B1G hockey conference play is in full swing, and so far the action has not disappointed. In the last two weeks, we've seen the first two B1G hat tricks by Ryan Dzingel (OSU) and Micheal Mersch (UW) which was followed by the conferences first two shut-outs put up by Jake Hildebrand (MSU) and Adam Wilcox (Minny). We were also treated to an outdoor game that was a lot of fun and looked like an awesome time for those in attendance. There is plenty more hockey to go, and if the past few weeks are any indication, there is a lot of good hockey and excitement to come.
On to the conference standings and team specifics!
Currently the nations consensus #1 over all team, Minnesota is a force to be reckoned with. Even with a deep and rich hockey history, these current Gophers fit right in with the best of them, boasting some energetic forward lines, a solid defense and some truly stand on his head goalkeeping. Sam Warning leads the way with 26 points in 22 games, followed closely by teammates, Justin Kloos and Kyle Rau. Adam Wilcox has shouldered the bulk of the work in net, and is emerging as a legitimate Hobey Baker Award (The Hockey Heisman) Contender. Minnesota has the weekend off from conference play as they participate in the North Star Challenge Cup, an all state of Minnesota colleges tournament.
Wisconsin is currently ranked #9 overall in the nation. After starting the season with a rocky trip out east to face both powerhouse teams in Boston (BC and BU) they have regrouped and have been playing great hockey ever since. The Badgers have played well in conference with their two games against Minnesota being their only two stumbling points. I imagine they're eagerly anticipating the series rematch in early February. Micheal Mersch leads the way with 14 goals and 22 points total, and they have a stout defense with Joel Rumple and Landon Peterson looking solid in net. The Badgers take on OSU this weekend in a two game set.
The Spartans currently sit third in the conference having played a few more games than the B1G teams sitting behind them in the standings. They are a somewhat inconsistent team both giving Minnesota their only conference blemish, with a shootout win. Followed by squandering a third period lead, only to lose to OSU. Their captain, Greg Wolfe, leads the way with 8 goals and 17 points overall. However, the MSU attack is a balanced one, with a good amount of points coming from Jake Chelios and Lee Reimer. Jake Hildebrand has been stellar in net at times and certainly possesses the ability to steal a few games along the way. The Spartans take on in-state rivals Michigan in a two game series, with Thursday's game being played in the NHL's Red Wing's rink, Joe Louis Arena.
Michigan is currently ranked #14 nationally, and sits at .500 in conference, They have played awfully well at home in Yost arena all season, winning 6 and only dropping 1. They have a fast aggressive team and all they need to do is figure out how to win more on the road. Andrew Copp has proven to be their best sniper scoring 10 goals in 16 games so far. At times the Wolverines seem really hard to score on. They boast two shutouts, and have surrendered 1 goal four times more. Zach Nagelvoort has seen the most action in net, but Steve Racine has also held his own. As above in the MSU write up, Michigan plays MSU Thursday and Friday with one game at Joe Louis and the other at The Munn Arena in East Lansing.
The Puckeyes, who were not expected to be world beaters this season have pleasantly surprised. New coach, Steve Rohlik, who is in his first year at the helm, has come in and has the Buckeyes playing tough competitive hockey, better than most outside of OSU would have thought. It hasn't been all smooth sailing though. Earlier they encountered some pretty serious goalie issues, with one leaving the team and the other missing considerable time with an injury. The situation got so dire, they called up a club team goalie, and even dressed their baseball team's catcher, who hadn't played any hockey since his senior year in high school. It looks like those problems are behind them now as Matt Tomkins is back from injury and has been playing well the last few games. Ryan Dzingel has been on fire totaling 28 points in 20 games. Next up for Ohio State, a two game set this weekend in Madison against the Badgers.
The Nittany Lions are in only their second year of D1 hockey after a long history of success at the club level. After opening their brand new building, The Pegula Arena, with a win over Army it has been a tough road for them. I was surprised to find out that PSU is on average of height and weight, the biggest team in NCAA hockey. Early they have had some trouble staying out of the penalty box, but seem to have started to correct that of late. Big and prone to penalties has made them no fun to play against, and while they have competed well in conference play, they are sill looking for their first conference win. They have played good team defense and have had solid goalkeeping that has kept them close in games, but lack a few true goal scores, Eric Scheid leads the way with 14 points in 19 games.
The Nittany lions are not involved in conference play this weekens, but have a very challenging game against 32 ranked Boston College on Saturday at home.
So far the conference has gone pretty much as expected with Minnesota and Wisconsin leading the way, Michigan MSU and OSU jockeying for position in the middle and PSU bringing up the rear. We have seen some really exciting and competitive games so far, with no real lopsided results.
Join us here on Friday evening to chat about this weeks featured games.
Michigan v Michigan State, Friday Jan 24, 6:30pm. TV : BTN
Ohio State v Wisconsin, Friday Jan 24, 9:00pm. TV : BTN