Well puckheads, we've reached the final week of the Big Ten's inaugural season. The conference promised fans an elite brand of hockey. What do you think? Did they make good on that promise?
For me, they did. The quality of play is great. There weren't many unexciting Big Ten tilts in 2013-14. We've been talking about standings implications since the beginning of February. Which is why it's so strange that there isn't much to play for on this final week of the regular season.
For the majority of the conference this week is not much more than a tune up for the B1G tournament next week. It's important that the Buckeyes are firing on all cylinders when they get to St. Paul. OSU's only shot at an NCAA berth this season is to win the Big Ten tourney. To that end, Penn State is a great opponent to face this week. The Nittany Lions are a team the Buckeyes should absolutely beat.
In fact that's exactly what they did a month ago. Ohio State swept Penn State in Columbus by scores of 5-1 and 5-2. The Bucks' big guns factored heavily in those wins. Tanner Fritz recorded a goal and three assists in the series. Max McCormick scored thrice. Ryan Dzingel was the top contributor, racking up a six point weekend with three goals and three assists.
|Game Times||FRI at 7pm||SAT at 3pm|
|Radio||1460 AM||1460 AM|
|Online||Buckeye Vision||Buckeye Vision|
The trio went through a bit of a slump following that series. In four of the Buckeyes' next six games the names Dzingel, Fritz, and McCormick were nowhere to be found on the score sheet. Bad news for Penn State, though. It looks like that slump came to an end last week. All three got on the board against Minnesota.
Ohio State's top scorers, as well as the rest of the offense, should be able to build some momentum in this series. The Nittany Lions' fleet of netminders has had some impressive outings throughout the season. But they're still a welcome respite from the likes of Jake Hildebrand, Joel Rumpel, and Adam Wilcox. At the other end of the ice PSU's forwards will keep the Ohio State goalies on their toes.
Beatability is one thing that makes PSU an ideal opponent for Ohio State this week. The other thing that's great about them is that they keep a team honest. The Nittany Lions have caught more than one good team sleeping this season. They may not be the most skilled team out there but they play 60 hard minutes. No opponent is going to coast by them on talent alone.
This series shouldn't be an extremely difficult one for the Buckeyes. However, they'll need to be sure to match Penn State's effort and mind the details of their game. If Ohio State can do that, they should come out of the series with some good results. They should also have a nice sharp edge on their game just in time for the biggest week of their season.
Here's what Steve Rohlik had to say about this week's series.
- Tanner Fritz and Drew Brevig spoke with the media about wrapping up their first Big Ten season.
- Ryan Dzingel talked with NHL Network Radio earlier this week. BTN has the audio in case you missed that.
- Per Gordon Brunskill Penn State remains without the services of defenseman Luke Juha and forward Max Gardiner but should get Nate Jensen back on the blue line.
- You can see Ohio State's series preview here.
- Paula Weston and Drew Claussen make their weekly predictions for USCHO.
There isn't much left to decide. Minnesota left the tiniest of windows open for Wisconsin to make a run at the regular season title. The Badgers need a couple big wins and a lot of help from Michigan to pull that off, though. Ohio State and Michigan State could still switch places between fourth and fifth. However the difference in their seeding only determines which team gets the last change when they meet next Thursday.
|big ten||w||l||t||sow||pts||this week|
|No. 1 Minnesota||13||2||3||0||42||at MCH (6:30 FRI on ESPNews)|
|No. 5 Wisconsin||12||5||1||0||37||at MSU|
|No. 13 Michigan||9||7||2||1||30||vs MIN (7:00 SAT on BTN)|
|Ohio State||5||8||5||4||24||at PSU|
|Michigan State||4||8||6||4||22||vs WIS|
|Penn State||2||15||1||0||7||vs OSU|