All six Big Ten teams were in action against each other this weekend. Both of the two-game series ended in sweeps and Michigan battled back for a split in its elongated two-weekend series with Michigan State.
Here’s how things ended up:
- Penn State swept Wisconsin at home and picked up its first season sweep of a conference foe in program history.
- Minnesota swept Ohio State at home.
- Michigan took down Michigan State outside at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. Penn State is a very dangerous team
The pessimistic naysayer in me still wants to find reasons to not believe in Penn State but the reality is that this squad is a very real threat to win the conference and do some damage in postseason play, despite this being only its third season at the Division I level.
This team is fun to watch and people in “Hockey Valley” are showing up to watch. More than 6,000 people showed up to Pegula Ice Arena for each game against the Badgers this weekend.
Consistency has been the Achilles heel for Penn State this year and it does have some bad losses and ties on its résumé. However, if you look at the rest of the Big Ten and even every other team in the country, with the exception of Minnesota State, North Dakota and Boston University, teams have struggled to put together long winning streaks.
The Nittany Lions are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. They have very winnable series on the schedule against Michigan State and Oho State, but also have to play Minnesota four times and Michigan twice more. If Penn State is able to win three or four of those games against the Gophers and Wolverines it’ll do wonders in terms of how far it can go into the postseason.
2. The Gophers looked like the Gophers again
Minnesota’s Travis Boyd doesn’t have a “C” or an “A” sewn on the front of his jersey, but the senior has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Gophers this season.
It was obvious that the Gophers missed Boyd when an injury forced him to miss some time earlier this season, but his return to the lineup didn’t immediately pull Minnesota out of its slump. However, Boyd has put up good numbers when he’s been able to play this season and was very vocal about the team’s recent play, saying that it was unacceptable.
His play this weekend, which should make him the first star this week, wasn’t the only bright spot for Minnesota this weekend. The Gophers also got goals from some players who had been struggling like Hudson Fasching, Vinni Lettieri and Leon Bristedt. Adam Wilcox also looked like he took a couple steps in the right direction towards being the kind of goaltender that he’s capable of being.
This sweep was exactly what the doctor ordered for Minnesota and it is now in a tie for No. 13 in the PairWise rankings. My prediction is that the Gophers aren’t going to win enough down to stretch to get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, but remember, all it takes is a maximum of three wins to get the automatic bid from winning the Big Ten Tournament.
3. Good things come to those who wait
There was a cloud of doubt hanging over the Hockey City Classic on Saturday, with some reports that the games at Chicago’s Soldier Field might have to be postponed. The only problem was that the metaphorical cloud didn’t block out the sun’s rays.
The game, however, did go on and Michigan defeated Michigan State 4-1 after 100-minute delay to the game’s start time. The afternoon game between Western Michigan and Miami was also delayed because of warm weather and mechanical issues.
The victory allowed Michigan to retain its lead in the Big Ten conference standings. The Wolverines hold a two-point lead over Penn State. Minnesota clawed its way up to third after getting six points this weekend.