Nonconference sweeps and a four-point weekend for Wisconsin

Good evening, everyone. Six of the seven Big Ten teams were in action this weekend. Michigan and Wisconsin played a conference series and the rest played nonconference foes. Here’s how the cookie crumbled:

  • Michigan State swept Ferris State in a home-and-home series
  • Minnesota swept Harvard at home
  • Notre Dame swept RPI on the road
  • Penn State swept Arizona State on the road
  • Wisconsin won and tied against Michigan. The Wolverines picked up the shootout point after Saturday’s tie

Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:

1. The Gophers got back on track

Based on the rankings, the Gophers series with Harvard was the marquee matchup of the weekend and Minnesota came up with two big wins. Minnesota held a 4-0 lead after two periods on Friday and, despite recent memories of the leads it blew last weekend against Michigan, held off Harvard in the third period for the 4-2 victory.

Saturday’s game was more tense for Gophers fans and it appeared like Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen might steal the game. Harvard took a 1-0 lead in the first period and held that lead until there was slightly more than five minutes left in the third. Rem Pitlick’s goal forced overtime and the Gophers took care of business quickly in the extra frame when Tyler Sheehy housed a one-time pass from Brett Gates Jr. Madsen ended the game with 48 saves. He didn’t get much help from his own offense as Harvard only mustered 16 shots on goal.

2. Notre Dame keeps finding ways to win

Notre Dame hasn’t blown out every opponents during its current seven-game winning streak, but the Irish have shown that they are capable of finding ways to get a win, even when it isn’t easy.

A perfect example was on Saturday when the Irish found themselves in a scoreless overtime game against RPI. Cam Morrison made sure that Notre Dame didn’t have to play too long in overtime when he scored thirteen seconds into the extra period. Notre Dame outshot the Engineers 34-25 in the 1-0 victory. On Friday, when the Irish won 4-2, RPI held the 39-31 shot advantage. Cale Morris picked up both wins for the Irish this weekend.

3. Even against less-than stellar competition, Penn State needed a solid defensive weekend

Holding Arizona State to two goals over a two-game series doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy in Happy Valley, but it’s a step in the right direction for Penn State. The NCAA’s second-youngest program beat the newest 7-0 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday. Chris Funkey picked up a 15-save shutout on Friday and Peyton Jones made 23 saves in Saturday’s win.

Jones started both of Penn State’s losses to Notre Dame, so I’m assuming that Funkey getting the start on Friday was a product of that and to get him some game-time against some lesser competition. One would think that Jones, who won 23 games for the Nittany Lions last year, will still be the guy going forward. For Penn State to have success the rest of the season it’ll need Jones to discover some of his magic from last season.