Some people just can’t wait for tournament time in March, when it seems like every college and high school sport is meeting at a neutral site to determine a champion. But the Big Ten’s announcement that their postseason hockey tournament will be played four days earlier than originally planned is about rest, not impatience.

On Thursday, the conference announced that the seven hockey-playing members of the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and affiliate member Notre Dame) will meet over March 14-16 at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena.

The conference had originally announced that the three-day tournament would begin four days later, on March 18. The revamped schedule is designed to make use of a weekend off that was built into the Big Ten schedule due to the pandemic, and to give any Big Ten teams named to the NCAA tournament a few more days' rest before the 16-team single-elimination begins.

"We were potentially going to have two teams playing three games in three days, a week before the NCAA tournament. We've all known that's a dangerous spot to be, and everybody got that," Gophers coach Bob Motzko told The Rink Live. "We had the ability to be flexible. For our teams that make the NCAA tournament, it's not as much the rest, but the fear of how they could've gotten beaten up right before the NCAAs."

Under Big Ten bylaws, the regular season champion will now be determined by conference winning percentage, as all seven teams will not play the same number of games due to COVID-19-related cancellations. The regular season champ will receive a first-round bye in the tournament.

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“The decision to change the dates of the tournament was made in order to ease compression between the regular season and postseason tournaments in the interest of the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and officials,” said a statement released by the conference. “

The schedule of games, all of which will be televised by Big Ten Network, is as follows (all times CT):

  • Sunday, March 14: Quarterfinal games at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, March 15: Semifinal games at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 16: Championship game at 7 p.m.

The schedule change was approved by the Big Ten Conference Administrators Council, which includes representatives from all 14 schools in the conference, including those without hockey programs. The Gophers won the first four Big Ten regular season titles (2014 through 2017) but have won the postseason tournament just once, in 2015. Although at least one Wikipedia entry lists the Gophers as “co-champions” for the 2020 Big Ten playoffs, as they were among four teams still playing when the season was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Minnesota Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle looked for a teammate while Ohio State goalie Andrea Braendli guarded the goalmouth on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes won the game 2-1. John Autey / The Rink Live
Minnesota Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle looked for a teammate while Ohio State goalie Andrea Braendli guarded the goalmouth on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes won the game 2-1. John Autey / The Rink Live

Zumwinkle named a Kazmaier finalist

All Grace Zumwinkle has been doing in the past few months for the Minnesota Gophers women’s team has been scoring, and coaches around the country are apparently taking notice. On Thursday. Zumwinkle, a senior forward from Excelsior, Minn., was named one of the 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the nation’s top female college hockey player.

Zumwinkle leads the Gophers offensively this season with 16 goals and seven assists in 19 games. Those 16 goals (25% of those scored by the team this season) are also best in the nation.

A finance major in the U of M’s Carlson School of Management, Zumwinkle is already among the top 10 scorers in Gopher hockey history and has been an All-WCHA selection her previous three years with coach Brad Frost’s team.

Zumwinkle was among four WCHA players named to the top 10 list for the award, which will be announced on Saturday, March 27. Other WCHAers in the mix are Ohio State senior forward Emma Maltais, Wisconsin junior forward Sophie Shirley, and Badgers’ senior forward Daryl Watts, who won the Kazmaier as a freshman at Boston College before transferring to Wisconsin.

The six other finalists are senior defender Skylar Fontaine (Northeastern), senior goaltender Aerin Frankel (Northeastern), senior forward Élizabeth Giguère (Clarkson), senior forward Caitrin Lonergan (Clarkson), junior forward Alina Müller (Northeastern), and freshman forward Kiara Zanon (Penn State).

Two Gophers have won the award in the past: Krissy Wendell in 2005 and Amanda Kessel in 2013.

New book recounts four decades of Hobey history

Sometimes it is hard to believe that it has been 40 years since Gophers forward (and Miracle on Ice hero) Neal Broten was handed a brand-new award honoring the best in college hockey. The Decathlon Athletic Club in Bloomington, Minn., where the Hobey Baker Award was born, is long gone. There is an indoor waterpark there now, and the NHL arena a few blocks away, where Broten spent more than a decade with the Minnesota North Stars, has been razed to make way for a Swedish furniture store.

Still, the memories of the Hobey’s first 40 years are strong in the minds of many college hockey fans, and a new book produced by the Hobey’s foundation is a fantastic skate through those four decades of great players.

“The First 40” was released recently and is available online for $24.95 at hobeybaker.com/shop. The 100-page book features color photos of all 40 Hobey winners — from Broten to another talented northern Minnesota kid, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich in 2020 — and an extensive bio of each, along with the top 10 finalists from each season.

Written by Brian Shaughnessy, the book is good for hours of nostalgia, thinking about unique things like the two goalies to win the award (Minnesota’s Robb Stauber in 1988 and Michigan State’s Ryan Miller in 2001), the two Minnesota Mr. Hockey winners to win the Hobey (Minnesota’s Brian Bonin in 1996 and Colorado College’s Marty Sertich in 2005) and the only player from a sub-.500 college team to win the award (Minnesota Duluth’s Chris Marinucci in 1994).

For more information about the book, visit their website or contact Jim Martin from the Hobey Foundation at jmartin@hobeybaker.com

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