Big Ten Hockey Weekend Preview

Story posted January 14, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

With the Big Ten season just three weeks old, there is already some juggling up top in the standings. After a series sweep of the Michigan State Spartans, the Michigan Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 14 points in just six games. The maize and blue are led by standout forwards JT Compher and Kyle Connor, who lead the way for the best offense in the Big Ten. They are also solid on the blue line, as the Big Ten points leader by a defenseman, Zach Werenski, has also been a big contributor for the Wolverines. The Minnesota Golden Gophers hold the second place slot, followed by Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Just six games into the conference season for most teams, there is room for improvement for many Big Ten contenders. Here are this weeks matchups:

Wisconsin at Penn State:

Given this matchup two years ago, many would have predicted a sweep for the Badgers. Now the scripts have been flipped and Penn State is a budding superpower in not just the Big Ten, but also possibly all of college hockey. The Nittany Lions are led by a young core who has dominated both in and out of conference for the better part of the 2015-2016 campaign. Their two headed tandem in net of Matthew Skoff and Eamon McAdam has also proved fruitful for the Nittany Lions so far. For the Badgers, they are still in the rebuilding stages. Grant Besse, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, has been a bright spot for the Badgers this season with 17 points thus far. However, Wisconsin has allowed 11 more goals than they have scored as defensive issues continue to plague the young Badger squad. Penn State is known for their shoot early and often mentality, so it could be a somber trip to Happy Valley for Wisconsin.

Michigan vs. Ohio State:

The best team in the Big Ten faces the worst team from the conference in a rare Friday, Sunday home and home for the two bitter rivals. The rivalry on the ice between these two schools has been painfully one-sided and Michigan has dominated the Buckeyes. However, Ohio State is coming off some of their biggest wins of the season, defeating No. 9 Cornell 8-0 to win the Florida College Classic. To even play Cornell, they had to go through another historic program in Boston College. Ohio State has won three of their last four and could surprise a few folks in this unorthodox scheduled series. On the other hand, Michigan is Michigan for a reason. The maize and blue are poised to capture the Big Ten title and have the best team in the league if they stay healthy. Led by young studs and backed by veteran leadership, the Wolverines are ranked No. 8 in the country and on paper, despite the recent success of the Buckeyes; this looks like a sweep waiting to happen for the Wolverines.

Minnesota vs. Michigan State:

In what may very well be the most competitive series of the weekend, the Golden Gophers return to Mariucci Ice Arena to face a battered and bruised Michigan State team. The Spartans were swept out of Ann Arbor and conceded nine goals in the first contest against Michigan. Minnesota played their best series of the year against Penn State, as they lost in overtime on Friday and then responded with a 7-1 drubbing of the Nittany Lions the following day. Minnesota isn’t the team they have been in the past, but with skilled defenseman who can move the puck and a few solid forwards, they are still very dangerous. For Michigan State, it is all about solid play in front of Jake Hildebrand. Hildebrand was arguably the best goalie in the league last season, but a porous defense has him looking beaten this season. If Michigan State can defend first and attack off the rush, they have a chance against a deeper Minnesota team.

Jack Milewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email jbm250@psu.edu.