With the Michigan teams sitting idle this weekend, four teams in the Big Ten each played two games. Here’s how things played out.
- Minnesota beat Minnesota Duluth 4-3 and defeated RPI 3-0
- Wisconsin lost to Alaska 1-0 and was dropped by Alaska Anchorage 4-2.
- Ohio State took Providence to overtime twice, winning 5-4 on Friday and dropping Saturday’s game 2-1.
- Penn State tied Connecticut 2-2 on Friday and picked up a 7-1 victory on Saturday.
Here are my “three” thoughts from this weekend:
1: The Badgers
I don’t think it’s time for Wisconsin fans to press the “panic” button, but it might not be a terrible idea to seek out the location of said button for future reference.
The young Badgers squad was defeated 1-0 by Alaska on Friday and dropped a 4-2 game to Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday.
As I said in our picks blog on Friday, I had a bad feeling about this weekend for Wisconsin. The Badgers only mustered 14 shots against Alaska on Friday. Landon Peterson had a 30-save effort in the loss. Eight freshmen saw the ice on Friday for Wisconsin.
The Badgers were able to get 29 shots on goal during Saturday’s game against Anchorage, but Joel Rumpel looked average in his first start of the season, giving up four goals on 25 shots.
Though two losses to start the season is never a good thing (obviously), I’m willing to give the Badgers a pass for this weekend. Traveling to Alaska with a young group to start the year is far from ideal.
Wisconsin will return to its home state, but not its home arena, next weekend when it faces Northern Michigan in a two-game series that will be played in Green Bay. A sweep over the Wildcats should make everyone forget about this weekend in Alaska.
If the Badgers struggle again, however, it might be time to press the button.
2: The Gophers
For the second straight season, Minnesota has started out the season by winning the Ice Breaker Tournament.
The only thing that would have made this year’s victory more impressive for Minnesota would have been if it had beaten Notre Dame in its own building. That being said, RPI beating the Irish on Friday was obviously out of the Gophers control.
The Gophers took down Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in an early-afternoon game on Friday. Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then held off the bulldogs’ third-period comeback attempt. Kyle Rau had a goal and two assists in Friday’s game.
After a day off on Saturday because of a home Notre Dame football game, Minnesota blanked RPI 3-0 in a Sunday championship game that was played at a time of day that is usually reserved for brunch (Notre Dame was scheduled to play the night game on Sunday regardless if it was playing for first or third).
You can color me impressed by Minnesota this weekend, mainly because they took care of business in two early-season games with nontraditional start times. They were also able to play well in an arena that was lacking anything that resembled a game-day atmosphere.
Minnesota will return to Mariucci Arena in two weeks for its home opener against Bemidji State. The Beavers opened their season by downing North Dakota on the road 5-1 before losing to UND 2-1 at home on Saturday.
3: The Buckeyes
I really wanted to say that Ohio State was going to split on Friday morning, but couldn’t pull the trigger on the upset and picked a sweep for Providence. The Buckeyes proved me wrong.
Of all the teams in action this weekend in the Big Ten, Ohio State should feel the best about its results. Taking a top-five team to overtime twice, and picking up a win, is something that Steve Rohlik’s team can hang its hat on. It was also nice to see a team that lost some scoring from last season put five past Jon Gillies on Friday night.
Things do not get easier for Ohio State next weekend with a home-and-home against Miami. I’d say going 2-2 or better during this two-week stretch should be considered a success for Ohio State.
Bonus: Penn State
I know, it’s called the “three things” blog, but it seems kind of silly to talk about three teams when only four were in action.
Of all the opponents that Big Ten teams faced this weekend, Connecticut was by far the least talented. Penn State followed up a 2-2 tie on Friday with a 7-1 victory on Saturday. I feel weird writing this about Penn State, but the Nittany Lions should have absolutely swept this weekend. Saturday’s game really showed how big the talent gap was between these two teams and made Friday tie that much more disappointing for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will travel to Alaska next weekend to face Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage. The Nanooks and Sea Wolves look to each go 2-0 against the conference that is the reason why they are both now in the WCHA.