Around the Big Ten: Week 3
Matt McClure, Jack Brusco and Nate Pullen preview this weekend's action in Big Ten hockey:
The outlook of the Big Ten is constantly changing week to week. Teams have gotten off to surprising and disappointing starts, so we are in store for a great season when Big Ten play comes around. Let’s take a look at the Big Ten conference for this weekend.
Notre Dame has been playing some good hockey lately and has moved up to No. 1 in the USCHO hockey polls. After the tie to Mercyhurst at the beginning of the season, the Fighting Irish have won their last three games, including a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha. The Fighting Irish outscored Nebraska-Omaha 12-3 in the two games this weekend, and play the defending National Champions Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at home for a two-game series. Senior defenseman Bobby Nardella and junior forward Cal Burke have gotten off to excellent starts this season. They combined have eight goals and 11 assists so with the schedule getting much tougher over the next few weeks, let’s see if these guys can keep up their dominant play.
The expectations are high for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes previously were the preseason No. 1 team in the country but now are No. 4. After a nice showing on the road at Arizona State at the beginning of the season, the Buckeyes played a series vs. Massachusetts last weekend and were only able to split the pair of games. In the 6-3 loss on Friday, senior goalie Sean Romeo gave up five goals on 26 shots. In the 3-1 win on Saturday, the goaltending was much better and junior forward Tanner Laczynski had two goals. The Buckeyes play a home-and-home series vs. Bowling Green this weekend before their matchup next weekend vs. Notre Dame.
The Michigan Wolverines haven’t gotten off to the start that they would have liked this season. The Wolverines are 1-2 to start the season, and split with Western Michigan this past weekend, losing 6-5 and winning 5-4. Goaltending and defense have been the Wolverines problem. In three games this season, Michigan has given up 15 goals. It will be tough to win games in the future by giving up five goals a game. Michigan is No.12 in the USCHO poll and if they want to move up in those rankings the defense and goaltending have to improve. Look for defenseman Quinn Hughes to have a big series as the Wolverines host St. Lawrence for a two-game series this weekend.
One of the surprising teams to start the season has to be the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are 3-1 to start the season and swept Boston College at the beginning of the season. Last weekend they lost to Clarkson 4-2, but bounced back and beat St. Lawrence 7-1. Forwards Sean Dhoogie and Tarek Baker have gotten off to nice starts with a combined 13 points. The No.14 Wisconsin hosts Michigan Tech for a two-game series this weekend. Let’s see if Wisconsin’s success continues with the schedule getting tougher in the next few weeks.
After a disappointing season last year where they finished fifth in the Big Ten, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are looking to have a bounce-back year. The Gophers fired Head Coach Don Lucia this offseason and brought in former St. Cloud State Head Coach Bob Motzko. Minnesota played Minnesota Duluth at the beginning of the season and split the series with them. The last two weekends they have played exhibition games vs. the US Under-18 Team, and Trinity Western. Minnesota won both of those exhibition games by a combined score of 14-2. This weekend, No. 5 Minnesota plays a game on Saturday vs. No. 17 North Dakota in Las Vegas. It will be interesting to see if Motzko will lead the Gophers to a better year.
Michigan State has been at the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten for years now. The last time the Spartans were a contender in the conference was in the 2011-12 season when they went to the NCAA Tournament. Since then, the only winning season came in 2014-15 when they went 17-16-2. This season Michigan State starts the season 1-1 after a split with Northern Michigan. The Spartans will need forwards Taro Hirose, and Mitchell Lewandowski to have big years. The Spartans were off last weekend and play at Cornell for a two-game series this weekend.
Finally, what a start the Penn State Nittany Lions have had so far this season. The Nittany Lions have started the season 4-0 and swept both Clarkson, and just recently Niagara at home. The good news for Penn State is goaltender Peyton Jones has gotten off to a really nice start. In the two games he has started, Jones has two wins and only allowed two goals. Offensively, a number of forwards have stepped up. Chase Berger, Nate Sucese, Evan Barratt, and Brandon Biro all have six points to start the season. Look for these guys to continue to play at a high level as the season moves along. This Saturday, No. 10 Penn State hosts No. 13 Princeton in Hockey Valley.
Matt McClure is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.