Penn State and Massachusetts were the big winners in men’s hockey over the weekend, while St. Cloud State and Wisconsin showed some flaws. But no team impressed more than the Gophers women, who took five of six points against defending national champion Wisconsin in grand style.
1. Penn State: The Nittany Lions (6-1) might not have run a gantlet with their nonconference schedule so far – Sacred Heart, Alaska and Robert Morris – but they were more than impressive in sweeping Wisconsin 6-1 and 4-2 to open Big Ten play. Penn State’s scoring balance was on display, with no player having more than one goal in either game.
2. Massachusetts: The NCAA runner-up Minutemen (6-1) have won five consecutive after a home-and-home sweep of Northeastern and in the process avenged their only loss of the season. Junior forward John Leonard score two goals in each game for UMass.
3. Northern Michigan: Coach Grant Potulny’s Wildcats (6-1-1) haven’t loss since the season opener against Michigan State and are 4-0 in WCHA play. They’ll get a test this weekend in Marquette from a St. Cloud State team that’s talented but yet to hit its stride.
1. St. Cloud State: Brett Larson’s second season in the Granite City isn’t off to a great start. The Huskies fell to 1-2-3 after losing 5-3 to Princeton before earning a 5-5 tie in the series finale. St. Cloud State has given up four or more goals in four games this season.
2. Wisconsin: An early-season sweep of Minnesota Duluth showed the offensive firepower the Badgers (4-4) possess. Conversely, Penn State exposed Wisconsin’s defensive deficiencies. The Badgers have allowed four or more goals five times this season.
3. Quinnipiac: Kudos for the Bobcats for making the trip to the desert to play Arizona State. The trip, however, didn’t go as well as planned for Quinnipiac (4-3), which was swept 5-3 and 4-1.
Three more thoughts
1. The No. 1 vs. No. 2 women’s matchup between Wisconsin and the Gophers at Ridder Arena didn’t disappoint. The Gophers rallied from an early deficit for a 4-2 win in the opener, then won in a shootout after a 2-2 tie on Amy Potomak’s incredible between-the-legs goal to beat Badgers goalie Kristen Campbell. That goal earned the No. 1 Play of the Day on ESPN’s “SportsCenter’’ on Sunday night. Minnesota supplanted Wisconsin as the nation’s top-ranked team on Monday. The rematch in Madison between last season’s NCAA finalists comes Jan. 24 and 25. On Tuesday, the Gophers face NCAA Division III runner-up Hamline, coached by former Minnesota superstar Natalie Darwitz, in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at Ridder Arena.
2. In an early-season NCHC series that should have both conference and national implications, top-ranked Denver (8-0) visits No. 7 Minnesota Duluth (3-3), the two-time defending national champion, on Friday and Saturday. The teams split their four regular-season games in 2018-19 before the Bulldogs prevailed 3-0 in the NCHC tournament semifinals.
3. Besides Pioneers-Bulldogs, what’s the most intriguing men’s matchup this weekend? Try No. 9 Ohio State at No. 5 Notre Dame a series between the 2018-19 Big Ten regular-season champs (OSU) and the conference tournament winner (ND). The only blemish for the 5-0-1 Fighting Irish is a three-on-three overtime loss to the Gophers, while the 6-1-1 Buckeyes haven’t given up more than two goals in any game.