Three things as we slide into the end of the first half of Big Ten play

It is strange to be talking about the end of the first half of Big Ten play when Big Ten play has barely begun, but the fact remains that the next league games are scheduled for the second week in January.

Three things from the weekend:

1. Hey! There was a shootout! I still hate the shootout!

Okay, so that’s not really what you want to read — and it’s not news to anyone — but I seriously hate the shootout and its carryover to Big Ten play does nothing to change my mind. Kudos to Michigan State for playing Minnesota to a tie and “winning” the first-ever Big Ten shootout, and against no less than Adam Wilcox. And for the record, winning the shootout does not mean winning the game. Got it?

Last week, my partner-in-writing insisted that the Minnesota-Michigan State series would come down to goaltending. I poo-pooed that idea, but it turns out he was right … but only because of the shootout. The Spartans got the better of it and earned two points to the Gophers’ one Friday night, and Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand looked outstanding in both the shootout and the series, making 79 saves on the weekend.

2. Hey! Michigan State scored last in each of its games against Minnesota!

The second effort of the Spartans in each game was impressive. Freshman Villiam Haag had the game-tying goal in the 2-2 Friday contest at 5:56 in the third, five minutes after the Gophers took a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Michael Ferrantino scored with one second left in regulation in Minnesota’s 3-2 win Saturday, with Hildebrand pulled for the extra attacker. Sure, that goal was meaningless in the greater scheme of things, but it did give the Spartans a boost at the end of the series and they were upbeat in the locker room after the loss.

Equally impressive was the way in which Minnesota came out in Saturday’s game and owned the first 10 minutes of play. The Gophers made sure that they didn’t underestimate their opponent, didn’t miss an opportunity and didn’t waste any time.

3. Hey! Any Badger can score!

Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true, but nine different Badgers scored in Wisconsin’s two-game sweep of Penn State, a series in which the Badgers outscored the Nittany Lions 11-4. The goalscorers included a pair of defensemen, sophomore Kevin Schulze and senior Joe Faust, each with his first goal of the season and fifth of his career — and each in the third period, Schulze’s in Friday’s 7-1 win and Faust’s in Saturday’s 4-3 game.

It should be noted, too, that the Badgers are a much steadier team with Joel Rumpel in net.

It should be noted, too, that Penn State has more than a little work to do.