Monday, March 16, 2015

Buckeyes Headed to the Big Ten Tournament

This weekend in Detroit the Buckeyes start the Big Ten Hockey Tournament.  They will square off with the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first round at 4:30 PM Thursday.  Their game will be followed by Michigan and Wisconsin in the night cap.  All the games of the Big Ten Hockey Tournament will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.  Let's take a look at the final standings in the Big Ten regular season:

  1. Minnesota - 39 pts. - (21-12-3)
  2. Michigan State - 37 pts. - (17-15-2)
  3. Michigan - 36 pts. - (20-14)
  4. Penn State - 31 pts. - (18-14-4)
  5. Ohio State - 26 pts. - (13-18-4)
  6. Wisconsin - 11 pts. - (4-25-5)

The first column is conference points followed by the team's overall record.  Let's talk a little about how we got to this point because going into the final weekend Michigan State held the #1 spot.  Michigan State played in-state rival Michigan last weekend, and they split the two game series.  Minnesota hosted Penn State over the weekend, and won both games.  So by picking up the extra three points Minnesota was able to over take Michigan State for the lead.

Both Minnesota and Michigan State will get first round byes.  Minnesota will play the winner of the Penn State/Ohio State game and Michigan State will await the winner of the Michigan/Wisconsin game.  Let's take a look at the matchups:

(4) Penn State vs. (5) Ohio State - 4:30 PM 3/19 - This will be a very physical game.  Two teams that love to check and pound the boards.  The Buckeyes took the season series 3-1.  The teams split the first two games in Hockey Valley aka Penn State.  The Buckeyes swept the Nittany Lions in Columbus.  The two teams combined for at least 5 goals in all four games.  This means look for a wide open game with some great hits and a bunch of goals.

Penn State is led by the Big Ten Coach of the Year Guy Gadowsky.  He was able to the lead Penn State to their first winning season since becoming a Division 1 team.  He is much like the Ohio State coach, tough as nails and expects 100% from all of his players, all of the time.  This is going to be a great test for Ohio State.  Bottom-line:  Ohio State 5 - Penn State 4

(3) Michigan vs. (6) Wisconsin - 8:00 PM 3/19 - Will this be the final game in the season that Wisconsin will love to forget?  On paper it should be, Michigan is led by the Big Ten Scoring Champ Zach Hyman and Freshman of the Year Dylan Larkin.  Wisconsin overall record was the worst in school's history and they would love to just act like this year never happened.  Michigan took the season series 4-0, winning all games by at least 3 goals.  Bottom-line: Michigan 4 - Wisconsin 1

If my predictions hold up, the semi-finals would look like this:

(1) Minnesota vs. (5) Ohio State - 4:30 PM 3/20 - As much as I would love to see lightning strike twice I am not sure if Ohio State has enough fire power to beat the Gophers again as the #1 seed.  Minnesota is led by Defensive Player of the Year Mike Reilly.  They have offensive weapons on every line like Rau, Warning, Ambroz and Fasching.  I am sure there is still a little bit of bitterness letting the Buckeyes beat them in Minnesota during the Big Ten Tournament last year.

The Gophers took the season series 3-1 but the Buckeyes won the last outing 5-2 in Columbus.  The key will be Ohio State's ability to be physical with the Gophers.  If they can be physical and slow down the game it will go a long way towards a Buckeye victory.  Minnesota has been known this year to score in bunches.  As much as I want Ohio State to win, this Minnesota team is better than last year.  Bottom-line: Minnesota 4 - Ohio State 2

(2) Michigan State vs. (3) Michigan 8:00 PM 3/20 - This would be an ideal matchup since the Big Ten Championship is in Detroit.  Both colleges could spit on Detroit from their campus.  We have talked a little bit about Michigan and their ability to score, the man to shut them down is Sparty's Jake Hildebrand, the Big Ten Player and Goaltender of the Year.  He has proven the ability to do it before but can he do it on a bigger stage?

The teams split the season series 2-2, including splitting two games at the Joe in Detroit the scene of the tourney.  This game is about as evenly matched as the Penn State - Ohio State game from the first round.  3 of the 4 games resulted in 2-1 victories for the winning team.  If the game ends 2-1, I think Michigan State will win it, anything else I think Michigan takes the day.  Bottom-line: Michigan 4 - Michigan State 3

My prediction for the Big Ten Championship is (1) Minnesota vs. (3) Michigan

The two teams split the season series 2-2.  Both teams won their home games.  Except the last game, a 2-0 victory for the Gophers, all the games had at least 7 combined goals.  Both teams have terrific offensives.  I really believe this comes down to goaltending and Minnesota is a little bit better there with Adam Wilcox in net.  He has proven over the season to make the saves to keep his team in the game.  Bottom-line:  Minnesota 6 - Michigan 4

Come on, did you really think I was going to pick Michigan to win it all?  Child Please!

One minute left to go in the period......


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