The Current Landscape of Big Ten Hockey Approaching the Postseason

Story posted February 14, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Kyle Cannillo

Three huge series upcoming this weekend. Wisconsin at Notre Dame, Penn State at Michigan State, Minnesota at Ohio State. For the first time all season, we might see some serious seperation in the Big Ten standings for the first time this season. Kyle Canillo, Andre Magaro and Matt McClure discuss this week's upcoming Big Ten hockey lineup:

The Big Ten, what many are calling the “most competitive conference in college hockey,” is certainly living up to its expectations. While the rest of the Big Ten is in a dog fight, Ohio State is calmly minding its own business out in front. There are some monumental series this upcoming weekend that have huge implications for both the Big Ten standings and the NCAA pairwise poll. With so much on the line, we take a look at these three Big Ten matchups:
 
Wisconsin at Notre Dame

Following an odd Tuesday night matchup, Notre Dame sdefeated Michigan convincingly to help springboard them into NCAA tournament conversation. The Fighting Irish defeated the Wolverines 5-2 on home ice, moving them up two positions in the pairwise to No. 16. Next up on their schedule is the struggling Wisconsin Badgers.

Wisconsin, who is dead last in the Big Ten, is still within striking distance. They sit just two regulation wins back from third in the Big Ten, which would put them in position for home ice during the tournament. In order to turn their season around, a sweep is an necessity.

The key factor in this series will be special teams. While Notre Dame’s powerplay is a respectable 16th in the nation, Wisconsin’s penalty kill finds themselves second to last in the entire NCAA. Notre Dame is simply the better hockey team; they play with structure and transition from defense to offense as good as any.

Prediction: Notre Dame sweep
 
Penn State at Michigan State

This weekend, Penn State will travel to East Lansing, Michigan for the first time this season to take on the Michigan State Spartans.

For Michigan State, it’s the Taro Hirose show. Hirose is, what many are calling, the best player in college hockey. There is no question the undrafted junior has raised eyebrows across the nation. In 30 games this season, Hirose has recorded a NCAA-best 47 points and has separated himself from the rest of the pack.
 
Michigan State’s most noticeable weakness lies in their defense. Similar to Penn State, Michigan State’s defense has quite frankly been atrocious. They are tied for eighth in the NCAA with 104 goals against. In addition, Michigan State finds themselves in the bottom 10 on the penalty kill in the NCAA.

In contrast, the Nittany Lions are hot and rolling again. Breakout performances from Penn State’s Nate Sucese and Evan Barratt have steered this team into a positive direction.

There are high expectations for the Nittany Lions to maintain home ice advantage throughout most of the Big Ten Tournament and punch their ticket to the NCAA playoffs. They currently sit at fifth in the Big Ten standings and 17th in the national pairwise poll. In order to do so, a sweep is essential. While winning on the road will be tough, the expectation is they get the job done.

Prediction: Penn State sweep.

Minnesota at Ohio State

It's no secret that Minnesota and its diehard fan base are fed up with how this season is going. Once again, the “State of Hockey” travelled to “Hockey Valley” and got straight up embarrassed in every facet of the game. It was a brutal beatdown for a team, that coming into the weekend, controlled their own destiny in both the NCAA and the Big Ten tournaments. Now they face Ohio State, the best in the Big Ten and third in the nation.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has a comfortable lead on the rest of the Big Ten teams and have serious ambitions to compete for the national championship. They are by far the most well-rounded team in the Big Ten and among the top in nearly every statistical category. Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik runs a very structured system. Their style of hockey makes it very difficult to play against. The Buckeyes make zone entries hard, finish their checks and make the most of their opportunities. 

Is it possible Minnesota can pull off a major upset on the road and steal a victory? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Prediction: Ohio State sweep.

With just three weekends remaining until tournament play begins, every goal matters. If the favorites sweep this weekend, the Big Ten will see clear separation for the first time this season. However if history repeats itself, these highly contested series will end in more splits.

 

 

Kyle Cannillo is a freshman at Penn State University studying journalism. To contact him, please email kcannillo1@gmail.com.

About the Contributors

Kyle Cannillo's photo

Kyle Cannillo

Freshmen / Journalism

Kyle Cannillo is involved with CommRadio at Penn State University producing content such as writing articles, hosting podcasts, participating in live shows and broadcasting play by play for Penn State Athletics. He is currently an Intern for Penn State Athletics doing Live Video Production for BTN + and University Streams. He is cheerful and respectful individual. He has high hopes to be successful in a communication related career. He is skilled in public speaking, takes initiative and has a tenacious work ethic. His mission is to use optimism, determination and respect to uncover and report fascinating stories from people who have genuine experiences.

Matthew McClure's photo

Matthew McClure

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Matthew McClure is a junior from Glenmoore, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Kinesiology. McClure is a transfer student from Penn State Altoona and joined CommRadio in 2018. He has worked on various, articles and podcast, as well as done radio play-by-play for some sports teams here at Penn State. You can contact him at his email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Andre Magaro's photo

Andre Magaro

Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism

Andre Magaro is a sophomore from Enola, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a play-by-play broadcaster and beat writer for CommRadio’s sports division. He also covers events and anchors CommRadio’s Monday newscast. When not at CommRadio, Andre is a commentator for BTN Student U broadcasts in both women’s soccer and women’s hockey, and also volunteers with the Penn State campus ministry New Life. Andre has also wrote for Armchair All-Americans in the past, covering Penn State football, baseball and men’s hockey. He can be contacted via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and on Twitter, @andre_magaro.