B1G Hockey: Three Series In

GopherSports.com

Since we’re three series into the B1G Hockey Conference’s first season (for the most part), I figured now would be a decent time to see what we’re up against!

We all know where we came from: western college hockey greatness.  It's time to get acclimated with some some new faces, and one really familiar face that wears red and uses funny words.  I guess they're a good place to start:

Wisconsin Badgers

Rival SBN: Bucky's 5th Quarter

Conference Record:

4-2-0 (12 Pts.)

Conference Rank:

2nd

Overall Record:

13-6-1

Pairwise:

10th

KRACH:

9th

If the B1G Hockey Conference was a company that designed the smash hit "Eternal Death Slayer" video game, Wisconsin would be known around the office as "The Greybush." This team features nine senior skaters and six junior skaters. Needless to say, they’re a Veteran team capable of doing damage, led by seniors Michael Mersch, Mark Zengerle, and Tyler Barnes. That trio has 63 combined points in the Badger’s 20 games so far.

The Badgers made a bit of statement last week, sweeping younger and less experienced Michigan out of the cavernous Kohl Center.

Michigan Wolverines

Rival SBN: Maize N Brew

Conference Record:

2-2-0 (6 Pts.)

Conference Rank

3rd

Overall Record:

10-6-2

Pairwise:

14th (Tied- Clarkson)

KRACH:

12th

Michigan might be the streakiest team in nation. In the first 13 games of the season, the Wolverines only lost two games. The accomplished this feat against a fairly tough schedule, and they beat Boston College and UMass-Lowell (both are KRACH top-10 teams). Then, the Michigan pendulum swung back the other way, and they haven’t won a game since December 2nd, and they’ve dropped five of their last six games. The only semi-positive in that streak was a 2-2 tie against Ferris State.

What sense does this make? Well, take a look at Michigan’s roster and you’ll see "Fr" or "So" behind a lot of names. They have only five players with 10 points or more on the year. The team averages fewer than three goals per game. Offense is an issue.

Is this team good or bad? Yes, they are.

Michigan State Spartans

Rival SBN: The Only Colors

Conference Record:

0-2-2-2SW (4 Pts.)

Conference Rank:

Tied 4th

Overall Record:

6-10-3

Pairwise:

43rd (tied- several teams)

KRACH:

44th

Looks like Bemidji State. Plays like Bemidji State. Has a weird rink like Bemidji State. Must be Bemidji State? I guess it’s not Bemidji State, but from a distance they could fool me. The Spartans have the unfortunate distinction of being the first team we’ve covered in this article that allows more goals per game (2.47) than it scores (2.32). I’m no mathematician, but those two numbers are likely to result in a sub-.500 record. They play respectable defense and get quality goaltending from sophomore Jake Hildebrand. They do not play respectable offense, and average fewer than 30 shots per game. Maybe the strategy is to ice the opposing goaltender and catch him off guard.

MSU does not have the scoring talent to play a barnstorming style of hockey. If you remember the Gophers series in East Lansing, the Spartans like to slow the game down and grind out wins with physicality. The Spartans managed a shootout win in that series. Their NHL sized rink has boards made of concrete (speculation based on the way the puck ricocheted off). When the come to Mariucci at the end of the month, the Olympic sheet will make their slow and grind strategy much tougher to execute.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Rival SBN:  Land Grant Holy Land

Conference Record:

1-2-1 (4 Pts.)

Conference Rank:

Tied 4th

Overall Record:

11-6-1

Pairwise:

29th

KRACH:

24th

I don’t want to show all my cards on Ohio State. I’m prepping a more in-depth preview for tomorrow. So far the Buckeyes have been a managed to fit themselves into the middle of the nation in pairwise and KRACH, and they did it against a middling schedule. We’ll get to know them better soon.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Rival SBN: Black Shoe Diaries

Conference Record:

0-4-0 (0 Pts.)

Conference Rank:

6th

Overall Record:

4-12-1

Pairwise:

51st

KRACH:

51st

I was pretty impressed by Penn State last weekstart. They play hard. They were in the Sunday game against the Gophers right up until the final buzzer. They never really threatened to steal the game on Monday; the Gophers built and maintained a 2 goal lead. That said, there were a number of plays where Penn State could have made the game much more interesting. They’re a new team with only one senior skater who doesn’t play a whole lot. To see a little more about them, check out my series review.

Don’t expect much from them record-wise this year. They could steal a couple of games based on effort alone, but they won’t threaten for the conference championship.

They do have some expensive facilities with which to wow recruits, so it may not take too long before Penn State starts contending. For now: basement.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Conference Record:

5-0-1 (16 Pts.)

Conference Rank

1st

Overall Record:

15-2-3

Pairwise

1st

KRACH

1st

Our Golden Gophers are supposed to be good. We’re spoiled with El Padrino’s program. This year, they weren’t supposed to be this good this early. They lost numerous members of their junior class to the NHL. Can you imagine what this team would look like with Bjugstad, Haula, and Schmidt on the power play? I keep trying to write the next sentence in this paragraph but each attempt makes me sad. I promise I’ll stop bringing them up.

The Gophers have eight freshmen seeing significant playing time. Their power play is improving but has been horrible (compared to what we’re used to seeing) for the first half of the season. This is our rebuilding year. If this is what rebuilding looks like, Don Lucia and staff should have lifetime tenures at Minnesota.

I know that I’m getting ahead of myself; I know there’s lots of hockey left to play; but how do you pick against this team? They have to be the favorites to win the B1G regular season championship. They’re hosting a regional at the X, where they will play no matter where they are seeded for the NCAA tournament. They have to be the favorites to win in that building and go to the Frozen Four.

Nothing is guaranteed, this is a young team that’s prone to making mistakes, but they’re learning. They clearly already know how to win games, so once they learn what it takes to put together a 60 minute NCAA contest with no lulls in effort or performance, they will be shockingly good.

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