After eight months of waiting, college hockey is back on the ice. While it was not the most packed weekend in terms of the number of games, it is comforting to watch hockey again.
The opening weekend of the college hockey regular season saw four games between four teams from the Big Ten. What commenced was some extremely entertaining action, with some players making their presence known in their first couple games of the 2020-21 season.
There was supposed to be an interesting matchup between Army West Point and Long Island University, as Sharks’ head coach Brett Riley was going to go up against his Uncle Brian, head coach of the Black Knights. However, a COVID-19 outbreak on West Point’s campus forced the games to be postponed.
Wisconsin Picks Up Road Sweep of No. 20 Notre Dame
Friday, Nov. 13 (WIS Wins 2-0)
Friday the 13th is an ominous day for some. On paper, it looked to be the case for the visiting Wisconsin Badgers, a team that finished last in the Big Ten last season. The Badgers also had one of the worst team goals-against averages in the country. A 3.75 GAA placed them 58th of the 60 programs in 2019-20.
On Friday, it looked as if the Badgers took a complete 180, thanks to the play of their new netminder, Robbie Beydoun. Beydoun is a graduate student who transferred to Wisconsin after Matt Jurusik took the starting job from him at Michigan Tech. In his first game as a Badger, Beydoun looked comfortable, posting a 25-save shutout.
The scoring for Wisconsin came from Linus Weissbach and Dylan Holloway. Weissbach was set up after a nice play from Ty Pelton-Byce.
Saturday, Nov. 14 (WIS Wins 5-3)
The Fighting Irish came back with a little more pep in their step in Game 2 of the weekend set. They outshot the Badgers 14-6 in the opening 20 minutes. Yet, it was Wisconsin who jumped out in front thanks to a goal from Pelton-Byce.
Ryder Donovan extended the Badgers lead early in Period No. 2, but that’s when Notre Dame finally broke through the Beydoun wall. Colin Theisen scored a pair just minutes apart to tie the game at two. However, in the dying seconds of the frame, Brock Caufield, younger brother of Montreal Canadien prospect Cole, scored to put Wisconsin ahead before the intermission.
The final stanza found the Theisen completing his hat trick minutes into the period to tie the game at three. Just passed the halfway mark of the period, Holloway wheeled the puck into the Irish zone, and ripped an absolute snipe on Notre Dame goaltender Mark St. Cyr, scoring his second goal of the weekend, and giving Wisconsin the lead. (from ‘Dylan Holloway badly wants to tug on Canadian jersey at world juniors,’ Edmonton Sun, 10/31/2020)
Donovan would add his second of the game as insurance, and the Badgers completed the weekend sweep of Notre Dame with the 5-3 win.
No. 12 Michigan No. 15 Arizona State
Saturday, Nov. 14 (MICH Wins 8-1)
To say the host Michigan Wolverines were ready to play heading into their opening weekend series against the Arizona State Sun Devils was an understatement. The new kids on the block led the Maize and Blue in their season opener.
The Wolverines came out strong, with freshmen Matthew Beniers and Thomas Bordeleau opening the scoring in the first period. (from ‘He was supposed to play for Harvard. Now he might put Michigan hockey over the top,’ Detroit Free-Press, 11/14/2020) Nolan Moyle added another before the end of the period. The Wolverines exploded for four goals in the middle frame, with goals from Nolan Moyle, Nick Granowicz, Cam York and Nick Blankenburg.
Beniers and Owen Power added goals in third before the Sun Devils finally got on the board with a goal from Ryan O’Reilly, but the damage was done. Michigan took the first game of the weekend set in with a convincing 8-1 win.
Power ended the game with a goal and two assists, with freshman Kent Johnson tallying four assists in the game.
Sunday, Nov. 15 (MICH Wins 3-0)
The Wolverines were relentless in the second game of the weekend set as well. After outshooting the Sun Devils 37-16 in Game 1, Michigan led the offence once again, outshooting Arizona State, 47-17.
Michigan went out in front just a few minutes after Johnson scored his first goal as a Wolverine. Eric Ciccolini scored in the final minutes of the frame, and a goal from Jimmy Lambert in the third sent the Wolverines on their way to the weekend sweep.
Strauss Mann was solid in net all weekend, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced over the weekend.
The reason why the Wolverines only scored three times on Saturday was because of the play of Arizona State goaltender Cole Brady. Brady, making his first collegiate start, made 44 saves in the losing effort.
The college hockey season is underway. This weekend may have been a lighter weekend, but next weekend is when the fun really begins. Hockey East and Atlantic Hockey action begins next season, with some teams from the WCHA beginning with some non-conference games.
I’m a broadcast journalist from West Michigan, with an incredible passion for the game of hockey. After playing in goal for 16 years, I realized that my time on the ice was up, and chose a slightly different path working in the media. It is just as demanding, just a little less physical.