Big Ten Men’s Hockey Season Preview

Story posted October 4, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Jordan Hession

Today is the second day of October and it's time to lace up your skates and tape your sticks. Hockey season is officially upon us as College Hockey begins this week. Each of the seven teams in the Big Ten will begin their quest this month towards winning the Big Ten Tournament championship. Let’s preview each of the seven teams as the season is underway:

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish will look to win their third straight Big Ten Championship. Notre Dame is led by goaltender Cale Morris and returning forwards Cale Burke and Michael Graham. The losses of top-scoring players Dylan Malmquist (forward), Joe Wegwerth (forward), Bobby Nardella (defenseman) and Andrew Peake (defenseman) will hurt them, however. There's no reason not to think Notre Dame can't win a three-peat, just look at the last two seasons and Michael Graham's progression after finishing as the leading freshman scorer in the country.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions look to fight for the Big Ten Championship this season after falling short to Notre Dame last year 2-3 in the final. Six of Penn State’s 10-plus goal scorers are returning for another season after accounting for 60 percent of the offense. Senior goaltender Peyton Jones returns alongside junior forward Alex Limoges, Evan Barratt and seniors forward Liam Folkes, Nate Sucese, and Nikita Pavlychev. The main question facing Penn State will be the defensive unit. Penn State gave up an average of 3.56 goals per game with an average penalty kill. Balancing a high-octane offense with an average defensive unit will be the main test for head coach Guy Gadowsky. However, if the defense unit can support goalie Peyton Jones, the Nittany Lions should compete for another Big Ten Championship and Frozen Four appearance.

Ohio State: After reaching the program's second Frozen Four appearance in 2018, the Buckeyes failed to meet expectations as they were shutout by Denver in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament. Mason Jobst was an offensive juggernaut for the Buckeyes as he tallied 164 points, the most from a Buckeyes player since 1989. Swedish sophomore forward Gustaf Westlund looks to improve after earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors with 19 points, 14 assists and five goals in 25 games played. An experienced blueline highlighted by senior Matt Miller and returning goalie Tommie Nappier should keep Ohio State relevant in the standings.

Michigan: Last season, Michigan's entire defense was horrible from the defenseman to the goalies. The defensive unit ranked 45th in the nation, while goalies Hayden Lavigne and Strauss Man combined for an overall percentage of .899. Senior forwards Will Lockwood, Jake Slaker, Nick Pastujov, and Senior defenseman Luke Martin will provide the leadership for the Wolverines as they’re the biggest returning seniors out of the nine. Transfer players Jacob Hayhurst (Rensselaer) and Shane Switzer (Boston University) also add to an already heavy experienced roster.

Michigan State: The Spartans have a disciplined and veteran team returning minus the presence of Taro Hirose. Hirose immediately jumped up to the Detroit Red Wings roster after his season was over with the Spartans. However, the Spartans have their top two scoring forwards senior Patrick Khodorenko and Junior Mitchell Lewandowski returning, along with both of their goalies in sophomore Drew DeRidder and senior John Lethemon. With some veterans and two capable goalies, Michigan State should be able to rise out of the bottom of the conference.

Minnesota: The young Gophers will have to develop quickly to compete with the rest of the conference. The Gophers lost their top three scoring forwards Rem Pitlick, Tyler Sheehy, and Brent Gates Jr., along with both of their goalies Mat Robson and Eric Schierhorn. Freshman goalie Jared Moe and former Michigan goalie Jack LaFontaine will battle for the time between the pipes. Either goalie's play could be alleviated if freshmen defensemen Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson can mold together with upperclassmen defensemen Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Tyler Nanny.

Wisconsin: The Badgers are entering this season as the most fascinating team in the Big Ten with drafted freshman Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens prospect), Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings prospect), and 2020 NHL draft prospect Dylan Holloway (2019 Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year). The Badgers will rely on the three freshmen to push them into the NCAA Tournament since their last appearance five years ago. Sophomore defenseman K’Andre Miller will have to continue to progress from his freshman season. Both goalies Daniel Lebedeff and Jack Berry will need to increase the quality of their starts since both goalies ended the season on a losing note. If the Badgers can mesh this youth with their veteran players, we might see the Badgers playing late into March.

 

 

Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email hessionjordan@gmail.com.