Around the Big Ten Hockey: Jan. 14
The stretch run has begun for the hockey clubs of the Big Ten with major matchups on the horizon for conference contenders.
The conference leaders took a major hit to their Big Ten and National Championship aspirations off the ice this past week.
Former Minnesota goaltender Jack LaFontaine has signed a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes and has joined the team.
Lafontaine won the Mike Richter award for best goaltender in the country last season and had backstopped the Golden Gophers to the top of the Big Ten standings to this point.
Now Minnesota will have to try and fend off Michigan and the other Big Ten contenders without their veteran goalie.
In their final series with LaFontaine, Minnesota handled their business against Michigan State getting the sweep. Junior forward Ben Meyers stole the show scoring four goals throughout the series.
Fellow conference contender Michigan also grabbed a sweep this past weekend. The Wolverines defeated ranked opponent Massachusetts twice in their home series.
Brendan Brisson had a productive series with three goals and two assists over the weekend.
Michigan hosts a struggling Penn State team in its next series.
The Nittany Lions were swept heartbreakingly against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in their series in Happy Valley.
Both matchups featured late-winning goals from Irish players including a Max Ellis goal being scored with less than a second left in overtime.
Needless to say, the Nittany Lions need to work on closing out games if they want to climb out of the basement in the Big Ten standings.
For Notre Dame, they will be looking to keep pace with Minnesota and Michigan with a huge test this weekend against Ohio State.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been the surprise of the Big Ten this season and are continuing to roll. The Buckeyes are on a seven-game win streak that kicked off with a statement 6-1 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Ohio State has a huge opportunity to cement themselves as Big Ten title contenders in their home series against Notre Dame this weekend.
The Fighting Irish have been NCAA tournament regulars the last couple of seasons and are one of the most well-coached teams in the country.
If the Buckeyes can somehow come away with a sweep, they will not only be respected as threats in the Big Ten but nationally as well.
Two of the Big Ten’s lesser performing teams this season will be meeting for a series in Madison this weekend.
The Wisconsin Badgers have not been able to overcome the loss of former Hobey Baker Award winner Cole Caulfield to the NHL this season. They have only won six contests and are second to last in the Big Ten.
Michigan State has continued to play a good style of hockey as they have in recent years but has not had the talent to keep up with the Big Ten’s best teams.
The Spartans will look to separate themselves from the bottom of the conference with a couple of wins on the road in this series.
At this point in the season, the Big Ten contenders are known, so it will be interesting to see which teams step up under pressure or crumble to a spoiler team. Regardless, the stretch run is on and a Big Ten champion will emerge in the coming months.
Maclain Young is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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