1. Winning on the road can’t hurt. Not one bit.
Both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines took games in their opponents’ barns, and OSU’s win helps Michigan’s cause as much as it helps Ohio State’s. After losing to Wisconsin 5-3 Friday night — with three unanswered goals by the Badgers within an eight-minute span at the end of the second and beginning of the third — the Buckeyes rebounded with a 3-1 win Saturday. In a way, Ohio State returned Wisconsin’s favor; trailing 1-0 midway through the second, OSU scored two goals roughly five minutes apart late in the stanza. Newcomer Christian Frey made 36 saves for Ohio State in his fourth game of the season.
Michigan swept Michigan State in a Joe-and-Munn series, earning a big six points in conference play. The Wolverines looked as though they returned to form in the second game of the series Friday night, turning up the heat in the third period when the game was tied 2-2, scoring three goals and putting the game out of reach for the Spartans. With two games in hand on the Badgers — and thanks in part to OSU’s win — the Wolverines are now just three points behind Wisconsin.
2. Prevailing in the shootout can bring hardware.
And it doesn’t hurt when your power play is clicking. Just last week, Minnesota coach Don Lucia told me that the Golden Gophers had relied heavily on their power play in the past to help them win games but leaned more on five-on-five hockey this year, scoring by committee to get the proverbial job done.
Five of the eight goals that the Gophers scored in the North Star College Cup came with the man advantage, and three Gophers — Travis Boyd, Nate Condon, Hudson Fasching — each netted two goals in two games. Kyle Rau and Seth Ambroz, who each scored in regulation in the tournament, were the gents who scored in Saturday’s shootout following Minnesota’s 4-4 tie with Minnesota-Duluth, giving the Gophers title in the tourney’s inaugural run.
Minnesota is a dangerous team.
3.Persevering in the game can bring you nearer to an upset — and praise from Jerry York.
Penn State lost at home to Boston College, 3-2, the second defeat of the Nittany Lions at the hands of the Eagles. In December, BC beat PSU for the title of the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, 8-2. This time, the Nittany Lions kept it close, tying the Eagles 1-1 in the second and scoring the final goal of the game to make it 3-2 in the third. That was Taylor Holstrom’s shorthanded marker, scored two minutes and thirty seconds after the Eagles made it a 3-1 game.
After the game, BC coach Jerry York had some nice things to say about the Nittany Lions. “Penn State has made marked improvements since we saw them in December. They are so close. They are big and physical and play tough hockey.”
With just six teams in the Big Ten and every team making the trip to the conference championship tournament, a tough Penn State team may make the league’s postseason very interesting.