DETROIT – College hockey returns to Joe Louis Arena this week.
But with a new twist.
In just its second year as a sport in the Big Ten Conference, hockey will crown a tournament champion among its six-member schools on Saturday night.
It will be the first B1G championship held in the Motor City. It’s also the first college championship held at The Joe since the Central Collegiate Hockey Association disbanded following the 2012-13 season.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are former members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which continues to operate.
“I like the idea, hopefully other schools in the Big Ten will get teams, so we can become more like basketball or football,” said Red Wings forward Luke Glendening, who was a student athlete at the University of Michigan. “It’s just having to recreate those rivalries that we had in hockey with the CCHA and the WCHA. Teams had their rivalries and I think the Big Ten as an idea is good. I just think it will take some time to recreate some of those rivalries.”
Glendening’s alma mater is seeded third in the three-day tourney, which begins Thursday afternoon.
Thursday features two quarterfinals leading into Friday's final-four round. The championship game will be played Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT. All five games can be seen live on the Big Ten Network. Check local cable or satellite listings for the channel number.
The quarterfinals are No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Penn State (4:30 p.m.), and No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (8 p.m.). Friday’s semifinal matches will be pit No. 2 Minnesota against the OSU-PSU winner at 4:30 p.m., followed by No. 1 Michigan State taking on the Michigan-Wisconsin winner at 8 p.m.
Besides Glendening, five other members of the Wings’ organization are Big Ten alumni – forwards Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller of Michigan State; and defenseman Brendan Smith, assistant coach Tony Granato and advisor to hockey operations Chris Chelios of Wisconsin.
The top-seeded Gophers did monopolize the conference’s final three stars of the week awards. Sophomore forward Hudson Fasching (six points), senior forward Kyle Rau (five points), and junior goalie Adam Wilcox (2-0-0, 1.00 GAA), were first, second and third stars, respectively.
Someone of interest to Red Wings’ fans his Gophers senior defenseman Ben Marshall, who was selected by Detroit in the seventh round of the NHL draft in 2010. The alternate captain has two goals and 10 points in 36 games this season.
While Minnesota is the No. 1 seed in the tourney, the state of Michigan claims the conference’s player, goaltender and freshman of the year.
Spartans’ Jake Hildebrand was named Big Ten player and goaltender of the year, while Wolverines forward – and Red Wings prospect – Dylan Larkin was unanimously named the conference’s top freshman.
Abdelkader, who scored in overtime to lift the Spartans to the NCAA national championship in 2007, likes his school’s chances at a B1G title for one reason.
“Goaltending. He won Big Ten player of the year,” Abdelkader said of MSU’s junior goalie from Butler, Penn. “This time of the year that’s what it comes down to and I think when you get really good goaltending it can win.”
For Glendening, the Wolverines have to get it done with offense, especially Larkin and one other high-scoring freshman forward.
“Dylan Larkin and Zach Hyman that’s why they win,” Glendening said.
The Wolverines swept the regular-season series against the Badgers (4-0-0), and are unbeaten in their last six games against them.
The Badgers were victors in the inaugural championship held at Xcel Energy Center, home to the Minnesota Wild, last March. Wisconsin defeated Ohio State, 5-4, in overtime.
The conference tournament will return to St. Paul, Minn., in 2016, and Joe Louis Arena in 2017.
Single-session tickets are still on sale for the tournament. Tickets can be purchased at the Joe Louis Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets (800-745-3000) and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.