Two conference series, one nonconference matchup and an exhibition game went down this weekend in the Big Ten. Here’s how things played out:
- Michigan defeated Minnesota 4-3 in overtime on Friday and completed the sweep by winning 7-5 on Saturday.
- Ohio State downed Penn State 5-4 in overtime on Friday but the Nittany Lions responded with a 4-1 victory on Saturday to earn the split.
- Wisconsin tied No. 2 Boston University 3-3 on Friday. The Terriers responded with a 6-1 victory on Saturday.
- Michigan State defeated the U.S. Under-18 Team 4-1 on Friday evening in exhibition play.
Without further adieu, here are there things that I saw this weekend:
1. Michigan is rolling
Michigan picked up a conference sweep, put itself atop the conference standings and the Wolverines got their coach his 800th career win. Saying that Michigan had a productive weekend would be putting it lightly.
Cutler Martin scored at the 2:16 mark of overtime period on Friday to end a back-and-forth game and give Michigan the victory. The Wolverines and Gophers exhausted the goal lights during Saturday’s game with Michigan coming out victorious 7-5.
With a slew of home games on the schedule, the Wolverines had an opportunity to make everyone forget about a slow start in December. They took advantage of the schedule and have now won 10 of their last 12 contests.
The next step for Michigan will be to improve its away record, which is currently 1-5. The Wolverines’ next eight games will be played away from Yost Ice Arena, six will be road games and two against Michigan State will be neutral-site games (one at Joe Louis Arena and the Hockey City Classic at Chicago’s Soldier Field).
2. Minnesota is reeling
Like Michigan’s slow start, Minnesota’s 7-1 start to the season seems like a distant memory. More recently the Gophers are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and haven’t been playing at the level that most people expect out of them.
Minnesota’s problems seem to be from the goaltender out. Adam Wilcox is the 40th-ranked goaltender in the country right now. He has a 10-6-1 record, .910 save percentage and 2.51 GAA. Those numbers don’t compare to the 1.88 GAA he posted during his freshman season or the 1.97 GAA from his sophomore campaign. Wilcox does have three shutouts this season but seems to unravel when he is peppered with shots. He was pulled in favor of Nick Lehr during Saturday’s loss to Michigan.
Minnesota will host Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena next weekend, which should be a series that can get the Gophers back on track. However, as the Badgers’ proved against Boston University this weekend, playing Wisconsin doesn’t equal an automatic sweep.
After the Wisconsin series the Gophers will play in the North Star College Cup with their first game against a Minnesota State squad that has been playing phenomenal lately and a possible second game being its fourth game this season against Minnesota-Duluth.
3. Overtimes galore
All three games that featured Big Ten teams went to overtime on Friday night. Thankfully for people like me who aren’t fans of the shootouts, especially at the college level, both games that had conference points up for grabs ended in the extra session. The Wisconsin-Boston University game went in the books as a tie with Boston winning the meaningless shootout 2-0.
The one thing could be considered a positive about the Big Ten having a shootout is that is gives teams more incentive to go for the win in overtime and not play for a tie. Whether that notion led to Michigan and Ohio State scoring overtime game-winning goals on Friday is beyond me, but pushing for a possible three conference points rather than potentially getting two with a shootout win and giving one to your opponent makes sense.