A new champion, a strong argument for the Hobey Baker Award, and a single NCAA entry

Holy smokes! I was so caught up in re-entry into the non-college hockey world — i.e., my day job — that I completely forgot about this morning’s blog. Here are three things from the Big Ten tournament that stay with me today.

1. The Wolverines showed why they should be B1G champs.

With three third-period goals, Michigan defeated Minnesota 5-3 and became the third different Big Ten playoff championship team in the league’s first three seasons. Four players, especially, showed why they are top-notch players for the Wolverines with championship totals for the two games: junior forwards JT Compher (1-7–8) and Tyler Motte (2-2–4), sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski (1-5–6) and freshman forward Kyle Connor (5-3–8).

The Wolverines played to their strengths, outgunning Penn State in the 7-2 semifinal win — with Steve Racine making 40 saves in the contest — and relying on their belief in their third period to catch and overcome the Golden Gophers in Saturday’s title match. For the season, Michigan has outscored opponents 74-24 in the third period.

2. Kyle Connor is making a strong case for the Hobey Baker Award.

I’ll be completely honest: I have been in the Tyler Motte camp for the Hobey all season. I’d still argue that Motte is a better all-around player — at this point — than is Connor, but Connor’s offensive output in very big games last weekend is impressive. Connor (34-35–6) has improved significantly as the season has progressed and is showing signs of being the kind of on-the-spot player that is needed when there’s a lot on the line. People seem to forget that Motte (31-23–54) has been steadier all season and has only three fewer goals than his linemate, but it’s hard to argue with Connor’s numbers and — especially — his timing. We shall see how he and the Wolverines perform in the NCAA tournament.

3. The Big Ten has one representative in the NCAA tournament — again.

Given how the season went, I’m okay with that. Only Michigan was effective enough in early nonconference play to ensure that it wasn’t in PairWise danger heading into St. Paul last weekend. Minnesota is young and promising, but that youth led to inconsistency. Penn State can score but likewise stumbled a bit down the stretch. Ohio State began to peak too late. No one, from start to finish, had a more solid season than did the Wolverines — and even they needed to solidify defensively at the end of the campaign. We’ll see how they do next weekend in Cincinnati. I’m hoping they can win more than one game.

47 COMMENTS

  1. Not even a mention of Union’s win over Michigan? That was definitely one of the biggest games played by an ECAC team this weekend….

  2. BU was very lucky. A phantom interference to give them a 5 on 3, Cornell hits a post and then a cross-bar plus TWO disallowed Cornell goals.  Christmas came early for the Terriers.

  3. @Carlos- EVERYBODY in MSG saw that goal on replay, except, apparently, the officials!!
    @guest- READ the article again, there’s 2+ paragraphs devoted to the Union/Michigan game under the heading of “Clash of Titans”. Although I hesitate to call Union a titan just yet!

    • Being at MSG it looked like a goal, but that replay didn’t have sound. Play was whistled dead. Should it have been whistled dead? No, but it was and we just have to live with it. Unfortunate video evidence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOugWiCjqik

  4. Does anyone remember the year the coach of lowly MTU  re-issued the uniforms to his team prior to the playoffs against CC, as if the season was starting anew?  MTU won the series and advanced to St. Paul.  Classic!

  5. MSU Mankato needs to say goodbye to their coach.  We have has a great hockey tradition until the last 5 years.  The fans are getting sick of this crap. 

  6. Yes Michigan is impressive and there defense seems to be getting better. They still need to recruit a goaltender as Racine is ok but is really great in the 3rd period as are the wolverines and they do deserve to be in the regionals. I am a gopher fan and do realize that even if they had won the tournament they shouldn’t be in the regionals with all there inconsistencies and not coming out ready to play with little emotion which does reflect also on the coach. Also they should get more teams in this conference as just not enough and with the current playoff setting the bottom teams can play poorly all year but only have to win 3 games to win the tournament and advance of which is ridiculoius and should play best of 3 and other games. But get more teams as I do like the Michigan Mn rivalry as my wife is a Michigan fan but when Penn State joined it broke up several rivalries and divisions like the old wcha and ccha and do miss those rivalries. Also if your are going to have a tournament have it at a campus site as a large arena like the excel center will never work yet but did work for the old wcha.

    • inconsistencies, sure with 9 freshmen that happens,. growing pains. As I posted here at the beginning of the season, I thought that they would play better the second half of the season and they did. I look for them to be much improved all year next year. Not ready to play and no emotion? Are we talking about the Michigan game? I agree that they looked a little flat in the 1st period against Ohio State, but were fine against Michigan.

    • Problem is, michigan is going to loose that lie after the season because of the pressure from the NHL, after those three great players there is a pretty steep drop

  7. In a perfect world, the B1G conference wouldn’t exist. I don’t think they’ll expand either. They could have taken a couple more teams when the CCHA broke up and they chose not to. That’s why this league has been a one bid league since it began three years ago. Until all six teams are playing at an elite level, it will continue to be a one bid league.

  8. You can’t take a Little 6 player seriously for Hobey unless they do it in the tournament, because they haven’t had to play anyone all year up to that.

  9. To best totally honest, I think Michigan has a good team and an incredible first line, but I fully expect them to make an early exit from the NCAA’s. They are average on defense and in goal. That is what makes for champions. I believe that they benefited greatly from a weak non-conference schedule and a conference schedule that was comprised of at least 50% of the games may not have posed much of a problem for a really good high school team. The Wolverines racked up some gaudy numbers on the offensive side of the ledger, but were weak on defense. I know their 3rd period numbers are impressive, but if the games against Minnesota were any indication it was based on their PP (which is out of this world) and teams trying to play catch up, both of which will likely be non-factors in the tournament. The fact that they struggled going 2-2 against the Gophers and getting the go-ahead goal in the B1G tournament championship game in the waning minutes tells me that the Wolverines are a bit overrated here. Even in the championship game the Gophers outscored and at least played Michigan even up 5 on 5. In pretty much all estimations this was a down year for the Gophers with all the departures and yet they took Michigan to the third period close in all 5 games. Additionally Michigan was picked by everyone to waltz away with the B1G regular season and even that did not happen,.

    • I disagree. The UM defense and goaltending has steadied improved as the season has progressed. They are still very young, but with their offense the D just needs to be average and they should go far. Not sure if they can win it, but I don’t think it will be a early exit.

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