The past weekend featured conference contests. Notre Dame swept Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin split and Penn State tied and defeated Ohio State. There’s still a lot of inconsistency in the conference, but the Fighting Irish are now on an 11-game winning streak.
Notre Dame is now 8-0-0 in the conference and has a nine-point lead over the second team, which is Penn State. Minnesota sits behind Penn State by one point.
Next weekend the Wolverines will have a home-and-home with Michigan State, Ohio State will host Minnesota, Penn State will play Robert Morris and Wisconsin will host Notre Dame.
What happened to Kyle Hayton?
When Hayton came to Wisconsin as a grad transfer, it seemed like he’d be the best goaltender in the league. The Big Ten has struggled in that department, and Hayton had been the best goaltender in the ECAC. But Hayton has struggled in the offensive league. He gave up five goals against Minnesota and sat on the bench the next night. His save percentage is currently .892.
I was one of the people who assumed Hayton would be the best goaltender in the conference. I’m not surprised that he’s struggling, though. The ECAC is a much more defensive league than the Big Ten, but it’s partly because of goaltending and defense. While Hayton was a good goaltender at St. Lawrence, he also had an excellent defense. While he did see action and face quality scoring chances, they weren’t like the chances he sees in the Big Ten.
That’s partly because there are some spectacular offenses in the Big Ten (like Minnesota’s) and partly because Wisconsin still makes some bad plays and turns the puck over. Maybe once Hayton gets settled his performance will improve.
The Rem Pitlick Show
Yes, Casey Mittelstadt is good. But so is Rem Pitlick. Last year he scored 31 points last year, considerably less than Tyler Sheehy or Justin Kloos. But those were still good numbers for a freshman on a veteran-laden team. Still Pitlick, who was highly-touted coming into Minnesota, wasn’t talked about much nationally. He currently leads the Gophers with 19 points and still doesn’t get talked about as much as some of his teammates. But not only can Pitlick score, he also has some of the skill and speed that makes Mittelstadt so much to watch.
Speaking of Pitlick, the Gopher offense is really good. They have so much skill and speed that they can score quickly, but the team struggles too much defensively and it’s costing them wins.
An eye on the Nittany Lions
Penn State is now on a six-game unbeaten streak after beating Arizona State, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are second in the conference just above Minnesota, despite being picked to finish fourth. Have the Nittany Lions finally turned the corner?
That’s hard to say. Arizona State and Michigan State aren’t exactly quality teams, but it looks like Penn State’s offensive tactics that helped them win last year are back on track. The Nittany Lions scored seven goals twice in the past two weeks in wins over Arizona State and Michigan State. That doesn’t mean Penn State has recovered enough to beat better teams, but Penn State might not even really have the chance to test itself.
In the second half of the season, Penn State’s toughest opponents will be Notre Dame and Minnesota. Notre Dame is good but the Gophers are inconsistent, which means they may not even be a test.