The biggest storyline from the weekend was Michigan State taking three out of four points in a series against North Dakota. But we’ll talk more about that later. This was a big weekend for the Big Ten and the last one before conference play starts. The Gophers, Wolverines and Badgers all split their weekends.
Wisconsin earned a 2-1 win over Colorado College and followed with a wild 6-5 loss to Denver. The Pioneers had a 5-2 lead heading into the third, but the Badgers scored three goals in the last frame to come so close to tying it. Jack Berry started both games and Trent Frederic did not play.
Minnesota had a two-goal lead as the third period began but gave up four goals in the third period to lose the game. The Gophers have been a team to make comebacks late in the game, not lose them. It’s more proof that the Gophers are struggling with consistency and figuring out how to put everything together. The Gophers then beat BC. While the Eagles aren’t the strongest team, but Joe Woll is a good goaltender.
That win over BC was also Don Lucia’s 700th win. Per Minnesota, Boston College was also the team Lucia earned his first win over on Oct. 29, 1999.
The Wolverines split their series with Lake Superior State, and it was Zach Nagelvoort who was in net for Michigan’s 4-1 win. Jack LaFontaine took the other start but only allowed two goals.
(After the jump: Let’s talk about Michigan State, Jerad Rosberg and when will Minnesota be consistent)
Let’s talk about Michigan State
How can we not? The Spartans just had their best weekend of the season, and probably one of their best weekends in a long time. After defeating and tying North Dakota, the Spartans are on a three-game unbeaten streak and have only lost twice in their last seven games. That’s a pretty big deal considering it was all doom and gloom in October.
North Dakota took the lead on Friday but Michigan State’s Jerad Rosburg scored twice to put the Spartans ahead 2-1. Michigan State was up 4-1 in the third, when North Dakota scored twice. Michigan State hung on for the win and Ed Minney made 30 stops. On Saturday the Spartans took the lead but North Dakota was ahead 2-1 by the end of the first. Patrick Khodorenko tied it and Minney made 32 stops.
What’s the key to Michigan State’s success? I haven’t seen them play since that series against Michigan Tech, but sophomore Mason Appleton leads the team with 11 points. He’s a big reason for any offensive success, and the team’s offensive improvement is evident even if they aren’t scoring so much. Another reason is Minney, who has been posting better in-game save percentages of late. His season save percentage is still below .900, but it’s a promising sign.
And Jerad Rosburg
I didn’t mention him above because he deserves his own spot. The defenseman missed his entire freshman year with an injury, and head coach Tom Anastos told me before the season started how excited they were for Rosburg’s return and how he’s an impact defenseman. It’s only been a couple months, but his presence has definitely been felt.
The sophomore has played in nine games and has four points and posted a three-point game against North Dakota in the win. He had two goals, making that contest his first multi-goal game. The defense has really been hurting in years past and it will take some time to return to Michigan State caliber, but Rosburg has certainly helped.
The Gophers have been wildly inconsistent over the past few seasons. Yesterday I tweeted about how the team has a difficult non-conference schedule but I still expect them to be able to beat that schedule. I mused that playing in the Big Ten has hurt them just because you get accustomed to playing against weaker competition and that hurts in non-conference play. But as someone pointed out, these games all happen in the beginning of the year.
Anyway, Minnesota has not had a winning streak of any kind all season. They had a couple of really good games against North Dakota (although maybe North Dakota isn’t as good as we thought it would be). They played not as well against Clarkson and St. Lawrence just before the North Dakota series. It’s been an odd year for them.
They’re not exactly a young team, either. They’re led by a couple of sophomores and still have Jake Bsischoff and Justin Kloos. Transfer Mike Szmatula has been making an impact. Eric Scheirhorn is in his second year. The Gophers have a sizable class, but they also have a lot of upperclassmen leaders, which is why I’m surprised they’re this inconsistent. Before the season started I thought they were a favorite to win the Big Ten, but it might prove more difficult.