All six teams in the Big Ten were in action against each other this weekend. Here’s how the five contests played out:
- Minnesota went to Michigan State and picked up a win and a tie against the Spartans.
- Penn State swept Wisconsin on the road.
- Michigan went for the two-point conversion after a touchdown and defeated Ohio State 8-3 in a game on Friday evening.
Here are three things I saw from this weekend:
1. Penn State leads after two weekends
Just like everyone predicted, right?
Penn State has won three of its first four conference games and is sitting atop the Big Ten standings. Granted only Michigan State has played as many conference games as Penn State. Those two teams have played one more game than Michigan and Ohio State and two more than Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The reality is that it is way too early to talk about the conference race. Another reality is that after splitting with Michigan on the road and sweeping Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, Penn State is going to be a tough opponent for any team it plays for the rest of the season.
Penn State also dashed Wisconsin’s last saving grace, its conference record being at 0-0. Throughout Wisconsin’s slow start, I kept thinking that the Badgers’ season wasn’t dead. After getting my first opportunity to watch a full game on Friday evening, it’s clear that things aren’t great in Badgerland. The mantra is “never say never,” and Wisconsin may turn things around in the second half, but Wisconsin’s faithful might have to settle for seeing the freshmen progress and some moral victories this year while look forward to next year.
2. Minnesota follows up a great performance with a very lackluster one
With the parity in college hockey this year and the Gophers’ recent results at Munn Ice Arena, a win and a tie against Michigan State should be seen as a decent result for Minnesota. The fact that the 3-3 tie on Saturday came after a dominating 5-0 victory on Friday makes this weekend’s results a little harder to swallow for Minnesota fans.
In all reality, Saturday’s game was one where Michigan State should have come away with the victory. The Spartans outshot the Gophers 45-24. However, even though Michigan State managed to stay out of the box, the Gophers were 2-for-2 on their power play opportunities.
Even though the Gophers have a great goaltender, they haven’t fared well at all this season when giving up a lot of shots. In the Gophers’ four losses to St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth and Northeastern, they average 37.25 shots allowed. So the 30-shot mark seems to be key in whether Minnesota picks up a win or a loss.
3. Michigan’s lights the lamp again, and again, and again
After struggling on defense during the beginning of the season, Michigan seems to have figured out that a surefire way to defeat an opponent is to score a bunch of goals. The Wolverines’ eight-goal performance on Friday against Ohio State was their third of the season.
Michigan now averages 4.07 goals per game, which is good enough for No. 2 in the nation behind Robert Morris’ 4.21 clip.
Michigan’s defense, which gives up nearly three goals per game, still scares me, however. It’s the reason the Wolverines aren’t a top-10 team, even though they have the offensive-talent to be one.
The Wolverines went 6-1 during its seven-game home stand; it outscored its opponents 65-14 during those seven games. They will go on the road on Saturday and play Boston College to wrap up the first half of their season. A win at BC isn’t as epic of a feat this season as it usually is, but a win would do wonders for Michigan’s national image and its confidence in itself.