Around the Big Ten: Week 9
Matt McClure, Nate Pullen and Tom Johnston break down this weekend's Big Ten hockey games:
As we wrap up week nine of college hockey, the Big Ten’s top teams had a rough start to December. Four of the seven Big Ten teams continue to be represented in the USCHO rankings, but three of those four dropped in the rankings over the weekend. Let us recap everything that happened this past weekend and take a look forward at the upcoming matchups.
The No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-3, 2-2) traveled to Madison over the weekend to face off against the unranked Wisconsin Badgers (5-7-2, 1-3-2). After a shootout win by Penn State on Friday, Wisconsin answered in a big way on Saturday.
The first of the two-game series was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, sending it into overtime. After two scoreless overtimes, Penn State found the back of the net twice in shootout formation to seal the extra point. Liam Folkes and Alex Limoges were credited with the shootout goals.
On Saturday, things heated up as both teams combined to score 13 goals in a packed Kohl Center. Matthew Freytag got the scoring started for the Badgers early in the first period, only to be answered by Liam Folkes 20 seconds later to tie the game at one. After a combined six-goal second period, it looked like Penn State had all of the momentum going into the third, leading Wisconsin 5-4. That wouldn’t be the case as Wisconsin would go on to score four unanswered goals in the third period to finish off the Nittany Lions 8-5.
Penn State moves to (10-4-1, 2-3-1) on the season, falling to the No. 9 spot in the USCHO poll. The Nittany Lions are now also tied for last place in the Big Ten alongside Michigan State and Minnesota. Wisconsin moves to (6-7-3, 2-3-3) and still remains unranked in the USCHO poll. The Badgers are now tied for third place in the Big Ten with Michigan. Both teams have important Big Ten conference matchups coming this weekend. Penn State will return to Pegula Ice Arena to defend their home ice against No. 5 Notre Dame (10-4-1, 4-2). Wisconsin will stay home in Madison host the Michigan State Spartans (6-7-1, 2-3-1).
The No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-4-1, 4-2) won both of their games against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-6-1, 2-2), but they couldn’t get the job done in regulation.
In the first game, both teams were tied at one going into the third period. It looked like the Buckeyes had put the nail in the coffin after Ronnie Hein scored with three minutes remaining in the period, but Minnesota’s Rem Pitlick would tie the game minutes later with only 41 seconds left on the clock. It would take two overtimes for Matt Miller to find the back of the net and seal the extra point for Ohio State in the 3-on-3 overtime period.
The second game of the series looked eerily similar to the first, except Ohio State broke out with a 2-0 lead late in the first period. Minnesota would answer with a goal of their own at the tail end of the first before and Brent Gates would tie the game for the Golden Gophers nine minutes into the second period. The puck wouldn’t find the back of the net for the rest of regulation, bringing both teams into overtime tied at two again. Quinn Preston turned out to be the hero for Ohio State in this 3-on-3 overtime period, securing the Buckeyes’ second extra point of the weekend.
Ohio State moves to (9-4-3, 4-2-2) on the season, dropping to No. 7 in the latest USCHO rankings, but still holding that number one spot in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota moves to (4-6-3, 2-2-2) and is currently tied for last place in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes now start their winter break and we will not see them back in action until December 28 when they reopen their season in Columbus against the Mercyhurst Lakers(7-7-2, 5-4-1). The Golden Gophers will be traveling to Ann Arbor this weekend to face off against the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines (6-6-3, 2-3-3).
The No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8-4-1 (4-2) defended their home ice in South Bend this past Friday and Saturday against the RPI Engineers (4-7, 3-3). The Fighting Irish swept the Engineers, giving up only one goal in the two-game series.
RPI never stood a chance in the first game of the series. Notre Dame’s Alex Steeves got the scoring onslaught started six minutes into the game. The Fighting Irish didn’t take their foot off the pedal, scoring four more goals before the end of the second period. RPI finally found the back of the net just two minutes into the third period. That would be the final goal of the game, allowing Notre Dame to walk away with a dominant 5-1 win.
The second game of the series was closer than Notre Dame would’ve liked. Cam Morrison scored five minutes into the first period to put the Fighting Irish up 1-0 early. RPI would hold Notre Dame to that score for almost the remainder of the game. Colin Theisen added to the Notre Dame lead with 7 minutes remaining in the third period. Minutes later, Dylan Malmquist tacked on a third and final goal for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s Dylan St. Cyr recorded a season-high 33 saves in the 3-0 shutout.
Notre Dame improves to (10-4-1, 4-2) on the season and moves to second place behind Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. The Fighting Irish were the only team in the Big Ten to move up in the USCHO rankings this week. Notre Dame now sits at No. 5 in the country and becomes the highest ranked Big Ten team. The Fighting Irish will travel to State College this Friday and Saturday night for a highly anticipated matchup against the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-4-1, 2-3-1). Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on both nights.
Paul Toth is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.