I hope everyone had a great holiday season, I had to get this one posted early before all of the Vikings/Packers festivities begin. Most of the Big Ten teams hit the road to play in a holiday tournament last week, with the exception of Minnesota hosting a tournament and Wisconsin gearing up for the second half with an exhibition game.
Here are some highlights from the beginning of the second half of the season:
- Michigan won the Great Lakes Invitational
- Ohio State won the Florida College Classic
- Minnesota went 1-1 at the Mariucci Classic
- Penn State went 1-1 at the Three Rivers Classic
- Michigan State dropped both of its games at the GLI
Here are my three thoughts from the holiday tournaments:
1. Michigan won the GLI and Michigan State dropped two overtime games
The Wolverines picked up a close 3-2 win over Northern Michigan and then defeated Michigan Tech 4-2 in the championship game at the GLI.
Michigan showed that it could win games without relying on its offense to make up for bad defense. Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech both outshot the Wolverines in losing efforts. In the championship game, Michigan was able to erase Michigan Tech’s 2-0 first-period lead and score four unanswered goals to pick up the win.
Where Michigan might be able to use the GLI to help jump start the second half of the season, Michigan State’s struggle continued at the tournament. The Spartans fell to the Huskies and Wildcats in overtime at the tournament and now have a 1-10-1 record in their last dozen games.
2. Ohio State’s offense exploded
Whether it is the start of a turnaround or just a team that had a good weekend after an extended break is yet to be determined, but Ohio State had a very successful trip to Florida. The Buckeyes won a close game against Boston College and then dominated Cornell 8-0 in the championship game.
The Buckeyes will need to carry some of that momentum over to have a successful start to conference games in 2016 as they play three of their first four games on the road with a series at Wisconsin and a home-and-home with Michigan.
3. Minnesota has another up and down weekend
The Gophers were able to hold off multiple comeback attempts from Connecticut on Friday and looked primed to win the Mariucci Classic on Saturday before Harvard scored with the goaltender pulled and won the game in overtime.
It was an up-and-down game to cap off an up-and-down weekend for the Gophers. Harvard jumped out to a 2-0 led before Minnesota scored three unanswered goals to take the lead. Kyle Criscuolo scored the game-tying goal for Harvard with 34 seconds remaining in the third and won the game two and a half minutes into overtime.
The Gophers have enough talent to win the Big Ten this year, but their inconsistency might be their downfall. The young players will continue to progress, but with the second half of the season beginning the concern becomes how quickly they’re able to progress.