Around the Big Ten: Hockey - Week 2
Andre Magaro, Chris Hess and Jordan Hession break down the week in Big Ten hockey:
Last weekend, the college hockey season got underway with all seven Big Ten teams in action. Some impressed, while others disappointed. Here's what happened around the Big Ten:
The ninth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions were one of two Big Ten teams to win its opening two games, defeating Sacred Heart 8-2 and 5-4.
Early indications are the Nittany Lions will again have one of the strongest offenses in all of college hockey. They are led by head coach Guy Gadowsky, who picked up his 300th NCAA win as a coach on Saturday.
Cole Hults led the way for Penn State with four goals on the weekend, including becoming the first defenseman in program history to score a hat trick on Friday. Hults earned Big Ten Third Star of the Week honors.
However, the Nittany Lions still struggled defensively. After being ranked 56th in team defense a season ago, sloppy turnovers led Sacred Heart back into Saturday’s contest after the Nittany Lions had a 4-0 lead at one point.
The defense will be put to the test this week against Alaska-Fairbanks, who is 2-2 on the season, coming off a sweep against Michigan Tech. The games will be played Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park.
The Wisconsin Badgers are considered by some to be a dark horse in the race for a Big Ten championship. On paper, Wisconsin is an offensive juggernaut with one of the best offensive prospects in Cole Caufield that college hockey has seen in quite some time. This weekend, both Caufield and the Badgers’ offense lived up to the hype.
Although Wisconsin fell to No. 6 Boston College on Friday, 5-3, Caufield impressed with two goals. It was an impressive road performance by the Badgers to hang with a top-10 foe on the road.
The Wisconsin offense then proceeded to explode Saturday, defeating Merrimack 11-5. Caufield scored another pair of goals, securing the Big Ten’s Second Star of the Week.
The nonconference slate does not get any easier for the Badgers, who host defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth Friday and Saturday.
The defending Big Ten regular season champion Buckeyes started their season on neutral ice in Toledo for the “Ice Breaker.” The Buckeyes tied with Western Michigan 2-2, before advancing in a shootout to play RIT, winning 3-1. These results were enough for Ohio State to remain No. 12 in the latest USCHO.com poll.
Forward Ronnie Hein scored twice against RIT and goaltender Tommy Nappier won the Big Ten’s First Star of the Week. The Buckeyes will likely need to lean on Nappier’s exceptional goaltending ability, as they have lost veteran and offensive leadership from last season, including leading scorer Mason Jobst and Big Ten Defenseman of the Year Sasha Laroque.
Ohio State hosts Nebraska-Omaha Friday and Saturday, who are coming off a dominant sweep of Alabama-Huntsville.
Only two seasons removed from a Frozen Four berth, the Wolverines of Michigan seem to be on a consistent decline. Coach Mel Pearson and company only tallied a pair of goals last weekend, as they drew and lost at home to No. 10 Clarkson.
Though Clarkson is certainly a tough opponent, the Wolverines need to defend their home ice with more success down the road. Forward Cam York must become a more integral part of the offense, after tallying no points last weekend.
Michigan will have a shot at redemption, hosting Lake Superior State Friday and Saturday.
Minnesota split with the dangerous Colorado College of the NCHC on the road, losing 3-2 on Friday and winning 4-3 on Saturday. In year two under coach Bob Motzko, the Gophers are eager to return atop the Big Ten and restore themselves as a dominant program in college hockey after missing the NCAA tournament last season.
Minnesota has a young core in place to accomplish its goals, including reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sammy Walker, who scored in Saturday’s comeback victory.
The Gophers are the next closest Big Ten team to being ranked, receiving 33 votes this past week. They will host Niagara at home Friday and Saturday.
Michigan State’s only action this upcoming weekend is a scrimmage against the U.S. U-18 Team. Perhaps that is for the best.
The Spartans have been in the basement of the Big Ten in recent seasons. After losing the nation’s leading scorer in Taro Hirose, coach Danton Cole and his team have some serious soul searching to do, especially after a disappointing home split to Northern Michigan to open up the season.
There are no games for the No. 7 Fighting Irish this weekend, but it would be a mistake not to mention their home sweep of Air Force this past weekend.
Four points from forward Cal Burke and solid goaltending from freshman Ryan Bischel in the absence of Cale Morris saw Notre Dame take care of business against an Air Force team picked in the preseason to make its second NCAA tournament in three seasons.
The Fighting Irish look to be suited up for another run at a Big Ten title and it’s worth noting that they have won the last two Big Ten tournaments.
Andre Magaro is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.