Men’s Hockey: Around the Big Ten Week Three
Jack Milewski, Eric Ohlson and Zach Green preview this weekend's hockey matchups around the Big Ten.
All six Big Ten schools will be in action this weekend, including a pair of teams hosting non-conference games at home. No. 19 Penn State opens the weekend slate by hosting Canisius in a Friday-Saturday series. Michigan State will host Princeton on Friday night, and No. 11 Michigan, No. 12 Minnesota, No. 15 Ohio State and Wisconsin will each play two games on the road. The Wolverines will travel to Vermont and Dartmouth; the Golden Gophers take on Clarkson and No. 18 St. Lawrence; the Buckeyes will travel to Niagara, and the Badgers will head to No. 18 St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
Penn State caught the eyes of many fans around the country with their performance in last week’s series at South Bend. Many were aware of the Lions’ young talent but questioned if they would be ready to take on a very skilled and more experienced Notre Dame team. The Lions were terrific, taking both games to overtime and finishing the weekend with a huge win over the then No. 3 ranked Fighting Irish. David Goodwin and Andrew Sturtz were spectacular last season and have started strong again. Goodwin has compiled four assists while Sturtz has netted three goals thus far. Freshman goaltender Peyton Jones, who ranks fourth in the conference with a .916 save percentage, has been solid in net. Jones has also earned wins in all three of his completed games to anchor the net. The Nittany Lions entered the USCHO rankings for the first time this season and they look to be on the rise. They will look to build on their eye-opening start with two wins over Canisius this weekend.
Minnesota currently ranks second nationally in scoring offense with 4.75 goals per game. Tyler Sheehy ranks fourth in the country and first in the league in points per game (2.00). Despite the prolific offense, the Golden Gophers have been relatively disappointing to start the season. The Golden Gophers won last year’s Big Ten season title by only one point over second-place Michigan. Returning from last year’s team are forwards Justin Kloos, who tallied 43 points, and Leon Bristedt, who scored 20 goals, the most of any player who returned to the Big Ten this season. In the net, Minnesota returns goaltender Eric Schierhorn, one of the top players at his position. Both Kloos and Schierhorn earned unanimous All-Big Ten preseason watch list selections, while Bristedt also received a spot on the list. With so much preseason hype, the Golden Gophers have disappointed so far, with two tough losses to No. 14 St. Cloud State last weekend. The non-conference schedule doesn’t get any easier as Minnesota will face top-ranked No. 18 St. Lawrence, No.1 North Dakota, No. 9 Minnesota State, and No. 8 Boston College to finish up their extremely challenging non-conference slate. One of the keys for Minnesota this year was to improve their non-conference play, but it looks like the Golden Gophers still may be one step behind the elite teams around the country.
Last season, the Badgers plummeted to the bottom of the Big Ten, earning just eight wins. However, Wisconsin seems poised for a bounce back year, after showing promise in its series against No. 8 Boston College. The Badgers return their top two offensive leaders from last season in forwards Luke Kunin and Grant Besse. Kunin earned a unanimous All-Big Ten Preseason watch list selection by scoring 19 goals in last year’s campaign, and Besse recorded 22 assists. Also returning on the offensive front is Seamus Malone, who currently ranks second in the Big Ten in total points with six. Wisconsin has already shown tremendous improvement under new head coach Tony Granato and received six votes in last weekend’s USCHO poll. Wisconsin will play against No. 6 Denver, a team that ranks seventh nationally in goals allowed with just two per game.
Michigan State lost their top scorer from last season, MacKenzie MacEachern, who signed with the St. Louis Blues. Also departed is goaltender Jake Hildebrand and forward Michael Ferrantino. They return junior forward and captain Joe Cox, who finished last year with 23 points. The Spartans are clearly in rebuilding mode with 10 freshmen now in their system. They have begun the year 0-4 after looking overwhelmed by No. 3 Denver and Lake Superior State. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Spartans will face off against top-ranked North Dakota next month and begin conference play with a series against No. 12 Minnesota. In its four games, Michigan State has struggled offensively, scoring just six goals while allowing 18. Its power play offense is almost nonexistent with just two goals on 28 attempts, and its penalty killing isn’t much better. The Spartans rank 52nd overall in that category. This team could potentially enter free-fall mode and finish worse than they did last year at fifth in the conference.
Ohio State returns two top offensive players from last season in forward Nick Schilkey, who scored 19 goals, and David Gust, who earned 36 points. Sophomore wing Mason Jobst is also back after an excellent freshman year. Schilkey has already tabbed four goals and two assists to lead the Buckeyes in their first few games this season. Both Schilkey and Jobst were named to the All-Big Ten Preseason watch list along with defenseman Josh Healey, who has accumulated four assists in five games. The Buckeyes own the 10th-ranked defense in the nation, which has allowed just 2.20 goals per game. The Buckeyes are favored in their series against Niagara and have an opportunity to begin conference play with a strong record. Minnesota will once again be the favorite to win the Big Ten, but Ohio State has a chance to pose a serious threat to the Golden Gophers.
Michigan has started off the season well posting a 3-1 record. However, they have not looked quite as sharp as many had expected with an early loss to Union and a tie against Michigan Tech last weekend. The Wolverines have played three goaltenders so far and have not particularly leaned toward any one of them yet. Zach Nagelvoort started the first game but hasn’t played since, so it’s unclear if he’ll get a chance back in the rotation. For now the freshmen Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine have played well enough to help the Wolverines to three wins. The missing piece for Michigan over the past few years has been its defense and goaltending, which is why many thought Michigan would struggle with all of their offense from last season departing. It is unclear who the starter will be going forward until the Wolverines play some better competition, but a 9.54 and .946 save percentage for Lavigne and LaFontaine, respectively, is a pretty good start.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Jack Milewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a member of com radio’s sports team and helps to produce broadcasts as well as announcing multiple sporting events. He also produces written content and podcasts for the website. To go along with his involvement in com radio, Jack is also an intern at gopsusports.com. He covers the women’s hockey team and produces written content for the website. Jack is also the voice of Penn State Women’s Volleyball and travels with the team to cover all of their matches. Jack hopes to become a play-by-play man for a big market hockey team in the future.
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism