As the Big Ten continues to evolve, the season continues to be interesting in unexpected ways.
1. First, two important sweeps — one probably more so than the other.
Congratulations to Michigan State for its first sweep of an opponent in two seasons. The Spartans beat the visiting Lake Superior State Lakers, 4-3 and 6-0; the last time Michigan State swept an opponent was Feb. 19-20, 2016, and the last time the Spartans did so in Munn Ice Arena was Nov. 6-7, 2015, when MSU beat visiting New Hampshire. Incidentally, those were the only sweeps of the 2015-2016 season for the Spartans. In Saturday’s 6-0 win, sophomore goaltender John Lethemon faced just 15 shots in his second career shutout.
Congratulations to Ohio State for its sweep of Robert Morris, the second time the Buckeyes have swept the Colonials in what has become a contested little under-the-radar nonconference rivalry. In Friday’s 5-3 home win, Ohio State allowed more than two goals for the first time this season; in Saturday’s 3-1 road win, senior goaltender Sean Romeo faced only 14 shots on goal. The Buckeyes are currently third in the nation so far defensively, allowing just 1.50 goals per game.
Those sweeps help the Big Ten to a 26-12-3 nonconference record, which is a tick more successful than that of the NCHC (.671 to .670), although that is bound to change.
2. Second, Penn State and Michigan split in Pegula, which seems to be par for the course in B1G play.
The Nittany Lions edged the visiting Wolverines in a 5-4 overtime game Friday, with Chase Berger’s game-tying goal at 18:28 in the third period and sophomore Blake Glober’s first goal of the season — second of his career — winning the game 53 seconds into overtime. In Saturday’s 5-2 Michigan win, the Wolverines chased starting PSU goaltender Peyton Jones out of the net after his fifth allowed goal in the third period.
The split gives Penn State two league wins for the season, which is enough to put the Nittany Lions at the top of the B1G standings for the moment. The split also puts Michigan into a four-way tie for second place with Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin, as every conference series so far this season has resulted in a win for each team.
3. Third, Wisconsin loses a game that’s really important for the other guy.
After beating the visiting Saints, 4-2, Friday night, Wisconsin lost big to St. Lawrence Saturday night, a 6-3 decision that is SLU’s first win in eight games this season. The Badgers put a lot of shots on net both nights and outshot the Saints 37-13 on Saturday. Jack Berry started that game for Wisconsin, but was replaced by Kyle Hayton after the Saints scored two goals within three minutes early in the third period — just as they had early in the first. The game seems like an anomaly for the Badgers, who are 6-3-0 this season.