1. All three B1G teams expected to prevail did prevail, almost completely.
While the game itself is played on the ice, coming into this past weekend, it was easy to project the winners and losers. No. 4 Penn State hosted unranked Michigan State and won two games. No. 9 Minnesota hosted unranked Michigan and won two games. No. 10 Ohio State hosted unranked Arizona State and won … a game, and then tied. In other words, none of the Big Ten teams that were expected to win lost — and that is a very good thing for the league’s chances of placing more than one team in the NCAA tournament. In fact, Penn State moved to first place in the PairWise Rankings, an extraordinary thing for a program with such a short Division I history.
The games this past weekend went a little way toward separating the haves from have-nots in the Big Ten standings, too. Minnesota and Penn State are tied for first place with 15 points each. With a record of 1-5-0 in B1G play, Michigan has three points and is second-to-last; the Spartans have no wins in six conference games. Wisconsin has nine points and Ohio State six, and each of those teams has two games in hand on everyone else in the league.
2. Goals. A lot of goals.
Not one team scored fewer than four goals in victory over the weekend. The Nittany Lions beat the Spartans 5-2 and 5-3, the Golden Gophers beat the Wolverines 5-2 and 4-2, and the Buckeyes beat the Sun Devils 6-1 before tying Arizona State 2-2.
We’ve come to expect goal scoring this season from Penn State and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions have the top scoring offense in the country, averaging 4.58 goals per game, and the Buckeyes (4.20) are second. Although the Gophers hadn’t played since the Mariucci Classic, the series against Michigan marked the second consecutive weekend of play in which Minnesota registered nine total goals. In fact, the Gophers have been consistently good, offensively, since their series against Minnesota State Nov. 18-19, when they scored just two goals on the weekend.
Currently, the Gophers are fifth in scoring nationally (3.80) and you know who’s sixth? Wisconsin, with 3.61 goals per game. If the entire first half of the season had been Big Ten teams beating up on each other rather than playing a variety of nonconference opponents, these statistics wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful as they are. It’s safe to say, though, that B1G Hockey can produce some big scoring this season.
By the way, Penn State and Ohio State square off this weekend, and Wisconsin is hosting Minnesota.
3. There was one small fly in the ointment.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of course. If you’re a Michigan State or Michigan fan, this past weekend of hockey was painful and frustrating. If you are a Sun Devils fan, that tie against Ohio State on the road — with its late third-period, extra-attacker goal to knot things up — looks pretty darned good.
But if you’re in the Buckeyes’ corner, that tie against Arizona State may give you a bit of a pause. Sure, it was a quick turnaround from the night before to the Saturday afternoon start time and the Sun Devils aren’t pushovers, but the Buckeyes should have swept and didn’t. In fact, the Buckeyes have swept just three times this season, the last time against Rensselaer Nov. 18-19. Since then, Ohio State is 3-3-1. Consistency is something that Ohio State needs to shore up in the second half. Right now, the Buckeyes are No. 13 in the PWR, and history has taught us a lot about how easily that PWR bubble can pop.