Happy Super Bowl Sunday, everyone. Go Falcons!
Three conference series went down this weekend with Penn State traveling to Minnesota, Michigan State hosting Wisconsin and Ohio State and Michigan tussling twice at Yost Ice Arena. Here’s how things ended up:
- The Buckeyes and Wolverines split their series with Michigan winning on Friday and OSU coming back for the split on Saturday
- Minnesota swept Penn State at home
- The Badgers swept Michigan State on the road
Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. Minnesota put Penn State in its place
The one conference series this weekend that featured two top-10 teams didn’t exactly end up looking like two top-10 teams were on the ice. Minnesota handled Penn State at home, winning 5-1 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday.
Penn State’s game on Saturday was an improvement compared to Friday, but all that ended up getting the Nittany Lions was a closer loss. The Nittany Lions controlled play for first five minutes of the first and second period and were able to take a 1-0 lead in the first and a 2-1 lead early in the second.
Minnesota’s goal that came between the two for Penn State, a shorthanded breakaway by Leon Bristedt, was huge and head coach Guy Gadowsky admitted after the game that giving up the shorty was “a bit of a killer.” Minnesota tied up the game again about eight minutes into the second, took the lead roughly a minute later and padded the lead seven minutes after that.
Bristedt had a hat trick in the game, with a shorthanded, power-play and even-strength goal. They were his ninth, 10th and 11th goals of the season. The Swede was a 20-goal scorer last year, so if he continues to heat up along with line mate Taylor Cammarata who also had a great game on Saturday, a dangerous Minnesota team could become even more lethal.
The Nittany Lions rough road continues next weekend when they travel to Wisconsin.
2. Wisconsin is rolling
Todd Milewski dug up an interesting stat about Wisconsin’s 4-3 overtime victory over Michigan State on Saturday. The Badgers won a game after trailing after two periods for the first time in 51 games. The last time before Saturday was a victory over Ohio State in the 2014 Big Ten championship game. 2014 was also the last time the Badgers were a participant in the NCAA Tournament.
With the way this Wisconsin team has been playing lately, a return trip to the tourney is possible. Wisconsin has rattled off five wins in a row and has averaged 4.2 goals per contest during the stretch. With guys like Luke Kunin, Grant Besse and Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin has an offense that gives it a chance in any game. Freshman Trent Fredric has also impressed the year with 10 goals and 13 assists.
Goaltenders Jack Berry and Matt Jurusik each picked up a win this weekend. Both net minders have played well during the five-game stretch, where the Badgers have given up three goals or less in each contest.
The three-goal number will be key for the Badgers down the stretch. If they can continue to give up that many or less, they will have a good chance to keep getting good results.
3. Ohio State needed Saturday’s win
The Buckeyes put themselves in a bad spot in both games this weekend. They trailed 5-1 after two periods on Friday and were down 5-4 on Saturday. Goaltenders Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey both saw action in both games this weekend, which is never a good thing.
Ohio State made a valiant rally on Friday, but ended up losing 5-4. On Saturday the Buckeyes were able to tie the game eight and a half minutes into the third period and Nick Schilkey score the game-winner with 30 seconds remaining in the period.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Buckeyes and left them 10 points behind Minnesota and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings. Ohio State will have a chance to cut into that lead when they host Minnesota next weekend.
I talked with Brad Traviolia, deputy commissioner for the Big Ten in charge of hockey, on Friday. The topics of the conversation, which include the changes to the conference tournament next year and the addition of Notre Dame among other things, will be featured in my midweek column on Wednesday. So be on the lookout for that.