UM, MSU are underdogs in Big Ten hockey tournament
Detroit — The Big Ten hockey tournament will be closing out college hockey at Joe Louis Arena this weekend with No. 5 Minnesota as the team to beat.
Minnesota has won the regular season championship in all four years the Big Ten has had a hockey league, but it is trying to win the tournament title for the first time since 2015, when the Gophers defeated Michigan, 4-2. They lost to the Wolverines in the championship game last year, 5-3.
Michigan and Michigan State each play Thursday.
Here is a look at the teams:
No. 1 seed Minnesota (23-10-3, 14-5-1)
The Gophers have been a perennial national power during Don Lucia’s 18 years in Minnesota, defeating Michigan in the Frozen Four in 2002 and ’03 en route to winning national titles, then losing in the ’14 national championship game.
Minnesota showcases Big Ten player of the year Tyler Sheehy. Eric Schierhorn was named Big Ten goaltender for the second straight season while Jake Bischoff earned Big Ten defensive player of the year honors.
Sheehy had 20 goals and 52 points to help the Gophers average 3.78 goals to rank fifth nationally.
Bischoff had five goals and 32 points and Schierhorn posted a 23-10-3 record with a 2.60 goals-against-average and save percentage of .906.
No. 2 Wisconsin (19-14-1, 12-8-0)
Wisconsin coach Tony Granato was named Big Ten coach of the year.
Granato, a former Red Wings assistant, came in and put together one of the top turnarounds in the country.
The Badgers average 3.50 goals, ranking eighth nationally while showcasing strong special teams play — ninth nationally on power play (37 goals) and 13th on the penalty kill — to improve by nine games.
Trent Frederic (15 goals, 33 points) was named Big Ten freshman of the year while Luke Kunin leads the team in goals with 21.
No. 3 Ohio State (20-10-6, 11-8-1)
The Buckeyes own the nation’s top power play unit (46-of-146), converting on 31.5 percent of their chances led by an offense that includes Mason Jobst (18 goals, 51 points), Nick Schilkey (26 goals, 39 points) and David Gust (16, 39).
Ohio State plays Michigan State in a quarterfinal this afternoon.
The teams split a series March 3-4 with the Spartans earning a 5-4 victory, followed the next night by a 5-3 Buckeyes’ win.
No. 4 Penn State (21-11-2, 10-9-1)
The Nittany Lions are limping in, losing five of their last eight games, but still would make the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today.
The problem for Penn State is the regular season hasn’t ended and it still has work to do to make the NCAA Tournament, especially if teams pull off upsets to win other conference tournaments.
Penn State ranks second nationally in scoring (4.03), led by freshman Denis Smirnov (17 goals, 43 points).
The Nittany Lions own a one-sided advantage on shots, averaging 45 while allowing 26 and have a 31-20 advantage on the power play.
The Nittany Lions face Michigan in a quarterfinal tonight. The Wolverines swept last weekend’s series between the teams despite Penn State holding a 37-17 and 46-23 advantage on shots.
No. 5 Michigan (13-18-3, 6-12-2)
The Wolverines have struggled after having five players leave early for the pros following last year’s Big Ten tournament championship.
Michigan has won four of its last five games, allowing just nine goals during that span. The Wolverines have also posted at least one win against every team in the Big Ten, earning victories over Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State the last three weekends.
Senior goalie Zach Nagelvoort has earned a pair of shutouts during Michigan’s last five games, including 42 saves in a 1-0 blanking at Ohio State and 46 saves Saturday in a 4-0 victory over Penn State.
Freshman Jake Slaker leads the Wolverines in scoring (21 points) and junior Tony Calderone has a team-high 15 goals, including three in last weekend’s sweep of Penn State.
UM’s Berenson hopes to keep surge going in ‘tough year’
No. 6 seed Michigan State (7-23-4, 3-14-3)
This could be the final time behind the bench for Michigan State coach Tom Anastos who has a six-year record of 78-121-24, including marks of 10-23-4 last season and 7-23-4 this year.
The Spartans find themselves in the Big Ten basement and for good reason — they rank 57th out of 60 teams in defense (3.76) while also struggling offensively (2.38).
Special teams play have been Michigan State’s weakness, scoring just 23 power-play goals while allowing 40.
Sophomore center Mason Appleton leads the Spartans in goals (12) and scoring (30 points).
The Spartans have been outscored in the opening period (48-27).
Big Ten tournament
At Joe Louis Arena
All games on BTN
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Michigan State, 4:30
No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan, 8
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. Ohio State-MichiganState winner, 4:30
No. 1 Minnesota vs. Penn State-Michigan winner, 8