Big Ten Hockey put together another solid season start to finish. With the exception of Michigan and Michigan State — who finished 5th and 6th respectively in the league — the remaining four teams were NCAA Tournament caliber clubs in 2016-17.
It ended with Minnesota winning the regular season crown, their fourth straight, and Penn State winning the conference tournament. Both earned bids into the NCAA field; Gophers with the No. 4 overall seed. Minnesota however was ousted in the first round, while Penn State lost to eventual national champion Denver in the quarterfinals.
The Big Ten on Thursday released the conference schedules for each team next season. There are some noteworthy changes:
- The biggest being the addition of Notre Dame strictly as a member for men’s hockey. The Irish finished a solid 23-12-5 as a member of Hockey East, a league they had been a member over the last four seasons, since the CCHA folded in 2013.
- Every team will now play 24 conference games, with the existing six now playing four — two at home and two away — against the aforementioned newcomer Notre Dame. For the majority of teams, they will open up the regular season in league action.
- The Big Ten Tournament, which has been just a three-day, one-weekend event over its brief history, will now expand to a three-weekend tournament.
- The No. 1 seed will receive a bye in the first weekend. The No. 2, 3 and 4 teams will host best-of-three quarterfinal weekend series against the lower seeds (2v7, 3v6, 4v5).
- The semifinals will be a single-elimination game in the second weekend, with 1v(4v5) and (2v7)v(3v6). Of the remaining two teams from both respective matches, the higher seed left will then host the conference championship game in the third weekend.
- Dates** for the Big Ten Tournament:
- Quarterfinals: March 2-4 (best-of-three series)
- Semifinals: Saturday, March 10 (single elimination)
- Championship: Saturday, March 17 (single elimination)
- [**Game time and broadcast information has not been determined]
Here are the respective conference slates for both Michigan and Michigan State.
ICYMI: Here's our 2017-18 Big Ten Schedule!
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) May 4, 2017
Here's a look at the Spartans' 2017-18 B1G schedule – pic.twitter.com/VSzzv9P3gX
— MSU_Hockey (@MSU_Hockey) May 4, 2017
Both finished a combined 20-43-7 and will enter next season with head coaches. MSU will have Danton Cole directing traffic in East Lansing, following the resignation of Tom Anastos. Michigan meanwhile will be led by someone not named Red Berenson for the first time since the 1983-84 season, as a former Berenson disciple in Mel Pearson is taking over in Ann Arbor.
We see that Michigan is one of five Big Ten teams playing conference games in the first month of the season. They will travel to play defending conference tournament champion Penn State in the final weekend of October.
Michigan State meanwhile will begin Big Ten play exactly one week later, paying a trip to the Twin Cities and opposing four-time defending regular season champion Minnesota.
Of the two, the Spartans will get first crack at newcomer Notre Dame when they host the Irish on December 1 and 2. Michigan will play them coming out of the holiday break in the first weekend of January. They both will finish out the inaugural Big Ten slate for the Irish in February of 2018 (Michigan on Feb. 16 & 18; MSU on Feb. 23-24).
One will also notice that the two will continue their annual pair of home-and-home series, with the latest “Duel in the D” showdown as well. The first series will be December 8 (@ U-M) and 9 (@ MSU). Then on Friday, February 9, the two will play in East Lansing before the “Duel in the D” takes place at new Little Caesars Arena.
Both the Wolverines and Spartans will be vying for their first league crown, with each having a second-place finish in the regular season through the conference’s four-year history. Michigan has won the conference tournament, two seasons ago in 2016. Penn State winning it this past season marked the fourth different team in four seasons to claim the trophy.