Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wrapping Up The Inaugural Season...Finally

I have to admit, the word 'inaugural' has found itself blacklisted from my vocabulary. The redundancy and overuse of 'the-word-that-shall-not-be-said' this season has taken its toll.

So hang it from the rafters, applaud its retirement, starting next year there will be no more firsts in the Big Ten hockey conference.

That being said, we can now look back on what was accomplished in 'Year One' of Big Ten hockey.

More opinions will of course be decided this weekend. The Big Ten Conference Championship Tournament invades the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., providing one final measuring stick before we find out where our Big Ten teams land on the national stage.

Minnesota Massacre

Even Don Lucia admitted that he didn't expect his team to start off as hot -- and stay that way -- as they did. The Gophers found themselves atop the college hockey polls nearly 90 percent of the season. Minnesota fans and plenty of hockey fans who looked at the conference saw it at the opposite view -- Minnesota was going to be No. 1.

The Gophers clinched the Big Ten regular season trophy with 45 points -- topping second-place Wisconsin's 37.

PSU Problems

I still stand by what I have written since starting this blog two years ago: Penn State will get there. The program in place has high potential once they start landing the recruits needed to make them successful.

Will that be later rather than sooner? Probably. But from what we saw this inaugural year was potential. They didn't get demolished in every game and even managed to squeak in a few conference wins along the way (earning them seven points in conference's something right?).

TV Time

Including the Big Ten Championship Tournament, the Big Ten Network broadcast a total of 27 games this season. No matter how much we gripe about TV deals being a big force behind the realignment (and we've said it a lot) the truth is that hockey on TV is pretty great.

In my opinion I thought the broadcast team did a great job. The Big Ten Network has broadcasted games prior to the official season of B1G hockey and anchors and in-game commentators were knowledgable and did a great job of not playing into a homer-status.

I think the broadcast will only go up from here in frequency and in other feature videos. I can't wait.

Shakey Stripes

Lots of complaints about the Big Ten officiating this season. There were a few skeptical calls that I saw, some affecting the end result of the game. I don't think that it's fair to say bad referring is the fault of the Big Ten.

Miscalls (and no calls) are common across all grounds. I imagine the swarm of complaints that the Big Ten office received this year from coaches and fans alike might make them take a stronger look at who they hire for games next season.

Nationally Competing

Minnesota ranks No. 1 overall in the major college hockey polls to close out the regular season. But other Big Ten players are making contributions and topping national stats and getting the appropriate looks, too.

Ohio State's Ryan Dzingel ranks 12th in the nation in scoring with 34 points. Wisconsin's Mark Zengerle in ninth in the country for assists (30) and Minnesota netminder Adam Wilcox has the third best stats for goalies.

Dzingel, Wilcox and Wisconsin's Joel Rumpel have even earned Hobey Baker Award finalist nods.

From the Hobey Baker Award press release:

  • Ryan Dzingel – Ohio State University, Junior, Forward, Wheaton, Illinois

Led the new Big Ten conference in points with 24 in 20 games; overall, he leads the conference in points, tied for the lead in goals and is second in assists. Among the many offensive categories he tops the circuit in, are power play points with 18. A First Team all-conference performer, Dzingel can dangle with the best of them and had 12 multiple point games.

· Has 20 goals, 23 assists for 43 points in 34 games, tied for 12th in the nation in scoring

· Communications major – Ottawa draft pick (7th round) – Assistant captain

· Active in community events visiting James Cancer Hospital, a Buckeye Buddy and assisting youth hockey teams

  • Joel Rumpel – University of Wisconsin, Junior, Goalie, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Coming back from an early season injury, Rumpel turned the Badgers into Big Ten contenders and heads into conference playoffs ranking sixth in the nation in both goals against average and save percentage. Second Team all-conference in the Big Ten, he defined consistency throughout the season becoming the backbone of Wisconsin’s stingy team defense.

· Currently has a record of 19-5-1 with two shutouts – .931 save percentage is 6th in nation

· Has a goals against average of 2.19 – finished second in conference in GAA and SP

· Personal Finance major – Children’s Hospital visits, Adopt-A-Player program

  • Adam Wilcox – University of Minnesota, Sophomore, Goalie, South St. Paul, Minnesota
Numerous honors have already been awarded to Wilcox including Big Ten Player of the Year, Goalie of the Year and First Team all-conference. Presently sitting third in the nation in goals against average and second in save percentage, he has been instrumental in the Gophers 16-week stay atop the national rankings. In 25 of 33 games played, he allowed two goals or less.

· Currently has a record of 23-4-6 with three shutouts - .934 save percentage is 2nd nation

· Has a goals against average of 1.91 for 3rd in nation – first in Big Ten in GAA and SP

· Has posted top two single season goals against averages in 93-year Gopher history

Wilcox and Rumpel's play have also made them finalists for the Mike Richter Award.

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