Big Ten Hockey: Season Review
The Big Ten Hockey season is finally over and it did not disappoint despite the unusual circumstances. Four out of the seven Big Ten teams will play in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament. Let’s take a look at how each squad performed during the 2020 season.
Wisconsin Badgers (20-9-1)
From worst to first as they say, the Badgers were a fun team to watch this season.
Wisconsin clinched the Big Ten regular season title and finished the year with 52 points. Although they fell short of the Big Ten championship, a lot of positives came out of this season. One being that Cole Caufield is the Hobey Baker Award favorite.
Caufield was unanimously named the Big Ten Player of the Year. The sophomore led the nation with 49 points and 28 goals. He is unlikely to return for his junior season as he is likely headed straight to the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens.
Tony Granatos’ squad will be the number one seed in the Bridgeport Regional section of the Frozen Four tournament facing off against No. 4 Bemidji State.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (23-6-0)
The Big Ten champions had one heck of a season to say the least.
Bob Motzko put together a full package team with size, speed and skill. Sampo Ranta was tied for second in the NCAA in goals (18) and was the driver of the Golden Gophers’ forward core. The Gophers took off at the start of the season going 10-0, but were a little inconsistent towards the end of the season.
Jack LaFontaine was a brick wall in net and that was a big reason why the Gophers were crowned Big Ten champions. He led the nation with 21 wins and was also named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year.
The Golden Gophers will be the number one seed in the Loveland Regional. They will face off against No. 4 Omaha.
Michigan Wolverines (15-10-1)
The Wolverines underachieved a bit considering they had the best recruiting class in the nation. They were expected to run away with the Big Ten conference.
Thomas Bordeleau was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year leading the Wolverines with 30 points. Lots of players from Mel Pearsons’ squad are expected to leave for the NHL. Owen Power is the projected number one overall pick in the 2021 draft, and Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers are also projected to go in the top five.
No. 2 Michigan will battle against No. 3 Minnesota Duluth in the Fargo Regional.
UPDATE (March 26): Michigan has withdrawn from the 2021 NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 issues.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-13-2)
The Fighting Irish were going to be the last team to make it into the Frozen Four due to St. Lawrence having a COVID-19 outbreak. However, it was announced on Thursday, March 25, that the Fighting Irish had a COVID-19 outbreak themselves.
Notre Dame was a back and forth team at the start of its campaign, but finished the year going 5-0. Alex Steeves was excellent all season ranking fifth in the country in goals (15). Graham Slaggart was great as well, leading Notre Dame with 18 assists.
Penn State Nittany Lions (10-12-0)
The defending regular season champions were just one goal away from heading back to the Big Ten championship.
Penn State had a lot of questions heading into the season with regards to the goaltending and the forward depth. The Nittany Lions started off 0-5 and the freshmen started to play better with every game. Kevin Wall had a breakout season for the Nittany Lions as the sophomore forward had 19 points in 22 games.
Ohio State Buckeyes (7-19-1)
The Buckeyes were not good this year.
A big reason why is because of the lack of offense they had. Furthermore, Tommy Nappier was not great between the pipes. He had a career-worst 3.28 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
The defense also struggled. The Buckeyes gave up 3.72 goals against per-game which was ranked 45th in the nation. Ohio State was bounced right away in the first round of the Big Ten tournament getting shutout by Michigan.
Michigan State Spartans (7-18-2)
Similar to Ohio State, the Spartans were one of the worst teams in the country at generating offense. They were ranked 50th in the nation in goals per-game (1.46).
Their leading point scorer, Mitchell Lewandowski, only had 13 points. He was one of three other players to reach the 10 point mark. Lewandowski will be graduating this year, so it will be very interesting to see what head coach Danton Cole does in terms of recruiting. However, Drew DeRidder looked like one of the best goaltenders in the country at times coming up with key saves.
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.