Big Ten Hockey Tournament Preview
We’ve finally made it. The Big Ten tournament is here.
Fans were robbed of this event last year and a lot has changed since then. Teams such as Penn State and Ohio State that stood near the top last season are now bottom dwellers. Probably the biggest surprise, however, is the only team in the Big Ten with a first-round bye.
The Wisconsin Badgers were dead last in 2019-20 with 25 points, which fueled them to win the Big Ten Regular Season title this season. The Badgers play a fast style of hockey that relies heavily on their offense.
Cole Caufield is the driver of that team. Caufield is one of the most electrifying players in all of college hockey and is favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award.
Caufield lead the nation in points (46) and goals (25). Teams must watch him at all times and prevent him from using his deadly accurate shot. The Badgers will play the winner of the matchup between Penn State and Notre Dame.
The Golden Gophers had a large lead of the Big Ten conference until Wisconsin took off. Head coach Bob Motzko has put together a team with skill, speed and size.
They are a full package group. Sampo Ranta, the 6-foot-2 Finn, had 26 points in 26 games and is a force to be reckoned with. It’s hard to talk about the Gophers without talking about their star goaltender Jack LaFontaine.
The senior had the best season of his career with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. The Golden Gophers will face off against Michigan State in the first round of the tournament.
The Wolverines were a little underwhelming at times, considering they had the best recruiting class in all of college hockey. They were projected to run away with the conference, but inconsistency down the stretch and COVID-19 related absences hurt them.
The Wolverines started out the season hot but were definitely slowed down by the long pause as they lost games they shouldn’t. A tie against Arizona State and a road loss against Ohio State highlight those losses. Those same Buckeyes will be the first-round matchup upcoming for Michigan.
Notre Dame was the hottest team down the stretch, coming off of back-to-back sweeps against Michigan State and Penn State. Even though the Fighting Irish are without their former star goaltender, Cale Morris, Dylan St. Cyr has been excellent.
Even though Notre Dame isn’t the flashiest team, Jeff Jacksons’ squad seems to always find a way to win games. They will open up the tournament against the Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions are similar to Michigan in the sense that they were slowed down by a recent COVID-19 pause. Before the pause, Penn State was starting to turn things around after a slow start as they won five of their last eight games.
The former regular season champs were hindered all season by the loss of many seniors who helped lead the team to that regular season title. In the Nittany Lions first game following the pause they got mauled by Notre Dame losing by three or more goals in both games.
As for the Buckeyes, it’s been a rough season for them which was highlighted by only winning one game in the month of February. In the teams’ recent series, the Buckeyes recorded a split against Arizona State.
The split featured a tough 5-0 loss in game two which is the last game the Buckeyes have played to this point. The Buckeyes are matched up against Michigan in the first round of the tournament, a team they only beat once on four attempts in the regular season. Tommy Nappier had a down season this year which is a big reason why the Buckeyes struggled to keep the puck out of the net.
Michigan State comes into the tournament as the lowest seed in the conference. The Spartans are currently on a six-game losing streak, all of those losses are coming against top four teams in the conference.
This includes Minnesota who the Spartans will take on to open up the tournament. Both losses were by two or more so the Spartans will have to figure out how to get through LaFontaine in order to pull off a miracle. The Spartans are known for the stout defense and shot blocking, but they struggle to score goals.
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.