On Friday, Mar. 21, No. 5-seeded Ohio State took on No. 1-seeded Minnesota in the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament. Minnesota was heavily favored to win, to put it mildly. They won the Big Ten regular season title with a 14-3-3 record and had an overall record of 28-7-6 at the end of the season. Ohio State was an average 6-9-5-4 in conference and finished 18-14-5 overall.
Ohio State won the game 3-1. Oh, and by the way, the tournament was played in Minnesota. Nick Schilkey and Anthony Greco scored two of the three Ohio State goals and Christian Frey was in net.
In 2015, once again, Minnesota is the number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State is once again coming out of the four versus five game. Minnesota is once again heavily favored to win. Ohio State had an average season at best. The two will once again face off at 4:30 on the Big Ten Network in the semifinal round of the tournament.
The Buckeyes are going to have to hope they have some of that magic again, but with Christian Frey in net playing fantastically versus Penn State and the team overall having one six out of seven games, this one, on paper at least, seems to be a little closer than last year's tilt. Minnesota comes in with a more pedestrian, for their standards at least, 12-5-3 record in conference and 21-12-3 overall.
Adam Wilcox will again take on Christian Frey in net. Both had mediocre seasons compared to their star making 2013-14 campaigns, but both are coming in hot as the sun right now. Wilcox hasn't put up a single save percentage of less than .913 in conference play while Frey took the starting job for himself from Matt Tomkins by the end of the year and looked fantastic versus Penn State.
Mike Reilly, newly minted 2015 Hobey Baker Award finalist (even if Jack Eichel should be making space on his mantle for it right now), is the chief threat and best overall player coming into this game. The defenseman put up 42 points and 109 shots on goal in 36 games for the Gophers. For comparison's sake, the highest scoring Ohio State defenseman only had 12 points (Sam Jardine).
Seniors Kyle Rau and Travis Boyd, property of the Panthers and Capitals respectively, come in as the chief threats up front for Minnesota with them having registered 19 and 16 goals. Hudson Fasching is one of the more heralded sophomores in the country with his 12 goals and 25 points so he's another to watch out for. Taylor Cammarata had 22 assists on his own, so that shows what kind of team we're dealing with here. They can and will score a lot. For reference's sake, Ohio State only had two players with more than 22 points total.
As for the advanced statistical proportion of it, Minnesota comes in ninth overall in the country with a +6.33 shot attempts per game margin average while Ohio State is only at -.06. Penn State was actually higher than Minnesota in that category but with Minnesota's higher end talent and actual talent in net with the way Wilcox has been playing in conference, they're a slightly more dangerous team that can back up the advanced stats.
All in all, Minnesota is the superior team in terms of talent, advanced stats and the eye test. They *should* be able to take down Ohio State. But you could have said the same thing on March 21, 2014. I'm still going to pick Minnesota to win here, but after Ohio State's sterling performance yesterday, anything can happen.