Around the Big Ten: Week 9 (Hockey)
The Big Ten hockey conference continues to get closer and closer with each team improving with every series.
The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers are climbing the standings and are catching up to the No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers for first place. Wisconsin, 9-7-0, is coming off of a split against the Penn State Nittany Lions. This was a big surprise considering that freshman goaltender Cameron Rowe was coming into that series red hot off a sweep against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Badgers are five points behind Minnesota for first place, and a sweep against the Michigan State Spartans this weekend would be huge for them.
The Spartans, 6-8-2, are sitting at dead last in the Big Ten standings with only 15 points. Their offense is one of the worst in the country, scoring only 1.85 goals per game. However, even with the dreadful offense, Michigan State is a team that likes to play spoiler. Drew DeRidder has established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the country and has been lights out in key moments. It’s going to be up to him and the rest of the defensive unit to spoil Wisconsin’s hot streak.
Speaking of hot streaks, the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines, 10-6-0, are coming off back-to-back sweeps against the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Wolverines are currently third in the Big Ten. Thomas Bordeleau is Michigan’s hottest player, scoring six points in his last four games. Another player that has heated up at the right time is Owen Power. Power, the project No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft, has scored six points in his last three games. The Wolverines don’t play this week, but their next series is against Penn State in the first week of February.
The Buckeyes, 5-10-0, currently sit at sixth in the Big Ten with 16 points. They have not found any consistency in their last three matchups, splitting with Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. The Buckeyes have a tough challenge ahead of them, as they play the Gophers this weekend. Ohio State is going to rely heavily on goaltender Tommy Nappier in this series.
However, the good news for the Buckeyes is that Minnesota, 13-3-0, can lose to worse teams. They were swept by Notre Dame in a very tight series. Minnesota cannot afford to underestimate a structured Ohio State squad that is very good in the neutral zone at causing turnovers.
Penn State, 8-8-0, is looking to build its momentum after its upset win of Wisconsin. Penn State is right in the middle of the standings at fifth with 17 points. The hottest player for the Nittany Lions is Connor McMenamin, who was recently named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week. McMenamin had five points in the Wisconsin win, which tied Andrew Sturtz’s single-game points record. Penn State and Notre Dame are separated by one point in the standings, so this will be a huge matchup for both teams.
Notre Dame, 7-8-1, is a very interesting team to watch because of its lack of identity. The Fighting Irish can beat the best team in the Big Ten, Minnesota, but can’t carry that momentum into other games. The offense struggled in the series against Michigan, scoring only two goals, as did the goaltending. Dylan St. Cyr and Ryan Bischel each have a save percentage that is below .900, which is not good. The defense of the Fighting Irish is going to be tested against a red hot Nittany Lions offense.
Teams need to start playing their best hockey now, because the Big Ten tournament is only about a month away.
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.