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Big Ten Hockey Power Poll Week 5: Gophers Tops, Penn State Distant Second

Hannah Foslien

For me, personally, the only way the Gophers victory over Iowa would feel complete was if the hockey team finished off Notre Dame Sunday afternoon as I drove home from deer camp.  I was not disappointed, unlike most of the other fanbases in the conference.  Let's begin the bloodletting.

#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (0-6)

Is it really embarrassing to get swept by the #2 ranked team in the nation?  Well, yes it is when that team is former WCHA rival North Dakota.  It's not that North Dakota is a bad team (they're a good team), it's that Wisconsin USED TO BE a good team and North Dakota was a good rival.  Now Wisconsin is an embarrassingly bad team.  The Badgers more than doubled their season goal production with four goals on the weekend, but that only pushed their goals per game average to 1.17 per.

I didn't realize it before reading it last week, but the Badgers play 14 of their first 16 games at home.  Pathetic.  It'll be even more pathetic if they lose all of those games (please please please please).  What's even more pathetic is that their 0-6 record came against the second easiest schedule in the nation (by RPI so far).  That Mike Eaves certainly knows how to make a schedule.

The only thing the Badgers can hang their hat on is that they're not the worst defensive team in the Big Ten...

#5 - Michigan Wolverines (2-5)

...That distinction belongs to Michigan, who allows 3.86 goals against per game.  Michigan took the week off, which hopefully (for them) gives them some time to figure out the back end of the ice.  They'll look to improve this weekend against perennial Atlantic Hockey power team American International.  Jobu help you if you manage to lose one of those games, Michigan.

#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (2-5-1)

Ohio State scheduled a decent opponent last weekend!  They welcomed Nebraska-Omaha to Columbus the friendly way, allowing four goals each night.  Matt Tomkins' save percentage Friday night was sub .800, which is a rough outing.  The Buckeyes were within one goal after they scored in the third period, but a PP goal by the Mavericks and then an empty netter made for an ugly finish.  Saturday was better, and the Buckeyes led the game after the first period, but UNO found timely goals in the last two periods for the win.

#3 - Michigan State Spartans (3-5)

I'm not impressed by MSU's series split at New Hampshire, but unlike the other three teams beneath them this week, the Spartans won a game.  This series was all about the goaltenders.  If not for a great performance Friday night by MSU's Jake Hildebrand (42 saves, 3 goals) and a horrible game by NH's Adam Clark (16 saves, 4 goals), the Spartans might have faced a series sweep.  Saturday, the script flipped and it was Hildebrand's turn to allow 4 goals on 20 shots.  Clark turned in a marginally better performance, making 19 of 22 saves.

Apparently year four of the Tom Anastos era is still a rebuilding year.  I wonder if MSU knew it was embarking on a thirty year road to relevancy when they hired him.

#2 - Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1-2)

Penn State had last weekend off, and no team is threatening their position at number two in this poll, which is somewhat amazing to me.  Sure, the Nittany Lions haven't played anyone terribly noteworthy, but that changes this weekend when they take on #4 UMass-Lowell on their home turf.  I think we'll know a lot more about Penn State after those two games.

#1 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-1)

I feel like I barely need to make the argument for Minnesota sitting atop this poll, but here it is anyway.  The Gophers swept Notre Dame (#15 ranked, at the time) by an aggregate score of 9-2.  Compare that result to what any other Big Ten team did last weekend.  If the Gophers could have learned to stay out of the penalty box, the weekend result would likely have been even more lopsided.  The Gophers have amassed their impressive record against the most difficult schedule of any team in the country (by RPI, so far), so I guess I should be talking about why they're the best team in the country and not even worry about the Big Ten.