At the start of the year, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said that his team was focused on a little redemption this season. I suggested that perhaps the entire league needed to embrace that word. In the third week, Big Ten teams made progress toward that end with a 6-4-2 showing in nonconference play.
1. Sweeps week.
The Golden Gophers earned their first wins of the season with sweeps of Northeastern, 4-0 and 4-3, with rookie Eric Schierhorn in net both nights and junior Hudson Fasching scoring his first three goals of the season — a very good development, indeed.
Penn State also swept American International, outscoring AIC 13-6. While I’m sure that coach Guy Gadowsky would like his team to allow fewer goals, averaging 5.60 goals per game through the first five games is more than merely promising. Freshman forward Chase Berger notched three goals in the series, and he now has five goals in five games.
The best thing about these sweeps is that these are teams that the Gophers and Nittany Lions should have beaten — with no offense to Northeastern and American International. Good teams find a way to defeat the teams they should.
2. Fighting for ties.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan had to come from behind to fight for a tie after leading an opponent, and for each team, this is a sign of positive development.
The Badgers were leading Ferris State 4-2 after the second period of Friday’s 5-5 tie, but the Bulldogs scored three third-period goals to take the lead. With the Wisconsin net empty at 19:40 in the third, Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Tim Davison netted his first goal of the season — his third career goal — to bring the score to 5-5. The Badgers dropped the Saturday rematch, 2-1.
The Wolverines led the Dutchmen 4-3 midway through the third period Friday when Union scored two goals four minutes and eight seconds apart, giving them a 5-4 lead. With the Michigan net empty at 19:30 in the third, senior Justin Selman scored to tie the game, his second goal of the season. Selman had 11 goals last year and didn’t register one until his sixth game of 2014-15. Michigan went on to defeat Rensselaer Saturday, 5-2.
3. Strength in loss.
The Spartans bounced back from a 4-2 Thursday loss to Lake Superior State with a 2-0 win Friday. It was the first shutout of the season for senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who stopped 21 shots in the game, and it was also Hildebrand’s 10th career shutout.
Ohio State was swept by No. 3 Providence — but not without a fight. The Buckeyes lost 2-1 and 6-4, and in Saturday’s game, sophomore Matthew Weis and freshman John Wiitala scored two goals 31 minutes apart late in the third to cut the Friars’ lead in half. Weis also had the five-on-three power-play goal that OSU scored Friday, and Wiitala’s goals was the first of his career.