With four of the Big Ten’s six teams playing in seven games, there were a few things that we learned during the weekend … although I’m wondering if we didn’t know them already going in.
1. Minnesota isn’t infallible.
No team is perfect — which we knew going into the weekend — and when the Gophers faced their toughest opposition yet so far this season, they showed that they were on equal footing. As I suspected would happen with the series against Notre Dame, the team that was able to dictate the pace and style of the play in a given game won that game. In Friday’s contest, the Fighting Irish held the Gophers off the board, patiently waited for opportunities, and made it look easy — although it assuredly was not — when they took advantage of Minnesota’s mistakes. It was a heck of a hockey game.
In Saturday’s game, the Gophers got the first two goals in the first period, which is undoubtedly the key to their 5-4 win that night. That battle went back and forth and was tied by the end of two, with freshman defenseman Jake Bischoff scoring the game winner midway through the third. As Don Lucia himself would undoubtedly tell you, the Gophers were a fortunate to escape South Bend with a win.
Two notes of interest: All five goals in Saturday’s win were scored by freshman and the Gophers haven’t given up eight goals to a single opponent in two games since they did so against Denver, Feb. 10-11, 2012.
2. Ohio State is about to learn a lot about itself.
There was much strangeness occurring in Columbus this past weekend, not the least of which was this brawl between the Ohio State and Bemidji State women’s teams, which led to an NCAA record 303 penalty minutes and 18 majors for fighting with disqualifications.
I know that has nothing to do with the Big Ten, but come on.
Across campus, the men pounded Niagara, 10-2, in two games. The 6-1 Saturday win, though, proved very costly for OSU. Freshman Matt Tomkins left the game early with a lower body injury that may keep him out of the net for a significant part of the season. This is one week after sophomore Collin Olson left the team because he wasn’t getting enough playing time. The Buckeyes turned to walk-on freshman goalie Logan Davis, a local kid from the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, who played for the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets before walking on at OSU.
Davis made 14 saves and allowed the only goal in the second period. There is no word yet on how the Buckeyes are going to handle being down to one goaltender, and a walk-on at that.
Given that Big Ten play begins in a few weeks, it’s safe to say that Ohio State may be in for a learning experience through the remainder of the first half of the season.
3. Shoot the puck already.
The Nittany Lions managed to eek out a 2-1 win over Sacred Heart in spite of outshooting the Pioneers 39-21.
The Spartans, however, were not so lucky. Michigan State returns from the Upper Peninsula without a win, having dropped two games to Michigan Tech, 3-0 and 3-2, and the second in overtime. MSU had 19 shots in each contest, outshot by 11 the first night 19 the second. The inconsistency of Michigan State’s offense is probably a concern for the Spartans, but it is early in the season.