All six teams in the Big Ten were in action this weekend. Both conference series yielded sweeps and two teams had games against nonconference opponents.
Here’s how things played out:
- Minnesota lost to Minnesota State and Minnesota-Duluth at the North Star College Cup.
- Michigan swept Wisconsin.
- Michigan State swept Ohio State.
- Penn State picked up a win and a tie against Northern Michigan.
And here are three things I saw this weekend:
1. Minnesota is in free-fall mode as it takes last place in the North Star College Cup
The Gophers went 0-2 in two key noncnonference games this weekend and dropped themselves to No. 20 in the PairWise rankings. Minnesota fell 4-2 to Minnesota State on Friday night and dropped a disappointing 2-1 game to Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.
The top team in the country simply dominated the Gophers on Friday night. Even though the margin of victory was only two goals, and things got kind of interesting near the end, I never thought the game was in doubt.
The Mavericks possessed the puck with relative ease during the game and when Minnesota did manage to gain possession, it didn’t keep it for long. The Gophers were able to get the first goal of the game and tied it at 2-2 after Mankato scored two unanswered goals, but it was all Mavericks from the midpoint of the second period on.
Adam Wilcox’s shaky season continued on Friday, the junior net minder gave up three goals on five shots in the second period.
Wilcox was better on Saturday afternoon, but the team in front of him looked like it was trying to get pucks past a brick wall. The game was tied until about three minutes left in the third when Minnesota-Duluth scored on its first shot of the period. The Bulldogs ended up with two shots on goal in the game’s final period.
Minnesota will travel to Wisconsin next weekend for two must-win games against the Badgers.
Side note: Congratulations to Bemidji State work winning this year’s North Star College Cup. The Beavers defensive effort against Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State was simply phenomenal. Giving up one goal in two games against those two squads is quite the accomplishment.
2. Michigan’s winning streak continues against Wisconsin
I was at the North Star Cup, so I had to follow the other games on Twitter this weekend. At one point I saw that Wisconsin had a 3-1 over the Wolverines on Friday and thought to myself that maybe this would be the game where Michigan’s defense plays so poorly that its offense can’t compensate.
That didn’t happen.
Michigan came back and won 7-4 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday. After the game, Red Berenson compared this year’s team to the team he had in 1997-98. That’s some high praise considering that the Wolverines won a national championship that year.
“Well we’ve got a long way to go. But right now in recent weeks, we’ve looked like the team we had in 1997,” Berenson said after Saturday’s game. “But we’ve got a long way to go. Right now it’s good. It’s good to see our guys get some confidence.”
I’m pretty sure that Paula is going to focus on Michigan for this week’s column, so be on the lookout for that. The Wolverines defense still has me thinking that they won’t advance far in a tournament format, but there’s no denying that they’re a fun team to watch.
3. Michigan State is also playing good
Wisconsin wasn’t that tough of a test for Michigan this weekend, but Michigan State will give them a hard time on Friday. The Spartans are coming off of their first sweep of the season, beating Ohio State 4-1 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday, and they played some pretty good defense this weekend.
The two teams will play Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in a exact rematch of the GLI championship game and then meet again eight days later at Chicago’s Soldier Field for the Hockey City Classic.