This past weekend was a phenomenal weekend around the Big Ten. The only conference match up would be Wisconsin-OSU, with the second game taking place at the historic Madison Square Garden (which is a helluva barn). Wisconsin swept the Buckeyes to tie Minnesota for the top spot in the Big Ten. There is now a showdown looming between the Badgers and Gophers on 25 & 25 February for what could be conference supremacy heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Penn State and Minnesota were both in non-conference tilts this weekend. Minnesota went 1-1 with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night and an emphatic 4-0 over Bemidji State in the North Star College Cup (a tournament between the D1 Minnesota schools). Penn State played a lone game against Princeton, falling 5-4 on Saturday night. Gotta wonder how Penn State is going to trend after achieving the school’s first ever number-one ranking. Three straight losses is certainly not how they were hoping to respond to that amazing accomplishment.
Given the state of the Big Ten standings (aside from Michigan State and Michigan) the Big Ten will definitely get fun down the stretch. Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are all still in contention. Besides them, MSU and UM could play big-time spoilers for the contenders. With only six teams, the Big Ten is going to be really fun down the stretch. That could start this weekend with a full slate of great matchups.
Fun Things Around the Country
Arizona State beat Quinnipiac on the road securing a road split against a strong Quinnipiac team for a very young Arizona State program.
#3 Denver completed a home sweep of #18 Omaha and continues to build a very strong case to be a #1 seed in the looming NCAA tournament.
#19 Providence swept New Hampshire and seems to be picking up momentum at the right time. Notably, Providence is the last school to make both the hockey and basketball tournaments in the same season (Spring 2015).
Air Force swept Army in Colorado Springs and looks to be the favorite to win the Atlantic Conference. These two rivals played an inspired this weekend, but Air Force was the better team and improves to 16-8-4. They should win the Atlantic and make the tournament. Definitely root for them should MSU not pull off a miracle and win the Big Ten tournament.
I will be at the Friday night game against Wisconsin this weekend to cover our beloved Spartans. Follow me at @chaddyc11 for updates throughout the contest as well as notes after the game.
Ohio State @ Michigan
Ohio State has been the better team throughout the season. Michigan, has had a particularly bad year. A week off could give a Michigan squad some much-needed time off heading into a home series against the Buckeyes. I see this going as a split, but would not at all be surprised to see OSU steal two on the road in Ann Arbor.
Penn State @ Minnesota
This will be the defining series of the weekend in the Big Ten. Both teams had a week off of conference play but did not play especially well in non-conference action. Truth be told, I have not had a chance to really watch either team play this season. Penn State is ranked sixth, and Minnesota checks in at number seven. Either way, this should be a fun series. My prediction is a Minnesota sweep. Penn State has been trending down since receiving the top spot in the rankings, and Minnesota is playing good hockey as of late.
Wisconsin @ Michigan State
Michigan State took a week off after a disheartening split with Michigan. The Spartans’ play against Michigan leaves plenty of room for optimism for a weekend series against an inconsistent Badgers team. Sophomore forward Mason Appleton should definitely have an inspired weekend playing against the home-state Badgers. I would look for Michigan State to build on the way that they played against Michigan. I am hoping for a split here, a sweep would do wonders for what seems to be a lost season. Getting swept would be yet another blow to a Spartan team that has not been able to find consistency all season.
Former Detroit Red Wings assistant Tony Granato is the head coach for Wisconsin. Other than that, he does not have much of a connection to the Mitten. Aside from him, Wisconsin has one player from Michigan, freshman netminder Jack Berry from Holly, Michigan.