Such an interesting weekend. It will be an interesting two weeks leading up to the Big Ten tournament.
1. Wisconsin and Minnesota split, so the Badgers are still in the hunt for a regular-season championship.
Minnesota was in first place entering the weekend, three points ahead of second-place Wisconsin. The Badgers beat the Golden Gophers 3-2 Friday night, the Gophers returned the favor Saturday, and the two teams are in exactly the same positions as they were before they faced off in Mariucci Arena. The Badgers scored all five of their goals on the weekend in the second period, coming from behind each night. The difference Saturday was Justin Kloos’s late third-period game-winner for Minnesota.
The Gophers finish the season with series against Michigan State and Michigan. The Badgers finish with Penn State and Ohio State. While Minnesota arguably has the easier remaining schedule, Wisconsin has an opportunity to continue to climb in the PairWise Rankings. The Badgers jumped from No. 20 to No. 13 in the PWR after the weekend’s games, while Minnesota remains fourth.
2. Michigan 1, Ohio State 0.
That was the surprising score of Saturday’s early game between the Wolverines and Buckeyes in Columbus — surprising because Ohio State averages more than four goals per game and Michigan gives up more than three per game on average. Before disintegrating somewhere before midseason, Michigan’s defense was very good, very organized, very capable. In Saturday’s shutout win, it was interesting to see that defense emerge once more and to get a glimpse of what a focused Michigan team is capable of doing. Senior Zach Nagelvoort earned his fourth win of the season, his second shutout of the season and the ninth of his career. The Buckeyes outshot the Wolverines 84-57 for the series.
The win gave the Wolverines a split for the weekend after losing 4-2 Friday. That split cost Ohio State its third-place spot in the Big Ten Standings and two spots in the PairWise Rankings. Now the Buckeyes are No. 15 in the PWR, meaning that they’ll likely have to win out the season against Michigan State and Wisconsin to move anywhere off that PWR bubble.
3. Penn State takes care of business.
The Nittany Lions swept Michigan State on the road, 4-2 and 4-1, moving Penn State into third place in the B1G standings with a two-point lead over Ohio State and bumping the Nittany Lions from 11th to ninth in the PairWise Rankings. Friday’s game was a routine 1-1 game until the last 10 minutes of the third period, which saw a bunch of penalties and three consecutive Penn State goals — the first a game-tying goal scored 13 seconds after the Spartans pulled ahead. Penn State scored three in the first period Saturday and never really looked back.
To end the season, the Nittany Lions host Wisconsin and travel to Michigan. Penn State is eight points out of first place and five behind the second-place Badgers. While eight points is a big gap to close, it’s quite possible for Penn State to finish second — and I wouldn’t count the Nittany Lions out completely.