Big Ten men’s hockey tournament: A closer look
New tournament format
Quarterfinals: Best-of-three, on campus sites Friday through Sunday.
Semifinals: Single-elimination, at regular-season champion Notre Dame and top remaining seed on March 10.
Final: Single-game, at top remaining seed on March 17. Winner gets Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Gophers seek revenge at Penn State
Quarterfinal: No. 5 Gophers at No. 4 Penn State
6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary)
Where: Pegula Ice Arena
TV: FSN Plus on Friday, FSN on Saturday and Sunday.
Radio: 1130-AM, 103.5-FM.
Season series: Penn State won 3-1.
Preview: After being embarrassed at Penn State in 5-1 and 5-2 routs last week, the angry Gophers return to Happy Valley. Minnesota (19-15-2, 10-12-2 Big Ten) saw its 6-1-1 run end when the Nittany Lions (16-13-5, 9-10-5) fired a barrage of 61 shots on goal in the opener, to the Gophers’ 15. Needing only a point on the weekend to secure home ice in the quarterfinals, the Gophers instead lost the second game, too, falling behind 3-0. The Gophers, No. 9 in the PairWise Ratings, are highly likely to make the NCAA tournament, even if they lose this series. But their seeding — the top No. 3 seed in a regional right now — could take a hit if they don’t advance. Penn State moved to No. 13 in the PairWise but might need to win this series to secure an NCAA berth.
Players to watch: Gophers goalie Mat Robson made a career-high 55 saves in the opener last week but wasn’t as sharp in Saturday’s game, giving up a goal on Penn State’s first shot. He is 7-4-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. Brent Gates Jr. has scored a goal in four of the past five games and has a point in five of the past six for the Gophers. Leon Bristedt has two goals and two assists in his past three games. … Penn State goalie Peyton Jones stopped 52 of 55 shots last weekend, improving to 15-11-4 with a 2.90 GAA and .906 save percentage. The Nittany Lions third line of Alex Limoges, Evan Barratt and Liam Folkes combined for five goals and seven points last weekend, with Limoges getting three goals and an assist.
By the numbers: The Gophers are 14-7 all-time against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions have won four of the past five, including a 4-3 double-overtime win in last year’s Big Ten semifinals in Detroit. ... Penn State ranks third in the nation with 3.65 goals per game, while the Gophers rank 45th (2.61).
Other quarterfinal matchups
No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 3 Michigan
Badgers (14-17-4, 8-13-3): Wisconsin enters the quarterfinals on a 1-5 skid and must win the Big Ten tournament to make the NCAA field. … Coach Tony Granato returns to the bench after coaching the U.S. men’s Olympic team in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Badgers won the season series 2-1-1.
Wolverines (18-13-3, 11-10-3): Michigan has surged in the second half, posting sweeps of the Gophers, Penn State and then-No. 1 Notre Dame. The Wolverines have vaulted to No. 10 in the PairWise and have a strong shot to make the NCAA field.
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 2 Ohio State
Spartans (12-20-2, 6-12-2): Under first-year coach Danton Cole, Michigan State took its lumps but has played well of late, going 3-3-1 in its past seven. The Spartans rely heavily on the “KHL’’ line of Patrick Khodorenko, Taro Hirose and Mitchell Lewandowski, which has amassed 102 points (42 goals, 60 assists), or 44 percent of the team’s scoring.
Buckeyes (21-8-5, 14-8-2): Ohio State, No. 6 in the PairWise Ratings, went a 10-1 tear from early December through early February. Goalie Sean Romeo is 17-8-5 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He is a big reason why Ohio State has the nation’s best penalty kill (91.1 percent). Buckeyes won the season series 3-1.