Four B1G teams played the last weekend of 2016.
1. Minnesota captured its first Mariucci Classic since 2012.
The Golden Gophers beat Mercyhurst 5-1 and Massachusetts 4-1 to take their own holiday tournament — and they should have. Entering the weekend, Minnesota was the strongest team in the tourney’s field and the only team under consideration in the PairWise Rankings, so a loss to either the Lakers or the Minutemen would have been a costly way to kick off the second half of the season. Sophomore Brent Gates, Jr., recorded his first career hat trick in Friday’s win over Mercyhurst. Justin Kloos had two goals and two assists on the weekend, including the game-winning goal in Saturday’s contest.
The weekend was a good one for the Minnesota penalty kill, which kept opponents 0-for-12, a very good sign as January begins given that the Gophers’ PK was average in the first half of the season. Minnesota has struggled for consistency this season, but the Gophers did play a difficult first half to prepare for the bulk of Big Ten play and emerged ready to challenge for the league title.
2. Michigan and Michigan State faced off in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational tournament.
This should have surprised no one heading into this weekend, as neither the Wolverines nor the Spartans seem capable of playing 60 minutes of hockey in any given game, let alone in games back-to-back nights. Michigan is a talented squad that can’t find a groove this season; the Wolverines have the 38th-best offense in the nation and 28th-best defense. Shut out by Michigan Tech, 2-0, in Thursday’s semifinal round, the Wolverines beat the Spartans 5-4 in overtime in Friday’s consolation game.
The Spartans lost to Western Michigan, 4-1, in their Thursday semifinal game, and then provided the crowd with a very good show in their 5-4 loss to Michigan. Trailing 4-1 heading at the start of the third, Michigan State scored seven seconds into the third and worked for two more to take the Wolverines to OT, and it was the kind of performance that many Spartan fans have come to expect — very hard working and short of a win.
3. The Buckeyes lost to the RedHawks at home.
This is something that likely surprised few Ohio State fans, in spite of the Buckeyes’ first-half success relative to Miami’s — but it’s a doubly bitter pill for OSU to swallow, as the loss to a despised rival was also the loss to a team nowhere near consideration in the PairWise Rankings, so the Buckeyes drop to an uncomfortable No. 13 in the PWR as they head into Big Ten play. Ohio State scored nine seconds into the Saturday game, led 2-1 after the first and 3-2 after the second … and then allowed four Miami goals in the second half of the third period. The expression “the wheels fell off” was invented for games just such as this.
The phrase “has that team’s number” is another that applies to this particular rivalry and the advantage is all Miami’s. The Buckeyes haven’t beaten the RedHawks since March 1, 2013, and Ohio State hasn’t taken a home game against Miami since sweeping the RedHawks in January of 2010. Including this game, that’s a span of 19 games in which Ohio State is 4-13-2 against Miami.