Big Ten hockey roundup: Nov. 17
The Michigan hockey team has been quite an enigma this season. While a 5-1-1 record looks great on paper, the team is far from satisfied.
Once again, it appears the 12th-ranked Wolverines boast one of the nation’s top offenses — Michigan is second in the country with 4.43 goals per game — while the defense ranks 45th out of 60 teams, allowing 3.29 goals per game.
Regardless, the Wolverines are currently in the top 16 in the Pairwise Rankings heading into their biggest non-conference series of the year, a two-game set at Boston University.
Michigan aside, no other Big Ten team is ranked.
The Daily gives a team-by-team breakdown of what the Wolverines’ five Big Ten counterparts have (or have not) accomplished in the season’s first five weeks:
Michigan State (4-4-1)
The Spartans have to be disappointed with their start to the season. Michigan State went winless in its three marquee games: two against Denver and one against Boston College.
Prior to the season, Spartans coach Tom Anastos knew his team would win with its goaltending. They returned the reigning Big Ten Goalie of the Year, Jake Hildebrand, who has a career .926 save percentage and 2.23 goals per game average. Through nine games, the netminder’s stats are below his career mark, but he still has an impressive .916 save percentage while allowing 2.44 goals per game.
Michigan State had a real chance to bump its RPI when it traveled to play Boston College. In a game that boasted arguably the nation’s top two goalies in Hildebrand and the Eagles’ Thatcher Demko, there were 10 goals allowed. Boston College escaped with a 6-4 win.
The Spartans’ win column stems from a sweep of New Hampshire and two wins over Lake Superior State.
It’s been another wild start for the Badgers after they tallied just four wins a season ago.
Wisconsin garnered the Big Ten’s biggest non-conference win, beating No. 4 North Dakota on the road, 3-1. That means each Michigan-Wisconsin tilt is of great importance for the Wolverines, as a win over the Badgers would improve Michigan’s RPI.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said after the game: “To have that signature win really could be something special for this group as we move forward.”
Aside from their win in Fargo, North Dakota, the Badgers’ only other wins came against Arizona State, which is in its first season as a Division I program.
Minnesota lost most of its premier players in the offseason due to graduation or to the NHL. How the Gophers replace those players will define their season.
First, coach Don Lucia needed to fill the void left by netminder Adam Wilcox, who gave the Wolverines fits in the past. It appears he has done that successfully, starting freshman Eric Schierhorn, who has a .931 save percentage and 2.11 goals-allowed average.
A sluggish start to the season has held Minnesota back — the Gophers lost to Vermont and were swept by Minnesota-Duluth to begin the year — but the team is starting to trend upward. Just recently, Minnesota stole one from Minnesota State on the road.
Penn State (6-2-2)
After losing Casey Bailey, who led the Nittany Lions in goals (22) and points (40) last season, to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Penn State’s offense had multiple question marks.
However, the Nittany Lions haven’t skipped a beat. They boast the nation’s third-best offense, scoring 4.40 goals per game. Freshman forward Chase Berger is leading that charge, already having tallied eight goals.
Penn State has been aided by a porous non-conference schedule, with its best win coming over Notre Dame at home.
Ohio State (3-7)
The Buckeyes had an ultra-slow start to the season, losing their first seven games. Ohio State was swept by both Miami (Ohio) and Providence — its toughest non-conference opponents.
Forward Nick Schilkey has come out of the gates firing, registering six goals and six assists, and the junior has been a large reason for the Buckeyes’ current three-game winning streak.
Still, it’s looking like it could be a long season for the Buckeyes.