Two top teams split and Wisconsin gets a long-awaited sweep

Good afternoon, everyone. Four of six Big Ten teams were in action this weekend with Minnesota and Michigan taking the weekend off. Here’s how the four conference games this weekend ended up:

  • Wisconsin swept Michigan State at home, winning 5-1 on Friday and Saturday
  • Ohio State and Penn State split a series at OSU

Without further ado, here are my three thoughts from the first Big Ten games of the new year.

1. Wisconsin had back-to-back complete games for the first time this season

I have to start with the Badgers this weekend. Now, Michigan State had lost five games in a row coming into this weekend, so a sweep over the Spartans is no reason for Wisconsin to pump out its chest too much.

That being said, a sweep, any sweep, is a good thing for the Badgers. A sweep with two 5-1 wins makes things a little more impressive. The Badgers got five goals from five different players on Friday night, they played the game without leading scorer Luke Kunin who sat out after winning gold at the 2017 World Junior Championship the night before.

Saturday was more of the same from Wisconsin. The Badgers scored less than one minute into the game before Michigan State tied it a couple minutes later. Kunin, back in the lineup, scored twice in the second period to help Wisconsin pull away.

Jack Berry made 25 saves on Friday for the Badgers and Matt Jurusik returned to action from an injury and stopped 23 shots on Saturday.

For Michigan State, the Spartans have not lost seven games in succession and it’s beginning to look like tying and defeating North Dakota on the road was a mirage and not the start of an upward-trend.

2. Ohio State looked sharp on Friday

As I said in our picks blog before the weekend, the Buckeyes having played against Miami on New Years Eve could have gave them an edge over Penn State, a team that had been idle for more than a month, in Friday’s game.

The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 3-0 in the first game of their series this weekend. As one could probably have predicated, they typically-shot-happy Penn State team wasn’t an easy shutout for Christian Frey. The senior stopped 46 shots to get the shutout on Friday.

All three of Ohio State’s goal were scored late in each period. Drew Brevig scored the game-winning goal with 2 minutes, 15 second left in the first, Luke Stork lit the lamp with 27 seconds left in the second and John Wiitala added an empty-net goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

3. Penn State rebounded for an important win on Saturday

A sweep would have been huge for either Ohio State or Penn State this weekend. The Buckeyes had a chance but Penn State slammed the door on Saturday.

Shocking on Saturday, with Ohio State being a team that usually gets off to a quick start and Penn State being a team that loves to get a lot of shots, the first goal wasn’t scored until four minutes into the second period when Brandon Biro gave Penn State the 1-0 lead. The Nittany Lions scored two more goals in the third period to extend their lead to 3-0.

Ohio State made a valiant attempt to comeback and steal the game when Nick Schilkey scored twice in rapid succession near the midpoint of the third period, but Chase Berger scored when OSU pulled Frey for the extra attacker.

“That’s a really big win for us,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said after Saturday’s game. “That’s a tough team to play against, and we actually thought we had it in the bag. (Ohio State) didn’t give it up at all. They just kept coming and made it a very tight hockey game. Give them a lot of credit, but I’m very happy to get all three points here tonight.”

B1G Standings 

It’s officially the second half of the season, so I guess it’s time to start paying attention to the conference standings. Each team has now played four conference games.

1. Minnesota (9 points)
2. Penn State (9)
3. Wisconsin (9)
4. Ohio State (6)
5. Michigan (3)
6. Michigan State (0)

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. The Big Ten has 4 of the top 24 teams in the Pairwise. That doesn’t include Notre Dame, who will join the league next year and currently sits in the 16 position or Michigan, who is retooling and languishing for now in the mid-30’s. Are people now willing to put aside their bias and give the league, and Penn State, the acknowledgement that they deserve?

    • Do you realize that finishing in the top 24 in the Pairwise means nothing? You need to finish at least 13th in PWR to be safe, with all the automatic berths. Before you brag too much, at least acknowledge your creampuff schedule (including every team within your conference). When your top two teams are 19th and 22nd in SOS, it is not hard to have a good win %. Teams like BU (8th), UML (14th) and UVM (10th) have a tougher schedule each week.

      • I realize all of those things. The reason I mentioned the No. 24 PairWise was to demonstrate that the Big Ten has 4 teams that are quality squads at the moment and gaining ND next year. They currently have the No. 1 PairWise team, does the No. 1 PairWise mean anything? I’m not sure, maybe it does?

        And to show their bias against PSU, the USCHO just dropped them 2 spots despite being the highest ranked team in the PairWise. What a joke the opinion polls are. Keep trying to squeeze out the hated Big Ten, guys, it will work all the way until the tourney, then you will eat crow.

        • The opinion polls mean as much as finishing 24th in the PWR. You didn’t complain when DU was first in PWR but 3rd in USCHO poll, nor when UMD was first in PWR but 2nd in USCHO poll. Quit your whining. Being #1 in Pairwise at the end means you will stay as close to home as possible, except for DU, and play the #16 seed in your first game. By the way, what league has four of top eight in PWR? All playing a tough SOS.

        • When the Big Ten starts placing half their league in the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, year after year, then you might say the conference has earned some respect. That may or may not happen this season. Have you actually gone in and looked at Penn State’s schedule? It’s embarassing. Other than Ohio State last weekend, the highest ranked team they’ve played so far is Notre Dame.

    • Mark Hollis has his fingerprints all over this debacle, they both have systemically destroyed MSU Ice Hockey. MSU has had some talent, and still does, but the team and the program has no direction. It is time that Mark Hollis shows some leadership and does right by MSU Hockey.

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