Conference sweeps and nonconference mayhem

Greetings, everyone.

We had a full slate of hockey this weekend with all seven Big Ten teams in action. Here’s how everything played out:

  • Michigan split with Ferris State at home
  • Penn State split with Mercyhurst at home
  • Minnesota swept Michigan State at home
  • Notre Dame swept Ohio State on the road
  • Wisconsin lost to and tied North Dakota at home

Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:

1. The Gophers look to have their game back in gear

The home sweep of Clarkson was impressive, but I was interested in seeing what Minnesota would do as an encore this weekend. Michigan State, by all means, isn’t the strongest opponent, but with the Spartans coming off of a sweep of Lake Superior and already having beaten Western Michigan and Bowling Green this season I thought they might be able to give Minnesota a run for its money in at least one game this weekend.

I was wrong, Minnesota cruised to a 3-1 win on Friday and a 4-0 win on Saturday. Friday’s game looks close on paper, Sam Saliba cut the Gophers lead to one early in the third period before Rem Pitlick gave the Gophers a two-goal lead again less than four minutes later, but in watching the game I never really felt that the Spartans were going to complete the comeback. The Gophers dominated on Saturday, chasing John Lethemon from the net in the second period.

The Spartans will have to figure things out on the fly as they welcome Wisconsin to town next weekend. Minnesota will travel to Michigan.

2. The Big Ten could have really used a Wisconsin win this weekend

Considering the Badgers had the lead twice on Friday and Saturday, it’s disappointing that the Badgers only came away from their series against North Dakota with a loss and a tie.

However, these two games were highly entertaining to a neutral observer. Matthew Freytag lit the lamp twice during Friday’s loss and Kyle Hayton played well in net both nights.

The Badgers have a good chance to get back on track next weekend when they head to East Lancing snd they’ll host Michigan the weekend after that.

3. Penn State may have a goaltending problem

The Nittany Lions came back to earn a series split on Saturday by beating Mercyhurst 7-5 but, while a win is a win, the number of goals Penn State has been allowing lately is concerning. The Nittany Lions have allowed an average of 4.83 goals per contest over their last six games. Their season average of 3.90 goals per game makes them the 57th-ranked defense in the country.

Peyton Jones has a 4.02 GAA this season and Chris Funkey’s average is sitting at 3.50. While all the blame for giving up a truckload of goals doesn’t fall on the goaltender, it’s clear that Penn State could use some better play between the pipes.