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2015-16 Midseason Wellsies & One B1G Question For Each Big Ten Team Entering The Second Half

Let's make up awards!

The photographer should not win a Wellsy for this pregame shot of Joe Louis Arena.
The photographer should not win a Wellsy for this pregame shot of Joe Louis Arena.
Nathan Wells/SBN College Hockey

Every year the internet uses the break around the holiday season and New Year's to make midseason honors. There is a built-in down time, a dividing line with college teams being off for a couple weeks for finals and festivities. Other than the World Juniors and holiday tournaments, little else to write about in terms of college hockey is happening.

I feel compelled to do the same. If we are being honest, however, the only thing that makes sense this time of year for awards season is to simply make up my own awards.

It'd be easy to look at stats and honor players and coaches for a half job well done. It is not like websites need any extra incentive to come up with lists and power rankings and polls for all the clicks. Everyone agrees or gets angry. No one remembers why two days later. Rinse and repeat.

To add to all of this, many midseason ones are conference honors, which make even less sense to do with the Big Ten. Officially the end-of-year honors are conference-only. To go that route means looking at all of 2-4 games. Expanding to the non-conference portion of the first half means making sense of six separate itineraries and trying to fit everything into context. Minnesota and Penn State played completely different schedules. So did Wisconsin and Ohio State.

So in lieu of honoring Guy Gadowsky as the SB Nation College Hockey Midseason First Half Big Ten Coach of the Year That Was October Through December 2015  - I'm sure he'd put exactly that on his resume - here are the best and worst, the oddities, the things which should be honored during the Big Ten's first half before conference play returns this weekend.

There's also a question for each team. It's my awards. I can do what I want.

Best response to getting cut by Team USA: Kyle Connor, Michigan

5 goals and an assist and the first hat trick by a Michigan freshman since 2001? Great Lakes Invitational MVP? Not too shabby at all.

Top freshman (non-Kyle Connor category): Chase Berger, Penn State

There's only one Kyle Connor, but the same can be said about Berger. He is one of only three Big Ten players to have reached double digits in goals (Connor and Tyler Motte being the others). More importantly, Penn State is 8-0 when Berger lights the lamp.

Top Performance by a Big Ten player reportedly playing for Sarnia: Luke Kunin, Wisconsin

With all apologies to Josh Jacobs, Kunin gets this because that moment - coming the weekend before facing then-#1 North Dakota - is the low point for a Wisconsin team that continuously has found new ones over the last season and a half. If Mike Eaves kept his job after losing the top three players in his recruiting class a year after losing four games that would say more about Wisconsin than Eaves.

That wasn't the case and the 2016 draft eligible Kunin staying in Madison, leading the Badgers in goals along with another true freshman in Matthew Freytag. Consolation or not, it is a delight for Eaves' program after having high profile draft eligible or true freshmen struggle with size and speed of the game the past couple seasons.

Most famous assistant coach: Tom Izzo

Top idea not utilized by the Big Ten: Sticking with the shootout instead of 3x3 OT

When I spoke with Big Ten coaches in September before the season began and before the NHL's example of 3x3 OT, there was much intrigue about the format which "settle(s) this more like a hockey game." That has only continued. The NCHC uses 3x3 OT and the shootout and the WCHA has made ventures into doing the same. With the Big Ten only utilizing shootouts (like all extra ways to end games after 5 minutes the shootout and 3x3 OT only count in the standings and are officially ties) it could stand to follow the NCHC's lead in have the rare 3x3 OT instead of just a shootout.

Although the Big Ten and its coaches will continue to monitor overtime procedures across the country - 3x3 will likely be a point of contention in April at the coaches meeting - not having teams like Michigan and Minnesota playing 3x3 OT until someone scores is a crime against hockey.

Best trend for entertainment reasons: A conference of offensively-minded teams.

There are no goals lacking in the Big Ten. Michigan is an impression of the 1980s Oilers in 2016. Penn State shoots from anywhere and is second in total offense. Minnesota's biggest consistency has been finding ways to come back from a deficit. Other than Michigan State, the conference shoots first and asks about defense later.

Worst trend of the first half: Increasingly empty seats in arenas

There are several options for the worst trend. Fewer games are being broadcast, including almost zero non-conference games (or games that do not show up in the TV Guide). Those games have fewer bells andd whistles. Fewer writers are around as beat writing jobs are slashed and no longer exist and bloggers go on to do better things with their lives. The conference itself became an enemy of the other schools, likely a bad trend unless Jim Delany wants to continue going all NWO on college hockey.

However, nothing shows the general apathy as much as empty seats, which have been a problem in several Big Ten arenas this season. Part of it is an ongoing trend that predates the conference, but it continues and thus gets a Wellsy.

Best Food Advice given by an ESPN anchor: John Buccigross

There is no Sam B. Gore Excellence in Big Ten Creative Name Mispronunciation this year. Also no Wellsy for best announcer yet because no one has given me an on-air shout out this season. Just saying...

Best Food in a hockey arena: Taco Cannon

UNO is not in the Big Ten although no one in the conference can top this.

Speed round:

Best representation of Sweden in college hockey: Leon Bristedt's OT winner against Ohio State

Jeff Frazee Save of the year: Northeastern's Ryan Ruck on Justin Kloos.

I saw this live and could not believe Kloos did not score. My mind would not entertain the possibility. It was that good of a save.

Honorable mention to Jake Hildebrand's save on Michigan Tech's Tyler Heinonen.

Best non-conference response: Penn State

Saddest surprise: Despite picking the Spartans to finish fifth, Michigan State coming back to earth after finishing second and struggling in the way it has with injuries, depth and regression remains a surprise.

Game of the first half: Ohio State's two wins against top-ten teams in the Florida College Classic on December 28-29. The Buckeyes clobbered Cornell 8-0 a night after upsetting Boston College.

Three Players We Should Be Talking About More: Tyler Motte, Michigan; Michael Brodzinski, Minnesota; Eamon McAdam, Penn State

One question for each team to begin the second half:

Michigan: With offensive firepower and depth, can either Steve Racine or Zach Nagelvoort step up to be the goaltender Michigan needs in order to be counted among college hockey's elite teams?

Michigan State: Where did the established senior leadership go on a team that has won 1 game in 2 months? How much of an indictment is this on Tom Anastos?

Minnesota: Have the Gophers found the pieces to put together a second half run once again or does the team's inconsistency and struggles against teams in the top-20 come back to haunt Minnesota in March?

Ohio State: Who steps up among a young Buckeyes team?

Penn State: Playing the easiest non-conference of the six teams, how much of the team's success has to do with scheduling? Can the Nittany Lions finish in the top two and gain a first round bye?

Wisconsin: What does Mike Eaves have to do to keep his job?

Conference: With three teams in the top-20 of the Pairwise rankings, how many Big Ten teams will make the NCAA Tournament and can the conference avoid having a single representative for the second straight year?


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --