Good evening, everyone. All six Big Ten teams were in action against each other this weekend. Things went very well for three teams, and not so well for their opponents. Here’s how things ended up:
- Minnesota swept Penn State on the road
- Wisconsin swept Michigan at home
- Ohio State swept Michigan State at home
Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. It’s not over until it’s over
It’s hard to put into words how crazy the final two and a half minutes of Saturday’s game between Minnesota and Penn State was. Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy tied the game with 2:11 left in the third period. The game remained tied for exactly 45 seconds before Penn State’s Denis Smirnov was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, which he calmly converted on and gave his team a 3-2 lead. The lead, however, didn’t last as Minnesota tied the game again when Justin Kloos scored with the goaltender pulled and four seconds left in the period.
The Gophers finished the job in overtime when Kloos fed Rem Pitlick for the game-winner.
If you haven’t yet, check out the highlights.
The win, coupled with Minnesota’s 6-3 win on Friday means that the Gophers are in the drivers seat with three more weekends of conference play remaining. The Gophers are first in the standings with 33 points, Wisconsin is second with 30, Ohio State is third with 23, Penn State dropped to fourth with 22, Michigan has 10 and Michigan State has eight. Minnesota has a 90 percent chance of winning the regular-season crown, according to playoffstatus.com.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are the only two teams with a realistic chance of winning the conference, which is convenient because they play each other next weekend.
2. Wisconsin’s offense shined again
Michigan hung around all weekend, but when it mattered the Badgers were too much for the Wolverines. Michigan managed to tie the game in the third period on Friday and Saturday, but Wisconsin scored three unanswered goals to end Friday’s game and two on Saturday to pick up the sweep. The Badgers won 5-2 on Friday and 6-3 on Saturday.
If Wisconsin wants to take the majority of the points from Minnesota next weekend and be in the catbird seat for the final weekends of play, its going to need an offensive outpouring like this weekend. I don’t like the Badgers chances in a 2-1 or 3-2 game against the Gophers but they can come out on top if the game turns into a track meet.
3. Ohio State battled all weekend
It wasn’t easy, but two one-goal road wins jumped Ohio State over Penn State in the standings. Especially after last weekend’s goal fest with Minnesota, it was nice to see that the Buckeyes managed to win a couple relatively low-scoring games and didn’t have to use both goaltenders in one game. Christian Frey played well all weekend and picked up both wins as the Buckeyes won 3-2 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday.
With Michigan State sitting in last place, this could be a potential first-round matchup at the final Big Ten Tournament. If that happens, these games showed us that it would be worth tuning into. Both Michigan teams have struggled mightily this season, but with all six team making the tournament they can still play a major role in the postseason tournament.