Well, last weekend was about as ugly as we've seen the Gophers play since the last time the were swept (on the road at Wisconsin with Steve McInchak leading a goat-rodeo crew of officials). The similarities between the two weekends are kind of amazing but I'll cover that later. On to the poll, represented this week by a forest fire.
#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (0-6)
The Badgers played two games two weeks ago, which meant they clearly needed a weekend off. At least they didn't lose this week. Next up, they'll drive their cardinal and white clown car to Colorado to take on Colorado College (2-7) and the #10 University of Denver (6-3). UPDATE:
This is their onlyThis is their only remaining road trip of the year (2014, I'm not kidding).
#5 - Ohio State Buckeyes (3-6-1)
The Buckeyes split a home and home series with Bowling Green in which the road team won each game. Friday, they scored three goals in the third period to win 3-2. Then they lost 3-2 at home in a game where they never held the lead. The biggest concern for Ohio State is goal scoring and the power play, which was 0-7 on the weekend. These were two very evenly matched teams apparently, and they played a tight series.
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#4 - Michigan Wolverines (4-5)
Michigan swept a series because they played American International University. I'm not impressed, but a sweep is a sweep so they've just barely climbed over Ohio State. This was probably a nice weekend for a program that we getting desperate for some positivity.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (3-6)
MSU scheduled a quality opponent in Boston College, so despite losing at home (and their status as one of three conference teams with six losses already) they stay in spot #3 in this poll. The Spartans dug a 2-0 hole in the first thirteen minutes of the game, but they managed to stay close and make this a game in the third period. Following the theme of the weekend, 0-4 on the power play sunk the Spartans in this contest.
#2 - Penn State Nittany Lions (6-2-2)
Penn State had the best weekend of any Big Ten team, in my opinion, by splitting a series at UMass-Lowell. I'm still not impressed by their schedule, so while they're a solid #2 (not threatened from below), they're a solid #2 (they're not threatening above, at this point).
#1 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3)
Last weekend sucked. Minnesota-Duluth just pushed the Gophers around for two full games. The similarities between last weekend and the weekend sweep by Wisconsin last season are kind of eerie. UMD sweep: power play is 0-5 on the weekend, only scored one goal on the weekend, and the Gophers took 15 penalties. Wisconsin sweep: power play is 1-8 on the weekend, team only scored two goals all weekend, and the Gophers took 5 penalties. The amazing thing is that none of these games ended with terrible score lines (even though 3-0 is kind of ugly) because Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) is so good. He posted a .931 save percentage in the last two games, but when he faces 72 shots, there's only so much he can do.
The Gophers are now 3-3 in their last six games. Is it time to hit that panic button? Definitely not. The last six games have all been against ranked teams, and we're still REALLY early in the season. Bad weekends happen. Hopefully the team uses this weekend (as well as a week without any official games) to get back to work, get healthy (Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers), Michael Brodzinski (San Jose Sharks), Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) and Travis Boyd could all use some healing time, I think).
Dishonorable Mention: Justin Crandall, University of Minnesota-Duluth
I really don't need to go into this too in depth. I've reached out to the NCHC to see if there will be any supplemental discipline for Crandall's knee-on-knee hit on Brodzinski. The only commentary I really have is this: I was getting tired of Duluth's color commentator constantly saying that Duluth's skaters are "not dirty players" and assuming their dirty plays were unintentional. New flash, color commentary guy: making dirty plays makes you a dirty player, and it doesn't get much dirtier than this:
I've reached out to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference office in Denver because I can't find any news about this hit being reviewed for supplemental discipline, and that's a shame. There is no place for this type of hit in any level of hockey. If this were the NHL, Crandall would likely be suspended for at least six games. It's a miracle Brodzinski wasn't injured on this play. I've yet to hear back from NCHC Commisioner Josh Fenton, Assistant Commissioner Joe Novak, or Director of Officiating Don Adam (they have not had much time to respond, and I'll update if they do).