This was the kind of weekend of nonconference play that the Big Ten needed. While the Golden Gophers and Badgers would have loved a sweep and Penn State would have liked a win, a 4-2-1 weekend nonconference record — when six of those games were against Hockey East and the NCHC — is a mighty good sign.
1. Those Spartans are showoffs.
And I am not complaining one bit. A dozen goals in a weekend? Against New Hampshire? Michigan State extended its win streak to three games with a sweep of the visiting Wildcats, 5-0 and 7-4. For a little perspective, heading into the weekend the Spartans were averaging 2.17 goals per game through their first five contests. For more perspective, you have to go back to Dec. 14, 2014, when the Spartans beat Clarkson 6-4 to see the last time Michigan State netted more than four goals, and in 2014-15, the Spartans hit five or more goals in a single game just twice. The last time Michigan State scored a dozen goals against a single opponent in a weekend was when Princeton played in Munn Arena Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2013.
Kudos to a trio of juniors who are having a fast start for the Spartans. Forwards Joe Cox, Mackenzie MacEachern and JT Steinglein are off to set personal records. Cox had two goals against UNH to bring his total to three in eight games this season, two shy of the five he scored in 35 games last year and half of what he scored in 36 contests as a freshman. MacEachern had a goal in Saturday’s win and has four in eight games after scoring 11 goals in 35 contests in 2014-15. Steinglein, though, extended his goal-scoring streak to three games after netting one each night against New Hampshire and now has five goals in eight games — two more than he had in the 38 games he played combined in his first two seasons in East Lansing.
And kudos to a trio of freshmen who scored their first collegiate goals for the Spartans: Mason Appleton, who had the game-winner for his first goal Friday and another goal on Saturday; Brennan Sanford, who had the game-winner for his first goal on Saturday; and Cody Milan, who had the fifth goal Friday night.
2. Those Badgers had themselves a three-game win streak.
And I’m not complaining at all, even though the streak ended Saturday.
The Badgers did the near-unthinkable when they went into Ralph Engelstad Arena last Friday night and delviered then-No. 1 North Dakota its first loss of the season, 3-1. Even more unthinkable is that they came from behind to do it — and then came from behind in the second period of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to make a really good game of it again. Wisconsin last registered three consecutive wins at the end of 2013-14, when the Badgers beat Michigan State (Mar. 15, 2014) before sweeping their way into the inaugural Big Ten playoff title.
More perspective: Friday’s Wisconsin win brought North Dakota’s seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) versus UW to an end. The last time the Badgers had beaten North Dakota was Oct. 22, 2011.
I’m liking this UW freshman goaltender, Matt Jurusik (2.66 GAA, .913 SV%), who made 29 saves in the win and 35 in the loss. I’m loving that junior forward Grant Besse has four goals in 10 games after scoring 11 in 32 last year. Besse had the only goal in Saturday’s 3-1 loss. And there are two more junior UW forwards who deserve a nod: Jedd Soleway, whose three goals in 10 games are five fewer than he scored in 70 games total his first two seasons as a Badger, and Corbin McGuire, whose first goal of the season Friday night was his third career goal.
3. Those Golden Gophers earned themselves a road split.
And who can complain about that, especially when the opponent was then-No. 18 Notre Dame? After losing 4-3 Friday night on a late third-period Notre Dame goal, the Gophers scored three third-period goals Saturday to win 4-1, breaking Notre Dame’s five-game (3-0-2) unbeaten streak.
The Gophers have another freshman goaltender I really like, Eric Schierhorn (2.31 GAA, .925 SV%), who has seen every minute of play in the Minnesota net this season. Schierhorn made 62 saves on the weekend.