It was a very interesting of hockey involving Big Ten teams. Very. Interesting. Now I have questions.
1. Has Penn State finally earned some legitimacy?
The Nittany Lions are 6-2-2 after their weekend road split with No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell. Not only that, but Penn State scored six consecutive goals against the River Hawks, having netted the final two in the third period of Friday’s 5-3 loss, three more in the first period of Saturday’s 4-1 win, and another in the second period Saturday before Lowell scored on the power play in the third period of that contest. Averaging 3.80 goals per game, the Nittany Lions are still tied with Minnesota for second nationally in scoring. Junior Casey Bailey (8-4–12) added three more goals this weekend, including the first goal in the loss and Saturday’s game winner. And when junior Matthew Skoff was pulled midway through Friday’s game after allowing four goals, sophomore Eamon McAdam gave the league a reason to believe that the Nittany Lions have two capable goaltenders, earning allowing two goals on the weekend and earning a .953 save percentage for his two-game effort.
2. Will the Golden Gophers get swept again any time this season?
Minnesota lost to Minnesota-Duluth 3-0 and 2-1 as the Bulldogs swept the Gophers for the first time in five seasons. Additionally, the Gophers were kept off the scoreboard until freshman Leon Bristedt netted his second of the season at 11:18 of the third period of Saturday’s game, giving Minnesota its first goal since the second period of the Gophers’ 4-2 win over Notre Dame the previous Sunday. For a team averaging 3.88 goals per game coming into the weekend, that was a concern.
After Saturday’s game, Minnesota coach Don Lucia said, “You just need some goals to give yourself some momentum, and we just couldn’t get the momentum. We just need some guys to start to score some goals for us.”
The Gophers were swept once in 2013-2014, a pair of 2-1 losses to Wisconsin in Madison (Feb. 6-7).
3. Will anyone in this league split a series the way I call it this season? Just once? Please?
Both Drew Claussen and I knew that the Ohio State-Bowling Green and Nittany Lions-River Hawks series would be interesting. Drew, however, had the good sense to call the Buckeyes and Falcons to split with each winning on the road and for the River Hawks to win their Friday contest. Me? Not so much. I did know, though, that Penn State would return home with a win. Why Saturday and not Friday for the Nittany Lions? Well, that’s a little more obvious to me this morning: Penn State plays determined hockey and learns from mistakes game to game. Why did the Buckeyes and Falcons split, winning in each other’s barns? I have no idea, but it’s clear that once OSU finds some consistency in its team defense in front of two capable goaltenders, the Buckeyes will have a chance to be in every game. I think.
At least the Wolverines did what they should have done — twice beating a visiting opponent that doesn’t possess the same weapons that the Wolverines enjoy and scoring 11 goals in the process — and the Spartans did all they could against a Boston College team that was hungry for a win after four losses. This gives me a little hope for the two Big Ten teams withing driving distance of where I reside. I think I’ll see a lot of interesting hockey from the Spartans this season, in particular.