Big Ten Teams in NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament

Story posted March 19, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Will Desautelle

The NCAA Tournament bracket is officially set and after a wild Big Ten tournament, three teams will be representing the conference in this year’s field. Minnesota, Penn State, and Ohio State were all selected, while Wisconsin marginally missed out despite a second place finish in the Big Ten regular season and an appearance to the conference tournament final. If not for an overtime loss to Penn State in the final on Saturday, Wisconsin would have secured an automatic bid of its own. Nonetheless, Tony Granato and the Badgers finish an excellent turnaround season after finishing in last place in the Big Ten a year ago.

Minnesota was awarded the four seed in the NCAA Tournament, despite an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament. Regardless, the Golden Gophers are undoubtedly one of the very best teams in college hockey. On Friday they will take on an excellent Notre Dame team at 3:30 p.m. ET, which will be joining the Big Ten next season. Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork is one of the top point scorers in the nation with 47, while Andrew Oglevie, Jake Evans, and Jordan Gross have all eclipsed 30 points. The Irish also have one of the top goaltenders in the country in Cal Petersen.

Minnesota is led by Big Ten Player of the Year candidates Tyler Sheehey and Justin Kloos. The Gophers, per usual, are fast and have excellent balance offensively, as six of their players have tallied at least 30 points this season. They also have a talented goaltender in Eric Schierhorn, who has slightly regressed since his freshman campaign, but is still a viable option in the net.

Ohio State will take on number two-seeded Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. ET. Ohio State is the second-highest scoring team in college hockey, but they will have their hands full with Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs are eighth nationally in scoring offense and 11th in scoring defense. The Buckeyes are led by Mason Jobst, who is seventh nationally in points scored with 55. Nick Schilkey is also the third leading goal scorer in the country. They also have maybe the best goaltender in the Big Ten in Christian Frey.

The Bulldogs are fresh off a National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff title. Alex Iafallo is their leading point scorer at 45. Adam Johnson and Neil Pionk have also both scored over 30 points. The Bulldogs will need to be at their best defensively to slow down the Buckeyes high-octane offense. When Ohio State gets things going offensively, they are difficult to beat. 

The final Big Ten representative in the NCAA Tournament is Penn State, which made history this past weekend by becoming the first team in the history of the Big Ten to win the conference tournament without having a first round bye. The Lions will take on Union on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Penn State has the third-highest scoring offense in the nation and boasts a lot of young talent. The three-headed monster of David Goodwin, Denis Smirnov, and Andrew Sturtz has been exceptional. Freshman goaltender Peyton Jones is also playing his best hockey of the season after a bit of a rough stretch following Christmas break.

The Lions’ defense has been a bit inconsistent, but they will need to play well to slow down the duo of Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo. Both of these guys are Hobey Baker Award candidates, as they are each in the top five nationally in total points. Cornell eliminated Union in the semifinals of their conference tournament last week. This matchup will likely be their biggest test defensively this season.

Of these three teams, Minnesota appears to be the most likely to make a deep tournament run. However, if Penn State and Ohio State can get in rhythms offensively, they will be tough outs.

 

Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email willdesautelle@gmail.com