Good afternoon, I hope everyone had a great weekend. All six Big Ten teams were in action against each other this weekend. Here’s how things played out:
- Ohio State tied and defeated Penn State on the road. The Buckeyes won the shootout on Friday to take five of six points from the Nittany Lions
- Minnesota and Wisconsin split a series at the Kohl Center with the Gophers winning on Friday and the Badgers returning the favor on Saturday
- Michigan and Michigan State played a home-and-home series with the Spartans winning 3-0 on the road on Friday and Michigan getting the shootout victory after a tie at Saturday
Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. Down goes No. 1
If talk of Penn State’s less-than stellar strength of schedule contributing to its strong record was loud before, Ohio State going to Pegula Ice Arena and taking five of six conference points up for grabs will amplify it to deafening this week.
The Buckeyes fell behind by one goal three times on Friday night and rallied each time to tie the game before taking the extra point in a seven-round shootout. I’m a very anti-shootout person. Both teams played 65 minutes of even hockey and the fact that the skills competition went seven rounds drives home the point that neither team deserved more points than another.
On saturday, Ohio State definitely deserved the points. The Buckeyes scored three goals in the third period to pull away after each team had scored three in the game’s first two periods.
I have two takes on this series. The first one is that I’m not ready to say that the Penn State ship is sinking. The Nittany Lions still have the best winning percentage in the nation and, at the very least, deserve a chance to respond after their first winless weekend of the season. They will have a good opportunity to silence any naysayers, too. After playing Princeton once next weekend Penn State will have two games at Minnesota, two games at Wisconsin and two games at home against Minnesota. That three-week stretch will be make-or-break time for the Nittany Lions.
I’d also like to give props to Ohio State. Penn State didn’t give away points this weekend, the Buckeyes took them. OSU navigated a pretty tough schedule during the first half of the season with a lot of games on the road, and so far the Buckeyes are looking pretty good. I would be surprised if the end of the season rolls around and the Buckeyes aren’t right in the middle of the race for the regular-season title.
2. The Border Battle is back
As I mentioned in the picks blog last week, the games between Minnesota and Wisconsin had been missing something the past couple seasons when the Badgers were down in the dumps.
Well, I think it’s safe to put those mundane match ups in the history books.
This weekend, the Gopher won a back-and-forth game on Friday when Justin Kloos scored in overtime and the Badgers responded on Saturday by scoring four goals in a row in the second and third periods to win 5-3.
Another important thing to notice is that the announced attendance for Friday was 12,589 and Saturday checked in at 14,868. The Badgers are worth watching again and, even though playing a rival that is roughly a four-hour drive away certainly helps, people seem to be coming back to the arena.
3. Battle of the bottom-feeders
Both Michigan and Michigan State could have used a sweep this weekend, considering that both were swept the weekend before. In the end, it was Michigan State that came out of the weekend with four of six available points.
The Spartans put together a great game on the road Friday night. Michigan State scored one goal per period and Ed Minney stopped all 24 shots he saw. The Spartans scored one power-play goal and killed off all four Michigan power plays. MSU scored another power-play goal halfway through the third period on Saturday to tie the game, which eventually went to overtime and a shootout that Michigan won.
Michigan State fans can feel good about taking the majority of the points from an in-state rival, but I don’t see either of these teams making a run and leaving the conference’s cellar. There are just too many inconsistencies on both sides.