#6 Penn State Nittany Lions
Well it had to happen sometime. I'm just glad that Penn State decided to pick up their first B1G Ten victory against Michigan! After giving up seven goals to the Wolverines on Friday, the Lions rallied on Saturday to spin a 4-0 shutout. I'm sure the fans nearly blew the roof off the Peg in the first period as the team notched three first period goals. Hard to be snarky about something going right for once for Penn State, so I'll bide my time on this one.
Up next: Michigan State
#5 Michigan State Spartans
Last weekend the Spartans played Ohio State about as evenly as is possible, playing to a pair of 2-2 ties. Unfortunately for MSU, they apparently wasted all their good shootout Juju against the Gophers, and they dropped both shootouts. Those two lost points cost the Spartans the #4 position on the league table. What's worse for this defensive minded team is that they blew a third period lead in each game, which is the real reason they dropped four of the six available points. It's that type of disappointment that will drive Tom Anastos try new, mind-expanding substances.
Up next: at Penn State
#4 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes had the same problem everyone seems to have against Michigan State, scoring goals. Even though the two ties didn't do anything to lift them in the Pairwise (they're languishing in 25th place), they did move up to fourth place on the conference table. In their last five games, they've taken thirteen of the possible fifteen points. I don't know if their momentum will be enough to climb into an at large bid for the NCAA Tournament, as their next six games are against Wisconsin, Michigan, and the Gophers. If the Buckeyes are able to nab some wins in that stretch, they'll receive an RPI bonus, which could help them sneak into the tournament. Because their hot streak just doesn't quite make them relevant in the conference race or the national race, the Buckeyes win this week's Good Effort Award.
Up next: Wisconsin
#3 Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines had a golden opportunity to pull within three points of the first place Gophers, but instead they decided to get shutout by Penn State on a Saturday night (did I mention they scored seven times on Friday?). It's official, Michigan has a tendency to drop a stinker from time to time. They've also struggled a bit on the road, so here's hoping those two tendencies combine for a truly brutal weekend for Michigan against the Gophers. For losing to Penn State, Michigan wins the JLP Memorial Facepalm Award.
Up next: at Minnesota
#2 Wisconsin Badgers
Here's a little fact about me: I scored a goal during a Gophers v. Badgers game at Target Center in 1991. It was no big deal, but it set me on a path to hating the Badgers for the rest of my life. Well, this weekend did not help. Wisconsin held the Gophers to just two goals in two games, which is usually enough to sweep. Well, we won round one, and they won round two, and round three can only come in the B1G Tournament, so game on, Wisconsin. See you in March. Until then, I'll be over here seething.
Up next: at Ohio State
#1 Pride On Ice- Minnesota Golden Gophers
A sweep is a hard thing for Gopher fans to swallow. I understand this. I couldn't even log onto the internet from Friday night to Saturday evening because the thought of it turned my stomach. It's brutal to get swept, but it's even more brutal to get swept by Wisconsin. The Gophers played pretty well Friday, but didn't get any bounces to go their way. Saturday was a bit ugly, and the Gophers didn't do a great job of creating opportunities for pucks to bounce lucky. Hopefully the coaching staff can use these games as a "rock bottom" type moment and turn the offense around. They've managed only five goals in four games since the NSCC. El Padrino needs to have a "come to Dumbledore" moment with this team.
Up next: Michigan
Dishonorable Mention: B1G Ten Linesmen
My Twitter followers surely know that I was disgusted with the linesmen after this series. The two plays that got me particularly steamed were so egregious that the referees should have stepped in, but didn't. Therefore, they deserve some shame as well. So Dan Carey, Matt Gerlach, Bryan Hill, and Steven McInchak, prepare for your flogging.
Let me set the scene a little bit. It's Friday night, and the Badgers are leading 2-1. 27 seconds remain on the clock, and there is a face off in the Wisconsin zone. The Gophers have pulled Adam Wilcox for a sixth attacker and the Badgers are down to four skaters after a penalty. On the draw, Nick Kerdiles should have been thrown out of the face off circle for crossing the dot before the puck was dropped. On the second attempt, Kerdiles lifts Travis Boyd's stick before the puck is out of the linesman's hand, and he proceeds to crosscheck Boyd in the face. Here's the proof.
At this point, any one of the four officials could have stopped play, ejected Kerdiles from the circle, and replayed the draw. Well, none of them did, the Gophers never gained solid possession to set up their offense, and the game was over. I'm not saying the Gophers would have scored on this play, but they didn't get a fair chance at the face off, which is critical in this situation. That abject failure is squarely on the shoulders of Carey, Gerlach, Hill, and McInchak.
Luckily, this was a weekend series, and the four officials would have an opportunity to show that they learned from their mistake and are ready to properly handle similar situations in the future. Let's see how they did Saturday night. The Badgers lead by one goal with 15 seconds left. The Gophers have pulled Wilcox for the extra attacker.
Again, it's Boyd vs. Kerdiles. Here's the first attempt at a draw, after which Kerdiles should have been ejected from the face off.
Next, here's the stick lift before the linesman begins the puck-dropping motion.
And here's when the puck is actually dropped.
Again, any one of the four officials could have stopped play immediately, booted Kerdiles, and redrawn.
One of these occurrences in a game is bad officiating. Identical situations with identical actions that resulted in the same poor decisions by the same four on-ice officials is embarrassing for the B1G Ten. Making an error is human. The blown face off on Friday was still embarrassing because face offs are Hockey 101. Repeating the error on the very next night? Inexcusable. For shame, B1G Ten. For shame.