Big Ten play is already in full swing, which is an interesting thing to see in October. Personally, I like this format more. It’s better to see how the teams stack up against each other now and sprinkle in some non-conference games throughout the season, rather than stacking all Big Ten games towards the end.
Penn State and Minnesota split, Michigan State split with Bowling Green, Notre Dame tied Denver and then lost to the defending champions and the Buckeyes and Engineers skated to 1-1 games on both nights.
Leep in mind that it’s still October. It’s too early in the season and results here don’t indicate whether teams are good or bad. With that being said, here are some very-early-take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt thoughts:
(After the jump: Ohio State’s defense, Notre Dame looks good, and that good old inconsistency)
That Good Buckey Defense
Is a statement I never thought I would say and you may never hear me say again. The Buckeyes have largely won games by outscoring opponents, and it’s very hard to match and especially outmatch the speed of the Buckeye forwards.
Ohio State has actually fared well defensively in the past at times (when they played Denver and Minnesota-Duluth last year) . But with both Christian Frey and Matt Tomkins graduating this year, the defense and goaltending was a big question mark. Outside of their exhibition loss, the Buckeyes have fared well in that area. They’ve allowed no more than three goals in a game over the last four contests, and held RPI to just a goal in each of last weekend’s games.
RPI isn’t the best benchmark, but holding Wisconsin to two goals isn’t bad either. Sean Romeo has started all four games, so he’ll be an intersting player to watch as the season unfolds.
Notre Dame looks pretty good
After a 2-2 tie on Friday, Denver earned a 4-2 win on Saturday. It makes sense, since the Pioneers are the best team in the country. Notre Dame didn’t look spectacular against the defending champions, but they looked fairly good considering who they were playing against.
On Friday the difference maker was Dylan St. Cyr, who was a force in net. While the Fighting Irish are still an incredibly deep team without Anders Bjork, their success will rest with St. Cyr. If he plays the way he played on Friday, the Fighting Irish have a shot at the Big Ten crown.
The Penn State-Minnesota series did not disappoint. Penn State won on Friday and Minnesota lost on Sunday, and the games looked very different. The Nittany Lions were impressive on Friday, playing aggressively, jumping all over the puck and really disrupting the Gopher offense. Holding that skilled of a Minnesota offense to a goal is definitely a feat.
It was different on Sunday, as the Gophers looked much different. They controlled the pace of the game and scored six goals, with Brannon McManus netting a hat trick. Penn State still scored three goals.
This brings us to the question – which game was accurate? What was most impressive on Friday was Penn State’s defense, which as Guy Gadowsky noted, was the team’s biggest question mark heading into the season. More specifically, he mentioned their consistency. Minnesota has also struggled with consistency in the past, so it’s hard to tell if Minnesota struggled with consistency over the weekend, if Penn State did, or if they both did.