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Happy Sunday afternoon before a shortened work week!

The first weekend of Big Ten conference play is officially in the books. Four of the league’s six teams played each other this weekend. Here’s how things shook out:

  • Ohio State and Michigan State split their Thursday/Friday series. The Spartans took the first game 3-1 and the Buckeyes responded with a 3-0 victory.
  • Michigan and Penn State split a two-game series at Yost Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions won 3-2 on Friday and the Wolverines captured an 8-1 victory on Saturday.
  • Wisconsin dropped two games in Colorado, losing 5-2 to Colorado College on Friday and 3-2 to Denver on Saturday.

Here are three things that I saw this weekend:

1. Two B1G series = Two splits. More to come?

After one weekend, four teams are tied for the lead in the Big Ten and, even though I still think Minnesota will win this conference pretty convincingly, close series throughout the conference season could be a common occurrence. This should come as no surprise, considering the conference standings weren’t set in stone until the final weekend last season. Add on the fact that Penn State looks like it will be, at the very least, a larger thorn if everybody’s side this season, and we should see more of the same this year. If the Nittany Lions keep playing at this level, we could be looking at another situation where the final weekend of conference play will determine playoff seeding. Big Ten play will resume in two weeks. All six teams will play nonconference opponents next weekend.

2. Michigan’s roller coaster ride continues

One of the splits this weekend was Michigan and Penn State at Yost Ice Arena. The Wolverines dropped the first game 3-2 and trounced the Nittany Lions 8-1 in the second game. Saturday’s game was important, even though it was only the second conference game of the season. A 0-2 start, and getting swept it their own building, would not have been good for a Wolverines team that is struggling to gain any consistency this season. Saturday’s performance was, in my opinion, the Wolverines’ best performance of the season, but they need to build on it. So far this season they haven’t been able to carry momentum from one game to another.

3. Oh Wisconsin

I also thought that Saturday’s performance against Denver was the Badgers’ best effort of the season. The fact that it resulted in a 3-2 loss really tells the story about how Wisconsin’s season has gone so far. The one-goal loss effort also came one night after giving up five goals in a three-goal loss to a subpar Colorado College team. The Badgers will play their next eight games at home. They went 17-2-1 at the Kohl Center last season, so one would think that they should be able to pick up a victory or two. However, their opponents are Ferris State, Penn State, Michigan Tech and Boston University (combined record of 32-12-3).