Around the Big Ten: Men’s Hockey
Jeremy Ganes, Matt McClure and Christopher Hess breakdown this week's action around the Big Ten Conference:
After one of the busiest weekends in college hockey, the Big Ten will keep things going with three high-potential series this week. Last weekend shook up the conference a little bit more than expected, with Minnesota sweeping Notre Dame and Michigan State exposing Penn State’s defensive weaknesses.
This week, Penn State will look to get back on track when Ohio State comes to State College and Notre Dame travels to Madison, Wis., where they are favored over the Badgers. Michigan State will also host a Minnesota team that has been red-hot since Big Ten play began.
Notre Dame at Wisconsin
Wisconsin has come into the series on a three-game losing streak. Even though their losses came at the hands of two talented teams in Denver and U.S.A. Under-18 Team, the Badgers are still in dire need of some wins this weekend.
As of right now, Wisconsin doesn’t look like a front-runner for the Big Ten title, so if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive they’ll need to start climbing out of their No. 28 rank in the pairwise.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has a lot to lose this weekend. Ranked No. 13 in the pairwise, a sweep or even just a loss could change Notre Dame from a bubble team to a team looking at a tournament berth from outside the bracket. The Fighting Irish were also swept by Minnesota last weekend, which will put the pressure on them to bounce back this weekend.
Minnesota at Michigan State
Two very different teams will meet in East Lansing, Mich. this weekend. Minnesota will be looking to continue their dominance in Big Ten play after their sweep of Notre Dame last weekend, while Michigan State will look to build off of their Saturday night win in a series split with Penn State.
The Golden Gophers are hoping to make the jump over Ohio State to be first in the Big Ten after this series. Their success has largely stemmed from the production of their top line: Rem Pitlick, Tyler Sheehy and Brent Gates Jr., who have combined for 56 points this season.
Minnesota will likely be matched up with Michigan State’s powerhouse line consisting of current NCAA points leader Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko and Mitchell Lewandowski. If Minnesota can shut down this line, they’re likely to come out of the weekend with a sweep. Hirose’s line almost has more points, with 80, than the rest of Michigan State’s roster, who have 82.
Ohio State at Penn State
One word: Rivalry. This should be a big tilt for both teams. Ohio State will be looking to keep Minnesota out of first place while Penn State will look to continue their ascent out of the bottom of the Big Ten.
Both teams split in their last series: Ohio State with Michigan and Penn State with Michigan State. The Nittany Lions’ loss to Michigan State sent them down to No. 16 in the Pairwise Comparison. That makes this series with a No . 5 Ohio State even more important.
The last series between these two teams was one of Penn State’s lowest scoring of the season. The high-powered offense only scored six goals in the split. If Ohio State can stifle the Nittany Lions offense, they will likely leave Happy Valley feeling very happy.
The Wolverines will have the weekend off after their split with Ohio State. They will play Penn State Thursday at home and on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Michigan is currently third in the Big Ten but with Penn State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all within three points of the Wolverines, the Big Ten picture could change tremendously this weekend.
Nathan Pullen is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.