Friday, March 27, 2015
By Miles McQuinn
The end of March into April has to be my favorite time of year. The daily grind of college courses start winding down, mother nature is in a happier mood (for most parts of the nation anyway) and hockey takes center stage across the nation.
This time of year signals playoff and tourney time. tourney time. With the NCAA hockey tournament kicking off today, I say let the real "March Madness" begin.
Like basketball, filling out a bracket is a must. Last year my bracket wasn't too pretty with the exception of my Big Ten picks which were spot on (covering them throughout the season educated me well).
This year we only have one B1G team making the big dance. Will the Gophers represent well? There's potential but getting past Jack Eichel and the BU crew will be a true test.
So without further adieu, here is who I have hanging a banner in 2015.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Another tournament has come and gone. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the fans. Empty seats once again lined the rows at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. As I watched from home I couldn't help but notice the emptiness. It was almost a glaring distraction from the on-ice action.
It's sad when the topic of conversation switches from the hard work of the teams to the attendance -- or lack thereof. Players worked hard all season to be celebrated at a conference tournament, only to have few more than mom and dad in the crowd.
"You get to this time of the year, and you want to play in front of good crowds," Gopher head coach Don Lucia told the Detroit Free Press. "Doesn't matter if they're cheering for you or against you. It's kind of what you're used to all season long."
But the more pressing issue isn't just the lack of attendance, it's the question of why. Why do fans continue to remove themselves from conference tournaments? Where has the passion gone and will it come back?
Sunday, March 22, 2015
In the championship battle of the U of M's, we all knew one must ultimately fall. Saturday night at the Joe it was the boys in blue who gave in as No. 3 Michigan was done in by No. 1 Minnesota, 4-2.
Overall it was a successful season for Michigan. The Maize and Blue had an unreal offense, quick and high-scoring. The charge was led by Zach Hyman, Andrew Copp and Dylan Larkin. Hyman had 58 points on the season and was named to the All-Tournament team after leading all players in scoring over the weekend with five points.
Hyman and company were the storyline for Michigan this season. They absolutely dominated, leading the conference with 143 goals during the season.
But the Gophers rallied behind their own dominating offense. Minnesota managed to pepper Wolverine goaltender State Racine with 20 shots in the first period along -- a season-high shots allowed for Michigan.
It's a tough way to go out, but Red Berenson knows how to reload. I wouldn't be surprised to see Michigan in the championship game in 2016 -- maybe this time they take home the hardware.
Friday, March 20, 2015
If there's a way to go down that clenches the chest, it's at the hands of your instate rival. The pride of your state, in your state. Michigan State fell to Michigan, 4-1 at the Joe.
Michigan State without question has one of the top goalies in the nation in Jake Hildebrand. Without a doubt he deserves the lion's share of the credit for the Spartans successes this season. Without him, MSU would not have won half the games they did. In Friday night's match-up they allowed four goals for just the ninth time all season.
Michigan's offense figured it out and was too strong of a match.
Still I give credit to Sparty. They had a decent year, earning the No. 2 seed in the weekend's tournament -- though their 17-16-2 might not suggest it.
On the bright side, Hildebrand is only a junior. He will return for next year. Let's just hope MSU's offense helps him out more on the other end of the ice.
It wasn't as quick and painless as many had thought. The Gophers were a tough draw, but Ohio State had been here before. Last season they upended the mighty Minnesotans. This year was a different story. This year the Buckeyes lost and finished their season.
Watching senior captain Tanner Fritz head back to the dressing room in full uniform, almost in tears knowing his collegiate career had come to a close, it doesn't take much more than that to realize that it's about more than a game.
For Fritz, he will soon become the first member of his family to graduate from college.
The Buckeye captain's journey has come full circle.
Some things are better six feet under. This year's Badger season is definitely one of them. The final nail in the coffin came at the defeating hands of Michigan -- who hammered home a win, 5-1, Thursday at the Joe.
There's no tip-toeing around it, Wisconsin's season was brutal on all fronts. Despite efforts from the likes of Grant Besse and goaltender Joel Rumpel, it didn't seem to be enough, With Thursday's loss the Badgers dropped a school record 26 games. The historic program has opened record books in areas they never wanted to.
Shining high points of this season included a sweep over rival Minnesota and...well one high is better than none.
Will this death mean the end of the coaching staff? Who knows. We can only hope that they rise from the dead stronger than last year -- it can't get any worse can it?
It was a tragic end to an excellent season for the Nittany Lions. We were hoping to see them live past this opening tournament day, but they met their untimely season demise at the hands of Ohio State -- a squad they struggled with all season.
Ohio State has now bested PSU seven of the past 10 meetings and completed its third straight victory over the Nittany Lions.
But let's remember the good times of Penn State. The season that saw them improve on years past and a season that showed the nation they weren't at the Division I level by mistake. It was a year capped with a 18-15-4 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.
The Roar Zone powered the team through the season. At home they proved to be nearly unstoppable at 13-2-3. Pegula saw notable wins over Michigan State, Minnesota and a late-season sweep of Michigan.
While their season lies here, we know they will rise from the dead bigger and stronger next year.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
By Miles McQuinn
What a wild finish to the Big Ten Conference regular season. All six teams are set to make their journey to Joe Louis Arena with the hopes of not only a conference title, but the chance to play for an NCAA title as well. Unfortunately, it looks like the Big Ten will only have one, maybe two representatives in the big dance this year. Regardless, here's my thoughts on each team as an exciting weekend in the motor city quickly approaches.
Monday, March 16, 2015
The Big Ten announced its end of the year awards Monday morning. Michigan and Penn State tied for nine awards a piece, with Michigan's freshman phenom Dylan Larkin being a unanimous selection in three categories. Michigan State netminder Jake Hildebrand made an impression this year. His outstanding play between the pipes -- where he led the conference in every goaltending category -- earned him Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year. Minnesota's Mike Reilly also found himself in a familiar place, winning the Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.