Three things from the Big Ten’s penultimate weekend

The Big Ten regular season is nearing the finish line. Six of seven teams were in action this weekend, with Wisconsin having the weekend off. Here’s how things played out:

  • Michigan swept its home-and-home series with Notre Dame
  • Michigan State and Penn State split their series at East Lansing
  • Minnesota downed Ohio State on Friday before the two teams skated to a 1-1 tied on Saturday with the Buckeyes picking up the shootout point
And here we go with my three things from the weekend that was:
1. Michigan is hot at the right time
Michigan has the unfortunate place of being the odd-team out when it comes to Big Ten teams in conference action during the regular season’s final weekend, but the Wolverines put themselves in a good spot this weekend by sweeping Notre Dame.
The Wolverines jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period at Notre Dame on Friday and answered a quick Irish power-play goal in the second period. Notre Dame scored again in the middle period to cut the lead back to one goal, but Michael Pastujov scored at the 8:08 mark of the third period to ice the game for the Wolverines.
Hayden Lavigne had a great game on Friday with 34 saves but he followed up that performance with an even more impressive showing on Sunday when he made 34 saves and picked up a shutout. The Wolverines completed the sweep by downing the Irish 1-0 on Sunday. It was the first time the Irish had been swept in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines play a nonconference series against Arizona State at home next weekend.
2. The Gophers put themselves in the drivers seat for first-round home ice
A shootout loss on Saturday meant that the weekend for Minnesota wasn’t as good as it could have been, but taking four of six conference points from Ohio State should be considered win for the Gophers.
Those points mean that Minnesota has a five-point lead over fifth-place Wisconsin and Penn State heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The second, third and fourth seeds will host a best-of-three series against the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament this season.
Minnesota will play two games at Penn State next weekend while Wisconsin will travel to play Ohio State.
3. Speaking of the standings 
Stranger things have happened, but it looks like we might know who will be hosting the first weekend of the Big Ten Tournament. Here’s how the standings look heading into the last weekend of the regular season.
1. Notre Dame (50 points)
2. Ohio State (39)
3. Michigan (38)
4. Minnesota (33)
5. Wisconsin (28)
5. Penn State (28)
7. Michigan State (18)
Since the Wolverines have played two more games than everyone else, Minnesota still has an opportunity to jump them. There, of course, is also the possibility that Minnesota gets swept, in which case the Gophers could fall to sixth.
Regardless of the outcome, the first round of the tournament could provide some interesting matchups. Michigan is playing well right now and I like the Wolverines chances at home. There is also the chance of another matchup between Minnesota and Wisconsin, which I’m sure the Badgers would relish after their 7-1 loss last time out. Michigan State has shown that it can win games this season, but I don’t know if I like the Spartans in a three-game series on the road.