Less than a year ago, members of the Michigan hockey team gathered around a Big Ten Tournament trophy at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Laden in championship hats and bold smiles, the team celebrated one of the most iconic moments of its season as it celebrated its place at the top of a six-team conference.
In nine days, those same six hockey teams will gather at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to battle it out for a Big Ten Tournament title.
For the past three years, a different team has left the ice with the championship trophy. In 2014 it was Wisconsin leaving Xcel as champions with a 5-4 overtime win over Ohio State. In 2015, Minnesota knocked out Michigan with a 4-2 decision at Joe Louis to claim the tournament title, complementing its second Big Ten regular-season championship.
Last year, the tables turned in favor of the Wolverines. Michigan avenged its loss to the Golden Gophers the year before with a 5-3 win, celebrating its first-ever Big Ten Championship in hockey.
But the rosters have changed, and those standings that once placed the Wolverines near the top are long gone. Currently, after splitting a series with No. 5 Minnesota, Michigan sits second-to-last in the Big Ten, only falling in front of Michigan State.
The Spartans sit on the bottom rung of the Big Ten ladder with just 11 points. They are stuck with a 3-13-2 conference record and an overall record of 7-22-3.
The Wolverines haven’t fared much better, though, with a .278 win percentage and 16 points. They do have one additional conference win (and one fewer loss) with a conference and overall record of 4-12-2 and 11-18-3, respectively.
Boasting the best record in the Big Ten are, again, the Golden Gophers. Under the instruction of Don Lucia — the program’s head coach for the past 18 years — Minnesota has recorded 13 wins against Big Ten teams this season. Saddled with a .722 win percentage and 39 points, the Golden Gophers have only lost to three conference teams, including a single loss to Michigan and two to both Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The Golden Gophers have recorded an impressive 22-10-2 overall record and a .676 win percentage, and currently have 131 goals scored with 96 goals against.
Just trailing Minnesota is Wisconsin, which has an almost identical Big Ten win-loss record as the Golden Gophers, save a single win and additional loss. The Badgers feature a .667-win percentage and 36 points, and a 19-12-1 overall record.
The third and fourth spots of the Big Ten standings are occupied by Penn State and Ohio State, respectively. The Nittany Lions are only in their fifth season as an NCAA Division I ice hockey team, yet they have managed to land at No. 11 in the USCHO poll. Penn State has the second-highest overall record among Big Ten teams at 21-9-2, but comes in at third in the Big Ten with 31 points.
Ohio State ranks fourth with 29 points and a 9-8-1 Big Ten record. After dropping a single game to Michigan two weeks ago, the Buckeyes fell from No. 11 to No. 15 in the poll, but still sit in the middle of the Big Ten standings.
But another week of conference play still remains, and each team has one last chance to give itself a push before hitting the Big Ten Tournament. After that, it’s anyone’s game in Joe Louis Arena.