(6) Michigan Wolverines vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
This was probably the most exciting series in conference play so far. OSU blitzed Michigan in the first period with 18 shots, good enough for a 1-0 lead at the first break. A short-handed goal and a power play goal extended that lead to 3 early in the second. Michigan wouldn't be held down for long scoring two late period goals after out-shooting the Buckeyes 16-4. A Michigan power play goal would tie the game early in the third, but Ohio State would answer five minutes later. Michigan ties the game with under three minutes to go, then scored the go ahead goal with 94 seconds left in the game. Ohio State pulled Goalie Matt Tomkins and forced overtime on an Anthony Greco goal with 7 seconds left on the clock. Neither team could score in the extra period so the game ended in a tie. OSU earned the shootout point, out-scoring Michigan 3-2 in 9 rounds. Ohio State stole 2 points from Michigan after being out-shot 46-33.
After a day off to travel from Columbus to Ann Arbor, the teams picked up right where they left off. The teams traded goals in the first, heading into the break knotted at 2. Ohio State silenced Yost Arena with two quick second period goals, but the Wolverines but the lead back to one midway through the period. Ohio State scored another late period goal to push the lead to 5-3. Michigan had to win to maintain a share of first place and boy did it show in the third. Michigan scored two power play goals in the first two minutes, the first during a 5x3, the second on the remaining 5x4. A little over a minute and a half later, Tyler Motte completed his hat trick giving Michigan the lead. The potent Wolverine offense would add two more goals, pushing the lead to 3. Five straight goals to start a period will usually net you a win. Ohio State scored another goal with the goalie pulled but it wasn't enough. Michigan took the second game 8-6. Fists started flying after the final horn. Michigan's Cutler Martin sucker punched Ohio State's Brendan Kearney, bouncing his head off the ice. Reports are that Kearney is okay after the hit. Martin will likely be suspended multiple games.
Michigan's offense is absolutely terrifying. They are averaging over 6 goals per game in conference play. Their defense and goal tending situation have been shaky during conference play, yielding 4 goals per game. Scoring tons of goals should get Michigan into the NCAAs but they will need to do a much better job at preventing goals if they want to make any noise. Ohio State continued its best stretch of the the year, taking 2 points from the Wolverines, even with starting goaltender Christian Frey out with an injury. Ohio State may be too far back to earn a first round bye, but look for them to play spoiler the rest of the way and to be a serious threat to earn the B1G's autobid.
Wisconsin Badgers @ (14) Penn State Nittany Lions
Wisconsin struck first Friday night, scoring the only first period goal. The second period was all Penn State. The Nittany Lions scored twice, once shorthanded and had a 24-3 shot advantage. Wisconsin fought back in the third, tying the game five minutes into the period. Penn State regained the lead with just under 7 to go only to see the Badgers tie it up 3 minutes later. Regulation ended tied at 3. Penn State would score on the first shot of overtime, earning its second consecutive Friday home OT victory. Penn State out shot Wisconsin 58-25 but many of the shots were from harmless areas. Matthew Skoff earned the win for the Nittany Lions and bounced back from a horrid Saturday against Minnesota.
Eamon McAdam got the start on Saturday. This time, Penn State jumped out to the early lead, scoring twice in the first. Wisconsin was able to net a shorthanded goal in the second to cut the lead to one, but couldn't solve McAdam after that. Penn State would go on to add two more goals in the third to win 4-1. McAdam was stellar, stopping 39 of 40 shots. Penn State out shot Wisconsin 41-40 in this one.
Penn State kept pace with Michigan and Minnesota, remaining three back with two games in hand. Eamon McAdam continued to look like the better goalie, but Matthew Skoff rebounded nicely this weekend. Penn State needs to make the gray sweaters the permanent home kit, those are great. The Nittany Lions only have three more conference home games (plus a game a Yankee Stadium) and all ten road games the rest of the way so they will have to learn to win on the road, a feat that has been difficult for PSU in B1G play. Penn State's B1G title and NCAA tournament aspirations rely on them finally winning in road barns, we'll see if this is the year they make the jump. Wisconsin looked poised to take points on Friday but couldn't build off of that performance and was swept. The Badgers aren't as bad as last year, but they aren't a whole lot better either.
