1. Robert Morris is Ohio State’s Achilles’ heel.
For reasons unknown to anyone other than RMU coach Derek Schooley and OSU coach Steve Rohlik, the Colonials by and large have the collective number of the Buckeyes. Robert Morris dealt Ohio State its first loss of the season Friday night in Columbus and a doozy it was — 6-2 with three unanswered RMU goals in the second period, two of them on the power play. The teams tied, 4-4, the following night in Pittsburgh. Heading into the weekend, the Colonials were 3-1-0 against the Buckeyes in Columbus and the Buckeyes were 2-0-1 in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris. Talk about being true to form. Also coming into the weekend, the Buckeyes had given up more than two goals in a game only twice so far this season. The Buckeyes have their vulnerabilities.
2. The Nittany Lions continue to score goals.
Penn State swept Niagara at home Thursday and Friday, each contest a 5-1 game. Averaging 4.22 goals per game, the Nittany Lions hardly seem to be rebuilding, and as they play their next six games at home, by the time they host Michigan to open Big Ten play Dec. 1-2, the Nittany Lions may be very confident, indeed. Freshman Denis Smirnov leads PSU in scoring (5-10–15) and the Nittany Lions have 15 players who have scored at least a goal. Add to that the outstanding start that freshman Peyton Jones (1.95 GAA, .923 SV%) has had in net and Penn State may be in a very good place when B1G play begins in earnest in the second half of the season. The one thorn? PSU’s power play, which converts at 18 percent of the time for 25th in the country.
3. B1G Hockey continues to improve in nonconference play — and that could be a big deal.
With a record of 6-3-2 for the weekend, the Big Ten is now 27-15-7 (.622) for the second-best nonconference record in D-I, behind only the NCHC (.635). This is a very welcome development for a league that has struggled in the past two seasons with its extensive, early nonconference schedule. Particularly impressive this past weekend was Minnesota’s 5-5 tie against North Dakota, followed by the Gophers’ 2-0 win over the Fighting Hawks. Add to that the much-improved Badgers and Spartans — each earning splits on the weekend — and the league from top to bottom is showing signs of strengthening. As I’ve written, given the resources of this conference, there is no reason for the Big Ten to be anything resembling bottom-dwelling in the overall Division I picture. If the play of the league as a whole continues, this will be good news for B1G Hockey come NCAA tournament time.