Three things from the weekend that was in the Big Ten

Greetings from Mariucci Arena’s press box. Four Big Ten teams were in action this weekend and, outside of the team that I just got done watching, the results weren’t great. Here’s how things shook out:

  • Minnesota swept Notre Dame, winning 5-0 on Friday and 4-2 on Sunday.
  • Wisconsin was swept at home by North Dakota. UND won 4-3 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday.
  • Ohio State was swept by Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks won 4-1 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday.
  • Michigan State split with New Hampshire. The Spartans won 4-3 on Friday and lost 5-2 on Saturday.

Here are three things I saw this weekend:

1.    Minnesota has cemented its spot as the best team in the conference, so far

I know, conference play is still weeks away and the meat of the conference schedule is a couple months away, but Minnesota’s early-season performance has proven that it is the team to beat in the Big Ten this season.

Minnesota put on a clinic in its 5-0 blowout victory over Notre Dame on Friday and responded with another convincing win on Sunday.

The Gophers recipe for success, score a lot of goals and hold opponents to low shot totals. Minnesota has average 3.78 goals per game this season and held the Fighting Irish to 20 shots on Friday and 23 on Saturday. The Gophers are giving up 2.13 goals per game this season.

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said that he saw a lot of improvement from Minnesota this weekend, which could be a bad thing for the Gophers opponents considering they came into the weekend with a 5-1 record.

“We had some continuation shifts,” he said. “Two or three in a row where we were able to sustain momentum, and we hadn’t seen that this year.”

The high-scoring games and lack of shots by Notre Dame overshadowed Adam Wilcox’s play in net, but the junior backstop looked the best he has looked all year in net. Both Lucia and Wilcox noted that the goaltender was comfortable in net.

“I started to feel like myself tonight,” Wilcox said after Friday’s game. “Kind of like how I felt last year. I think I just needed to get a little more balanced and a little more calm. I was working on that in practice, and I had a really good week of practice and it carried over into the game.”

Minnesota will play a home-and-home series with Minnesota-Duluth next weekend. The Gophers are 1-0 against the Bulldogs this year, as they won the contest the two teams played at the Ice Breaker Tournament 4-3.

2.    Ohio State and Wisconsin were swept on home ice

Sending the home fans home disappointed is never a good thing, doing it twice in one weekend is even worse. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State did just that this weekend.

Wisconsin’s nightmare start to the season continued, courtesy of North Dakota. The Badgers are now 0-6

The Badgers held a 2-1 lead in the third period of Friday’s game until North Dakota scored an even strength, power play and short-handed goal in the third period. The Badgers scored with 19 seconds left in the game to make it 4-3.

“We had a 2-1 lead going into the third period against the No. 2 team in the country, we would have taken that if somebody had told us that would’ve been it,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “On the other side of the coin, it’s probably the formula that we got outshot 43-20, and that’s probably going to be a formula for a while in the fact that we need Joel [Rumpel] to play well for us until we can get more experience under our young people and figure out our roles.”

North Dakota scored four unanswered goals on Saturday to win 5-1.

“It’s obviously tough when you start 0-6, but we took a lot of big steps this weekend,” Rumpel said. “They’re the No. 2 team in the country and we were tied, beating them and down by one. Both games we went into the third, so obviously we can tell that we’re getting better, so I wouldn’t call it discouragement, but more like improvement.”

Omaha was riding a hot streak going into its series against Ohio State. I thought that home ice would help the Buckeyes get a win weekend, but it did not.

The Buckeyes’ sported some cool-looking camouflage sweaters for Friday’s game, but their poor special-teams performance held them back. Omaha scored two power-play goals in the game and held the Buckeyes scoreless on five power-play opportunities.

After a week off, Wisconsin with travel to Colorado to play Colorado College and Denver. The game against the Tigers will be a “something has to give” contest, as they are also struggling this season (currently 2-6).

Ohio State will play a home-and-home series with Bowling Green next weekend.

3. Michigan State wins on Friday and gets blown out on Saturday

The Spartans put themselves in a good position to sweep New Hampshire on the road, but failed to execute on Saturday.

“Both games this weekend had some key moments in them,” MSU head coach Tom Anastos said after Saturday’s game. “Last night those key moments seemed to go our way and tonight they seemed to go their way. I thought their goaltender played really strong tonight and we were unable to convert some of the good scoring chances that we had and the game got away from us. I give them a lot of credit.”

This weekend was the second time in three opportunities that Michigan State has had an opportunity to sweep an opponent, and failed.

Michigan State plays Boston College on Friday.