Week two is in the books and all six Big Ten teams hit the ice for some nonconference action this past weekend.
Here’s how things played out:
- Michigan swept Mercyhurst at home, 6-4 on Friday and 3-2 on Sunday.
- Michigan State was swept on the road at Denver, 4-2 on Friday and 3-0 on Sunday.
- Ohio State was swept by Miami in their home-and-home series, 3-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.
- Penn State and Notre Dame split their series at Pegula Ice Arena with the Irish winning 6-4 on Friday and the Nittany Lions returning the favor with a 5-3 victory on Saturday.
- Minnesota was swept by in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth in their home-and-home series, 3-1 on Friday and 3-0 on Saturday.
- Wisconsin headed out East and was beaten by Boston College 6-0 on Friday and Boston University 4-1 on Saturday.
Here’s my three* thoughts from the weekend:
1. Disappointment for Michigan State
Considering what happened in Ann Arbor on Saturday, I doubt the hockey team getting swept really dampened the mood in East Lancing this weekend. That being said, the MSU hockey team let an opportunity slip through its hands on Friday and failed to rebound on Saturday.
After taking a 2-1 lead early in the third period on Friday, Michigan State surrendered two goals in less than four minutes during the middle of the third and gave up an empty-net goal during the last minute. Jake Hildebrand made 32 saves on Friday. He made 38 saves during the Spartans’ 3-0 loss on Saturday.
A problem that showed up again was the lack of offensive-pressure by Michigan State. The Spartans got 27 shots on goal on Friday and only mustered 16 during the second game of the series.
2. Winless Gophers, Badgers and Buckeyes
Through two weekends, half of the conference still has not put a crooked number into the win column.
Ohio State dropped its second two-game series to an in-state rival in consecutive weekends. The Buckeyes have netted just six goals in their four games and have given up 14. Things are going to get harder before they get easier for Ohio State as it heads on the road to take on Providence next weekend.
With the schedule and history of early-season struggles, Ohio State’s slow start may have been predictable. Minnesota’s however, wasn’t. The Gophers dropped to 0-3 after getting swept by Minnesota-Duluth this weekend and have scored one goal in those three games.
Minnesota will host Northeastern for two games at Mariucci Arena next weekend. That should be the series where we find out a lot about the Gophers and what their future will hold. If they can’t get the offense going against the Huskies it may be a long season.
As predicted, Wisconsin wasn’t able to turn two opening-weekend ties into any success against two tough opponents on the East Coast. The Badgers will play two at Ferris State next weekend and host Arizona State the weekend after. I think at least one or two (dare I say three?) victories could come out of those four games.
3. Michigan starts 2-0
Neither game was very pretty, but the preseason favorite started its season with two victories.
The good thing for Michigan is its schedule, with road games at RPI and Union and home contests against Robert Morris and Niagara before its first tough test of the season at Boston University in late November. No disrespect to any of those teams I mentioned, but if Michigan is the team that a lot of us think they are capable of being it should be able to get through that stretch and go into Boston with zero or one loss on the season.
Bonus: Penn State
It’s not right to completely ignore one team in the conference when I talk about everyone else. The Nittany Lions had a pretty good weekend, even with the defensive letdown on Friday. The fact that early in year three of being a Big Ten team Penn State went into a series on equal-footing with a program like Notre Dame really points to how good of a job Guy Gadowsky has done with that program.