Michigan State Spartans @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota came out flying on Friday. This period was reminiscent of the the first period on Friday last week. This time the Gophers were able to score a goal and took a 1-0 lead and 1-4 SOG advantage into the first intermission. The Gophers scored twice more in the second, pushing the lead to 3. After a scoreless ten minutes to start the third, we were treated to three goals in succession. Minnesota scored its fourth with eight and a half to go, MSU broke Eric Schierhorn's shutout 53 seconds later, then Minnesota answered in another 44 seconds.
Penn State Michigan State (h/t no.21) would add a late goal, but the Gophers won handily 5-2. Minnesota out shot the Spartans 30-19.
Minnesota dominated play in the first but Jake Hildebrand finally looked like himself and saved all 14 shots on goal. Minnesota continued to push the pace, but a nifty move through the offensive zone by Matt DeBlouw lead to a Spartan goal and a 1-0 lead. Minnesota took a 23-11 shot advantage into the second intermission but had nothing to show for it. Minnesota Captain, Justin Kloos, rang a shot off the post then put his own rebound home to tie the game 30 seconds into the third period. Minnesota back and forth play until Connor Reilly scored the game winner with eight and a half to go. Leon Bristedt's empty net goal just beat the buzzer, crossing the goal line with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, giving the Gophers a 3-1 win and the series sweep.
Minnesota continues to look better as the season progresses. The Gophers are 4-0-0 at home in conference play and has gone 7-3-0 in it's last 10 only losing in overtime to No. 6 Michigan, No. 9 Harvard, and No.14 Penn State. The Michigan and Penn State losses were also on the road. The Gophers have played themselves into a tie for 16th in the PairWise. The WCHA and Atlantic Hockey conferences don't have any teams in the top 16 so they would currently be out, but the Gopher have played themselves right into tourney discussion when that didn't seem probably 10 games ago. Michigan State almost stole a game on Saturday but their poor play continued as they are now 1-14-1 in their last 16 and have lost 8 in a row. This is likely Tom Anastos' last season as the Spartan Head Coach.
(7) Nebraska Omaha Mavericks @ (2) North Dakota
UNO bounced back with a great road split at then No. 1 North Dakota. UNO was outshot 29-23 on Friday but won halfway through the overtime period. Omaha scored first on Saturday but North Dakota would not lose at home again. The....uhhh....what did they pick again?....oh yeah, Fighting Hawks, scored the next five goals even though Omaha out-shot them 29-23. UNO is now fifth in the PairWise rankings even though they are likely well out of the NCHC conference race.
An overtime loss counts as a loss and no points are earned. If both teams are tied after the five minute OT period, the game goes down as a tie and both teams earn a point. A shootout follows a tie with the winner earning a second point. A shootout "win" counts as a tie, not a win in the standings and for NCAA Tournament seeding purposes. Total wins are used as the primary tie-breaker. If teams have the same number of wins, head to head record is used.
KRACH Ratings, KRACH Rank, Pairwise Rank
Update on 1/17/2016 @ 11 PM EST
There are 60 teams in college hockey. The pairwise is an approximation of the selection process for the NCAA tournament (click link for explanation). The top 16 teams are selected for the tourney. Conference tournament champions get auto-bids so teams rated near 16 can be displaced if a lower ranked team wins it's conference tournament.
Points, Elimination numbers, KRACH Projections, and Last Years Points
Change in expected conference wins:
I expect the volatility to greatly decrease once we get to February. We are still early enough in the season where KRACH will have wild swings due to lack of games played. Once you can draw a path connecting all teams, the numbers stabilize. The elimination numbers are a bit wonky due to Penn State playing two less games than everyone but having the highest max points.
Points earned by team on the left are shown in the boxes
Green boxes mean that the team in the row is ahead of the team in the column. Red means the team in the column is ahead. Blue means the teams have split points. Once a season series is completed, the color will be darker, the points will be bold, and the box will have a thicker border. Column on the right shows the points gained by a team. Row on the bottom shows the points lost by a team.
KRACH Projection Review
Let's see how the projections went this week:
And how teams are doing compared to the KRACH expectations: