1. A win for Wisconsin.
As our executive editor, Todd Milewski, pointed out at the beginning of his recap of Wisconsin’s 5-3 win over Ferris State, Saturday’s victory was the first for the Badgers in 252 days. Additionally, the 1-1 tie the night before was the first game that hadn’t resulted in a loss this season. UW’s power play — 45th in the nation (10.3 percent) — was essential in each game. Freshman Matt Ustaski’s early third-period goal Friday was scored on the power play and gave the Badgers a brief 1-0 lead; in Saturday’s game, freshman Jack Dougherty scored the game-winning goal on the power play early in the third, breaking a 3-3 deadlock.
After Saturday’s game, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said that the Badgers had “collectively as a group tonight” shrugged a monkey of their backs. Wisconsin’s five goals Saturday equaled the total goals the Badgers had scored in three previous games. Senior Joel Rumpel made 64 saves in the two games. While every team needs to look to its upperclassmen for leadership, if the Badgers don’t get more scoring out of their freshmen and sophomores — and soon — it’ll be a long season for Wisconsin.
2. A sweep for Michigan.
Michigan continues to score goals, averaging 3.77 per game, but now the Wolverines seem to be settling down in front of their own net and playing better and more consistent team defense. With 3-2 and 6-0 wins over Rensselaer at home this past weekend, the Wolverines recorded their second sweep of the season and extended their win streak to three games. There are many players on this squad capable of scoring goals, but junior forward Boo Nieves’ two goals Saturday are an especially welcome addition to the mix. Nieves netted three goals in 34 games last season after registering eight in 40 as a freshman. He began the 2014-2015 season without a goal in eight games and he’s scored four in the past five games.
Sophomore Zach Nagelvoort made 29 saves in two games and earned his first shutout of the season Saturday, the third of his career. If Michigan’s defense solidifies and the team continues to score at will, it’ll be a fun season for Michigan.
3. A mixed bag for the Big Ten in nonconference play.
A weak third period and overall weak offensive effort led to a 3-1 Penn State loss to Cornell Saturday in Madison Square Garden. After losing to Princeton on the road Friday, the Spartans rebounded for a win and the series split Saturday. The Buckeyes were victimized, 6-2, by Western Michigan Friday before beating Notre Dame 5-1 Saturday. And after scoring three goals in the last 11 minutes of the third period in a 6-2 win over Boston College, Minnesota allowed Northeastern’s game-winning goal at 17:24 in the third period of Saturday’s 3-2 loss.
It was a good weekend of nonconference play for every team in the Big Ten to gauge what it needs to do for the remainder of the season. Several teams seem vulnerable late in the game, unable to sustain complete-game efforts. There is good goaltending in the league. Lots of guys can score. Some guys can’t buy a goal. The Big Ten went 6-4-1 for the weekend, and that may be an accurate indication of how this conference can perform when all of the play is nonconference next March and April. In its second season, the Big Ten is poised for an interesting year.