Right back where we started

Thanks to three splits, the standings going into the last weekend of the regular season look very similar to what they were going into this weekend. Michigan State and Michigan were able to pull off the upset on Friday over Ohio State and Minnesota respectively, but the Gophers and Buckeyes were able to come back and get the split. Penn State and Wisconsin also split their series at Pegula Ice Arena.

Here are my thoughts from the second-to-last regular season weekend of the season.

1. Minnesota missed an opportunity on Friday 

Playing one of the bottom two teams in the conference, even on the road, was a good opportunity for Minnesota to grab six conference points and put the conference race on ice. With Minnesota leading 2-0 after one period on Friday, and 3-2 in the third period, it looked like the Gophers were on their way to picking up three points on Friday night.

Michigan, however, didn’t go quietly when Vinni Lettieri scored at the 13:38 mark of the third period and gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead. The Wolverines tied the game when Jake Slaker scored on the power play less than three minutes later and Evan Allen scored the game-winning goal with a little more than two minutes left in the game. Will Lockwood added and empty-net goal with less than a minute left to give the game its final 5-3 score. Michigan had 41 shots in the game, including 17 in the third period.

“Good start,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said after the game. “We gave up too many shots.  We can’t give up forty-plus shots in a game.  Credit Michigan.  I thought they played a good game tonight. They made us work for everything.  I thought when we went up 3-2 we were in good shape, but then we couldn’t close it. They played a good game and they earned it.”

2. The two sides of Wisconsin 

Friday was a good example of how good Wisconsin can be when its offense is clicking at a high rate. Saturday’s was a good example of what happens when that offense goes cold. The Badgers beat Penn State 7-4 on Friday and got trounced 6-0 on Saturday.

The loss was Wisconsin’s worst of the season.

“Early in the game when we had our chances to stay in the game, their goalie made some saves for them,” Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said after the game. “The more we fell behind, the harder we tried offensively to get back in it and the more we exposed ourselves.”

Penn State’s Peyton Jones stopped all 36 Wisconsin shots on Saturday one night after giving up six goals to six different Wisconsin players.

3. The standings

Here’s how things stand with two games remaining for each team

1. Minnesota (39 points)
2. Wisconsin (36)
3. Penn State (31)
4. Ohio State (29)
5. Michigan (16)
6. Michigan State (11)

Michigan State travels to Minnesota next week, Michigan will host Penn State and Ohio State will travel to Wisconsin.

With six points up for grabs, we could see some movement during the final weekend. Minnesota is still sitting pretty, thanks to the fact that it has been able to come back and get splits the past two weekends. It’s a tall order for Wisconsin to make up a three-point defect when Minnesota is hosting the last-place team and the Badgers are hosting a team that still has a chance to move up in the standings.

How will things end up? I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no movement, but the one thing that is for sure is next weekend should be fun to watch.