The Big Ten Hockey Tournament will have one more go-around in one of the NHL’s venerable arenas.
Joe Louis Arena in Detroit will host its second and final Big Ten Hockey Tournament, which drops the puck at 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday with a quarterfinal between sixth-seeded Michigan State and No. 3 Ohio State, followed by a second quarterfinal between No. 4 Penn State and No. 5 Michigan at 8 p.m.
The winners will advance to face top-seeded Minnesota and No. 2 Wisconsin in Friday semifinals, also beginning at 4:30 p.m. The championship game is Saturday at 8 p.m.
2017 Big Ten hockey tournament live updates, scores
2017 Big Ten hockey tournament bracket
— Big Ten Hockey (@B1GHockey) March 15, 2017
The Big Ten champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will include 16 teams.
The NCAA Tournament is scheduled to begin March 24 and begins at four regional sites: Providence, R.I.; Fargo, N.D.; Manchester, N.H. and Cincinnati.
The United Center in Chicago will host the Frozen Four, April 6-8.
2017 Big Ten Hockey Tournament preview
Minnesota and Wisconsin are the top two seeds in the tournament, and thus received first-round byes. No. 2 Wisconsin will face the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan State at 4:30 p.m. Friday, followed by No. 1 Minnesota against the Penn State-Michigan winner at 8 p.m.
Minnesota (23-10-3) enters the Big Ten Hockey Tournament at No. 5 in the USCHO.com Top 25 poll.
Sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy — who is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s top Division I hockey player — leads the Big Ten in scoring with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists), while teammate Justin Kloos leads the Big Ten with 6 game-winning goals and 3 short-handers.
With first-year coach and former NHL player Tony Granato, Wisconsin (19-14-1) is No. 18 in the nation but lost four of its final five games of the regular season, including a season-ending sweep by Ohio State on March 10-11.
Sophomore forward Luke Kunin leads Wisconsin in scoring with 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists), and freshman Trent Frederic is second among Big Ten freshmen in scoring (15 goals, 18 assists).
Ohio State (20-10-6) is No. 13 in the nation and has the Big Ten’s most potent power play (46 goals). Leading scorer Mason Jobst (18 goals, 33 assists) has 9 power-play goals with a conference-best 18 power-play assists for a Big Ten-leading 27 points on the power play, while senior forward Nick Schilkey leads the Big Ten with 15 power-play goals.
Sophomore forward Mason Appleton, a sixth-round pick in 2015 by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, leads Michigan State (7-23-4) with 12 goals and 18 assists.
Fifth-seeded Michigan (13-18-3) is the defending Big Ten Tournament champion, but after the graduation of the bulk of its starters from last year’s team, the Wolverines struggled this season. Michigan is fifth in the Big Ten in total goals (91) and the conference’s most penalized team (469 penalty minutes). Michigan, however, won four of its final five games and freshman forward Jake Slaker leads the Wolverines with 14 assists and 21 points.
Fourth-seeded Penn State (21-11-2) is one of the nation’s upstart programs. The No. 15 Nittany Lions boast one of the Big Ten’s most dynamic freshmen in forward Denis Smirnov, who leads Penn State with 26 assists and 43 points. Michigan, however, closed the regular season last weekend with a two-game sweep of the Nittany Lions. These two teams meet for the third straight time in the quarters, but this time on neutral ice.