored what looked like a goal in the first period, with the puck hitting the net camera and going right back through the netting.) Sheahan played last night on an all-CCHA line along with Spartan Justin Abdelkader and Wolverine Luke Glendening. The game was a good one and hearing all the CCHA names — including one of my personal favorites, Bowling Green’s Kevin Bieksa — was a nostalgic pleasure and a reminder of how much talent came out of that now-defunct league.

79 COMMENTS

  1. The ecac is going to be done today. Got lucky yesterday that afa didn’t take them out. Can’t see them beating a solid UMD team that i now playing tight d as well. We’ll see shortly but the ecac is pretty much done.

  2. This is appropriate b/c I’ll admit that Yale was the best team in this league all year. I wasn’t impressed with Duluth yesterday. They barely beat a Union team that didn’t play with the urgency required in the NCAAs. And I am a Union grad and alum. We were lifeless and made no adjustments.

    • I thought Union started off well enough but it seemed they got frustrated as time went on. Definitely did not feel like Duluth was head and shoulders better as I’m sure our “friends” in the WCHA would have us believe.

      • I hear you, I am just very puzzled why after we went 0-3 on the PP, we didn’t change it up a little bit. We carried the 5 on 5 play. We just sucked on the special teams. I am not convinced UMD is better than us, but they won the game and that is all that matters.

    • your right Yale probably was the best team in your league, but your league SUCKS so that isnt saying much. That was the most overrated team i have ever seeing. There biggest win of the year came friday night against air force. A team not even in the top 16 of the pairwise. Stick to what your good at East Coasters–Lacrosse.

  3. two thumbs up for brian, that was beautifully done, and let me tell you how fun it was to be in the yale student section when the won in ot last night, even though im a colgate fan. it was legen- wait for it DARY… legendary

  4. No one, and I mean NO ONE is surprised the ECAC had another crappy showing in the tournament. Except of course for ECAC and especially Yale fans. they keep writing and commenting about how legit their legaue and teams are and all they manage is one crummy win vs Air Force. And it took Yale, the juggernaut, fan proclaimed team of the century OT to beat the 16th seed. Let’s finally end the conversation, the ECAC is a crap league and the proof is in the results.

    • interesting point u make but bc los to colorada college the 15th seed 8-4 and yale only lost 5-3 on a horrible call. and bc lost first round. yale did better than bc so u should stop talking

      • Yale lost 5-3 on a horrible call? Thats just funny. How many garbage make up calls came after that to even it up? Only Yale’s power play couldn’t capitalize. One call in the 2nd period doesn’t decide a game, Yale’s inability to keep their composure after a questionable call decided the game. Quit being bitter.

      • You’re right, Hockey East stinks compared to the ECAC. After winning the last 3 NC’s this year was not a great year, but when was the last Yale NC, or Frozen Four……..or ECAC NC or Frozen Four? While I accept BC didn’t play well and is out because they deserve to be, it proved to be the exception to the rule and most folks were surprised when they lost. However Yale winning and going to the Frozen Four, or any ECAC team going to the Frozen Four would be the exception to the rule, so we weren’t surprised to see the ECAC drop…………again, without going anywhere. Take it like a man, your conference stinks, shouldn’t get autobids and cannot say a damn thing until they win a few NC’s I cannot even remember the last time an ECAC team went to the Frozen Four, let alone win the NC. NO ONE was surprised when Yale lost or the other two fabulous ECAC teams dropped. The ECAC stinks, defend it all you want and blame bad calls all you want, they are both out. BC had a few bad calls too, but the ref didn’t place the puck in the net for CC, BC just lost.

  5. I just want to take a minute to point out that the 3 best teams in the EZAC were swept by WCHA teams. Even beyond that, the top 2 teams were beat back to back by the team that finished 4th in the WCHA.

    All the hype, all the smack talked, all sense of entitlement behind us, it came down to teams that don’t play anybody meeting teams in the tourney that don’t take the easy road to get there. Total goals scored in tourney EZAC 4. WCHA 13 in games only against EZAC, plenty more against the rest.

  6. As I sit here on a Sunday night with my head hanging low as a result of the ECAC’s poor NCAA tourney performance I have come up with an idea to maybe help myself, and other die hard ECAC fans deal with the frustration that comes our way every year right around this time. We have suffered enough since 1989 wouldn’t you say? Here is the answer: FACE REALITY, Yes I’ll say it again, “FACE REALITY.” Honestly, it pains me to say it, to face it, to think it, to acknowledge it, to FACE REALITY. In reality, we the ECAC, are just NOT THAT GOOD, in comparison to the other three major leagues in division 1 hockey (WCHA, CCHA, Hockey East) today. This is clearly the truth, a truth I have tried to ignore with excuse after excuse but at this time I have hit my bottom. I can no longer ignore the truth my college hockey loving friends. Yet, I have been thinking and I feel I have a solution that may help us ECAC fans as well as the league as a whole. I will say this now, and please Brian Sullivan let this be heard around the ECAC world. No ECAC hockey team shall be ranked in the top 10 during the regular season, no matter what, until, not one, but two ECAC teams make the Frozen Four and one wins a national championship. On top of this, no ECAC team shall be ranked in the top 15 above any team from Hockey East, the WCHA, or the CCHA until the aforementioned results are achieved. You may ask, “Well Mr. L what if an ECAC team wins the national championship in the next two or three years before another ECAC team makes the frozen four? NO NO NO. It is both goals or nothing, two teams in the Frozen Four and one winning the national championship or nothing at all my friends. It is about time the ECAC accepts it’s place in college hockey as far as strength of conference goes. If it doesn’t like it than go out and do something about it. Until then enough is enough. Next year, I have zero expectations for my beloved league and Union Dutchmen when it comes to national aspirations. As far as I am concerned, any team from our league is an underdog until proven otherwise…and no, I could care less about OOC results from the regular season.

