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.

101 COMMENTS

  1. Well you got Clarkson vs RPI right, dang.  Listening to WRPI (from South Carolina), I got the feeling that the Engineers did not even show up wanting to play.  I hope I hear a better result (RPI alum) tonight.

  2. BBear 94: Yes, Sullivan may not be D1 quality, but he has played some very good games.

    TylerDurdenMaine: Yes I have to agree with you on that. Did you see Diamond getting the extra minutes for cross-checking the referee? Maybe I stand corrected.

    One of the reasons why Maine lost the Saturday night game is because of the poor Hockey East Officiating. Fyrer and Keenan were not calling obvious penalties, and they were making bad calls against Maine. Of course, Hockey East Officials always know how to ruin a great game. The four Hockey East schools outside of Massachusetts always suffer against teams from Massachusetts because of the refs. Here is a list:

    HATES MAINE
    ———————-
    Head:
     Kevin Shea (overuses the EMBELLISHMENT call)
     Dave Hansen
     Scott Hansen
     Tom Fyrer
     Kevin Keenan
    Linesmen:
     Chris Aughe
     Bob Bernard
     Mark Sullivan

    Fair Referees (All the referees on this list, the Boston schools think are unfair just because the Boston schools are always used to being favored.)
    —————————————————————————————
    Head:
    3. John Gravallese: I might have ranked him a bit higher if he reffed a few more Maine games, always keeps the calls fair and minimal.

    2. Jeff Bunyon: Keeps the calls fair. Also met him in person; a really nice guy.

    1. Tim Benedetto: Really nice guy, keeps the calls fair and minimal for ALL teams.

     

  3. Are you serious?!?!?!?!? Of course, the Black Bears get Kevin Shea and Scott Hansen as referees (read my other post.) Of course, the officials know how to ruin the game, call a penalty on Maine in the final minute, and Northeastern scored on the power play. The officiating is a disgrace to the Hockey East association. I am the last person to criticize officials, but you officials should be ashamed of what you have turned Hockey East into. Other conferences shake their head in disgust at Hockey East officiating. Have you ever wondered why you never see Hockey East officials in the NCAA tournament. They have turned Hockey East into a favoritism game. I’m sorry for anyone who read through my anger, but I am disgusted by the performance by Shea and S. Hansen tonight. Disgraceful.

    •  Ummmmm, HE officials did 2 out of 3 FF games last year, obviously they can’t officiate a game where a HE team is playing.
      I do agree though, the officiating is very suspect at times… read my post a couple of weeks ago after the BC/UNH series.  I am also not one to criticize officiating, but that weekend, I had to post, just as you did tonight.  Very frustrating sometimes.  You are trying to secure home ice and UNH is just trying to get in, every point counts and I look back at that BC series and know they deserved better than a 4-3 loss (2 goals in the final 3+ minutes, last on on a PP with :51 left) and a 3-2 OT loss after a penalty in OT.
      Good luck tomorrow!

  4. “Wait until next year”  This seems to be the war cry for Maine and UNH every season. 
    A BC win this afternoon combined with a BU loss would make for smooth sailing to the HE title next friday
    Go Eagles! 

  5. I agree that the standings seem to have mostly solidified at this point. Except for Minnesota/Michigan, the standings show large point gaps between the teams.

      • Yup, you’re right. I’ll go EP over Anoka, Stillwater over Farmington, Burnsville over Wayzata, rapids over bemidji… EP over rapids, Stillwater over Burnsville… Have to go EP in the final, just too much high end talent.

    • Time once again for the greatest weekend of hockey all year! I will be there, with my money on the emotional hometown choice of grand rapids over stillwater in the finale. (But eden prairie will be hard to beat…)

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