Minnesota rebounds again, setting up a wild finish to the regular season

Greetings from the Twin Cities where I’m spending a day off from work in preparation for seeing Bruce Springsteen tonight. Sorry, I had to brag, I’m very excited. Back to hockey, four teams were in action this weekend and after the contests we are, for the most part, right back where we started. Here’s how things played out:

  • Minnesota and Michigan split a series at Mariucci Arena
  • Ohio State took four of six points at home against Wisconsin

Here is a look at the standings:

  1. Minnesota (36 points)
  2. Michigan (35)
  3. Penn State (29)
  4. Ohio State (19)
  5. Michigan State (16)
  6. Wisconsin (9)

Here are three things I saw this weekend:

1. Michigan failed to sweep Minnesota, again 

Minnesota needed a rebound after Thursday night. Hudson Fasching saved the Gophers’ weekend, and possibly their chances as winning the regular-season title, with an overtime snip on Friday night.

Fashing’s goal came after Michigan and Minnesota each traded goals in the first and second periods. Neither team found the back of the net in the third period before the Gophers claimed the series split nearly one minute into the overtime period.

Friday’s game was more defense-orientated than most Michigan games are, Minnesota had the 27-25 shot advantage in the game. Each team surrendered a one-goal lead in the game. It was similar to the two-game set at Yost in December where Michigan lit up the scoreboard in the first game, but was brought back to earth the next night by Minnesota.

The win was, obviously, crucial for the Gophers. The series split means that Minnesota still owns a one-point lead in the Big Ten standings with each team having four games remaining.

2. The Wolverines will need help down the stretch

Michigan scored six unanswered goals on Thursday night and looked to be in a primed position to sweep a crucial series against Minnesota and control its own destiny down the stretch. Fasching’s overtime goal on Saturday, however, means that the Wolverines are going to need some help to capture their first Big Ten regular season  championship. 

Michigan has a home-and-home series with Ohio State next weekend and closes out the regular season with two games at home against Penn State. For comparison’s sake, Minnesota will travel to Michigan State next weekend and host Wisconsin for the regular-season finale.

Friday’s game was an opportunity missed for the Wolverines. Michigan will now need to win most, if not all, of its final four games and rely on the conference’s bottom two teams to trip on Minnesota to win the regular-season title.

Berenson told MLive he was confident in saying that he wouldn’t be scared in seeing the Gophers, or any team for that matter, in the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota is 2-2 against the Wolverines this season but has won both games after dropping the opening game in the series. The Gophers won’t have the luxury of being able to rebound after a loss in the postseason.

3. Close races at the top and bottom

Minnesota and Michigan are the headlining act for the final two weekends, but the way the other seeds for the Big Ten Tournament play out will also be interesting. Penn State and Wisconsin look to be pretty set in their respective spots in the standings but, with each team have a potential 12 conference points still on the table, nothing is set in stone.

Personally, I think the standings at the end of the season are going to look a lot like they do right now.  The answer to how confident I am in this prediction is “not very.” It seems like when you start to think you’ve figured out these six teams they throw a wrench into your predictions.