Around the Big Ten Hockey: Week 1
Eric Ohlson, Joe Murphy and Matt Freiler break down this week's action on the ice in the Big Ten.
With six teams in the top 25, the Big Ten is a stacked conference one again in 2017. Penn State is the returning champion after running the table in the Big Ten tournament. Another aspect to this conference in 2017 is the addition of a top five team in Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish add to the already challenging conference slate, which is expected to be a blood bath throughout conference play.
Notre Dame is the preseason favorite in the Big Ten even as the new kid on the block. Currently ranked fifth in the country, the Fighting Irish return a load of talent after a run into the Frozen Four in 2016.
The Wisconsin Badgers were the leader of the pack in the Big Ten almost the entire 2017 campaign. They are off to a quick start this year with a 4-1 record, which is the best in the Big Ten. They split a series with the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes to open Big Ten play but after starting 3-0 in the non-conference, the Badgers have risen from tenth to sixth in the polls.
Penn State is the returning Big Ten champions after their young but talented squad got hot in March. Led by returning points scorer Denis Smirnov, the Nittany Lions lost some experience but could be poised for another deep run in the NCAA tournament. After a disappointing loss to Clarkson to open their season, Penn State went into Minnesota and picked up a series split.
Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan also all are in the top 25 from the Big Ten. Only Michigan State remains outside the top 25 and might be the only easy sweep for any of the top teams in the Big Ten schedule.
Ohio State surprised the country last year by making a run into the top 10 and beating quality opponents on the road. Even after losing star seniors, the Buckeyes could be poised to play spoiler as they have already split a series with the newcomers Notre Dame.
Minnesota loses their best player in Justin Kloos, who is a huge loss. But returning for the Gophers is Tyler Sheehy, a tremendous talent. Sheehy will have to emerge as the top player in the Big Ten for Minnesota to win the conference championship this year. Eric Schierhorn returns for his sophomore year and will also need to have a big year. He struggled in the opening series of Big Ten Play against Penn State, giving up seven goals in two games. His offense was able to pick him up and force the split.
There are no Big Ten matchups this weekend as teams finish their non-conference slates before sinking their teeth into Big Ten play. With Notre Dame added to the schedule, the Big Ten will be even more difficult and hard to navigate. The winner will have to survive adversity and work through slumps before making a run at the championship.
Brian McLaughlin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.