Gophers are the champions but Michigan is still the favorite

The regular season is officially in the books. The final weekend wasn’t necessarily very dramatic, but there were two series that could have changed the seeding of the conference tournament and another that was a preview of the only predetermined matchup that is going to happen in St. Paul. In the end the seeding was the same coming out of the weekend as they were going in.

Here’s how things ended up:

  • Minnesota and Wisconsin split their series in Minneapolis
  • Michigan swept Penn State at home
  • Ohio State won an overtime game against Michigan State on Friday and the Spartans came back and got a shootout victory on Saturday

Here’s three things from the regular-season finale:

1. Minnesota hangs another banner

Congrats to the Gophers on their fourth consecutive regular-season championship. Quite the impressive feat. Is Minnesota the best team in the Big Ten? Probably not, but the Gophers are a team that played their best hockey against conference opponents and they earned the regular-season trophy.

The Gophers made it interesting. Wisconsin picked up a 4-3 victory on Friday, despite a strong comeback effort from Minnesota. Saturday’s game was close, too, until Minnesota scored three unanswered goals in the third period to pull away for a 4-1 victory.

With the split, Minnesota is officially on the on the outside looking in when it comes to the PairWise Rankings meaning than it will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. That’s not a position that most conference champions are used to being in, but the Gophers do have a couple things working in their favor. They nabbed the top seed in the tournament, so they will play the winner of the Ohio State and Michigan State game. Minnesota is a combined 7-1 against those two teams this season.

This year’s tournament will also take place in St. Paul, a stone’s throw from Minnesota’s campus, so Minnesota can expect a decent crowd to go along with the luxury of not having to travel.

2. Michigan got back on track

Michigan made a valiant effort to jump the Gophers in the final weekend, but the Wolverines couldn’t overcome their two losses to Ohio State last weekend.

Michigan did lock up the second seed in the conference tournament by winning two impressive games against an opponent it will probably face again on Friday. The Wolverines beat Penn State 7-1 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.

While the offensive production was impressive, we’ve seen that for most of the season. What may give Michigan fans hope heading into the postseason was that the Wolverines held a Penn State team with a pretty good offense to two one-goal games. Especially after the debacle against Ohio State, that was a site for sore eyes.

3. Who do you got?

The match ups are set. Penn State against Wisconsin with Michigan taking on the winner and Ohio State against Michigan State with Minnesota facing off against the victor. If the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are able to move on they will get another shot against a team that beat them four times this season. The cliche says that it’s hard to end another team’s season, and it’s also difficult to beat a team five times in a row.

I would personally be surprised if we saw a Minnesota-Michigan final. Upsets have been a theme this year in the Big Ten, especially as of late, so it would be surprising if things go according to plan this weekend.