Big Ten Hockey Weekend Preview
With five weekends of regular season hockey left, the quest for the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament is still a two horse race between Michigan and Minnesota, with Penn State remaining in striking distance of the leaders. The Wolverines of Michigan and the Golden Gophers of Minnesota are tied with 27 points after 12 conference games, but Michigan currently owns the tie-breaker and would be the top seed if the tournament started this weekend. Penn State sits in third place with 21 points and holds a comfortable lead over the fourth place Ohio State Buckeyes, who start the weekend with 12 points and 10 conference games played. Rounding out the standings are Michigan State with nine points and Wisconsin with six.
Here are the matchups for this weekend:
No. 16 Penn State vs. Michigan State
Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. ET
The 16th ranked Nittany Lions will travel to Michigan State and look to skate away with all six available points as they try to gain ground on the conference leaders. Penn State will have momentum on its side this weekend, coming off an important series split in Minnesota and the program’s first win on the Golden Gopher’s ice. Led by freshmen Andrew Sturtz and Chase Berger, Penn State will look to score early and often, as they have not lost a Big Ten game this season when leading after the first period. Both Matthew Skoff and Eamon McAdam are expected to get starts in goal. The Spartans are coming off a series split against Michigan and grabbed their signature win of the season, a 3-2 overtime win in Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings. Michigan State will look to avoid another sweep at the hands of the Nittany Lions in their last matchup of the regular season.
Minnesota vs. Ohio State
Friday: 6:30 p.m. ET and Saturday: 7 p.m. ET
Dominant juniors Hudson Fasching and Justin Kloos continue to lead Minnesota with 19 and 18 points in Big Ten play, respectively, and rank fourth and fifth overall in the conference. The Golden Gophers continue to have success the Big Ten by playing a very balanced game. They are second in the conference with an average of 4.25 goals per game, and allow a conference best 2.58 goals per game. Freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn continues to lead the Big Ten with a record of 9-3 and has a goals against average of 2.31. Ohio State will need to rely on forwards David Gust, Nick Schilkey and Mason Jobst to carry the team and try to pull off the upset. The Buckeyes are trying to hold onto the fourth spot in the standings, and only have a three point lead on Michigan State. The first matchup between these two teams resulted in Minnesota winning both games in overtime.
No. 6 Michigan vs. Wisconsin
Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. ET
The Wolverines dropped one spot, to sixth in the country, after their series split with the Spartans last weekend. Forwards Tyler Motte, Kyle Connor and JT Compher continue to stifle their opponents with their stellar play, and are averaging over two points a game against Big Ten teams. Goaltender Steve Racine has a great record of 6-1-1 in the conference, but only a modest 3.32 goals against average. Michigan is seemingly unstoppable on offense, with their average of 5.75 goals per game, but average more than three goals allowed and have the worst penalty kill in the conference at only 68.9 percent. Wisconsin continues to have a difficult season, with only one Big Ten win in regulation and one shootout win. Sophomore Ryan Wagner leads the team with a mere 10 points in conference play, and Luke Kunin leads the team with five goals. The Badgers lost both previous games to Michigan, one of which was a shootout loss, and will try for the upset this weekend.
Eric Ohlson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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