    • Umm I hope you’re planning on excepting Cornell from this. 2003 Frozen four, a 1-0 3 OT loss to the 2006 national champions Wisconsin in the regional final, and an OT loss to Minnesota in the ’05 regional final. You’re talking about a team that was a few bounces away from 3 Frozen Fours in the last decade. If thats not a national contender I don’t know what is.

  7. On the other hand after tonight all of hockey east will be out. Does that mean that because ecac didn’t make it to the final four they are bad, or does the fact that none of the eastern conferences made it there mean they are bad?

    Or more likely does it mean that WCHA + CCHA is just having a good year?

  8. I know people feel very nostalgic about outdoor hockey but I don’t share their enthusiasm. I went  to the BU-BC game at Fenway two years ago and the truth is you don’t get a very good view of the game from most of the seats. I am glad I went once for the experience. But given the poor sight lines, once was plenty.

    • I agree.  I didn’t go to Fenway to see UNH/Maine for that very reason.  I hit the Frozen Fours every year and was at Ford Field a couple years ago.  Not quite Fenway, also not outside, but horrible for watching hockey.  We got “great” seats as we go every year, 7 rows up on the blue line in the bleachers they brought in just for the hockey games.  Problem was, they were not steep enough, so every time the puck went over center ice, I had to watch it on the big screen.  I might as well have stayed home and watched ESPN.  Hockey needs to stay in arenas made for hockey, other wise there are very few good seats.  It’s kind of tough looking through the boards!

  9. Not interested in any game at fenway.  sightlines are terrible.  I still can’t believe BC let MC back into that game on Sunday.  I think BC blew at least 34 scoring opps

  10. When i look at SOS for D-1 i see WCHA teams are the first 8 teams. How does Cornell keep getting so much love???? If you play the hardest schedule consistantly that has to be worth more than just racking up wins against sub .500 teams????

  11. It’s good to see some fight in the Badgers. If they can find a scorer they’ll be in decent shape. What’s missing is a Michael Mersch or Joseph LaBate. Someone who you can count on to score a goal or two a weekend. Soleway looks like the most likely candidate if he can stay healthy.

    But serious kudos to Frey this weekend. He was outstanding.

  12. Michigan State Hockey is a mess. I’m assuming at tomorrows presser, tCHHCoMSU will offer his usual comments of “hard working. Have to play smarter. Need better luck.”
    Time for a change. Let us hope this is his last season.

        • Yes. But Eaves has a track record that includes a NC.. tCHHCoMSU has a track record, of being a Club Hockey Coach. And two years of being assistant coach at MSU. And then Commissioner of the CCHA. That, was his resume.

          • Fair enough. But MSU has already won more games (5) than Wisconsin won ALL OF LAST SEASON (4)!!

            Just saying, I feel your pain of having a down year. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone so hopefully it gets addressed.

          • True Chuck, But tCHHCoMSU has a team of upperclassmen. If I’m not mistaken, Eaves had a team of mostly underclassmen. The upper’s should be on the ball here. To me, why they are not is symptomatic of bad Coaching, leading to indifference and apathy.

  13. I was quite pleased with what I saw from the Gophers this weekend. Playing on the road against #14 Penn State and a team that has been known for its home ice advantage and that was averaging over 45 shots per game and 4 goals. We battle them tooth and nail on Friday only to sadly lose in OT, but then we don’t hang our heads but come back out on Saturday afternoon and put a good old fashioned whooping on them, 7-1 including 3 shorties. The improved play continues and I hope that the experience of the early season will pay off in the second half.

    • No puck luck on Friday. Good game.

      Saturday was the Gophers best play of the year excluding the 2nd MI game. Puck control, passing, playing as 5, etc….were all the best of the season. I thought Wally was going to nut all over the press box with some his commentary.

  14. You’re not the only one who gets nostalgic about the CCHA. As much as I like more televised games and new opponents like Minnesota and Wisconsin, there was something special when a team like Northern Michigan or Ferris could go toe to toe with UM or MSU.

  15. Boy, are WMU fans sold on their team or what?

    Total attendance for their 3 game playoff series against Omaha?

    5,374.

    Attendance for the other NCHC playoff series?

    CC/DU——-10,883
    SCSU/ND—-20,683
    UMD/Miami—9,288

    And, the other 3 series were all 2 game sweeps.

    Was the weather bad, or something?

    The best W-L record at WMU since the ’95-’96 season and the first NCAA tourney appearance in 6 seasons and nobody is more amped up than that?

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