Two big name programs may not have necessarily saved their seasons, but certainly saved some face this weekend after being embarrassed on their home ice on Friday night this past weekend.
Minnesota got embarrassed on their home ice for the third straight game on Friday night, when St. Cloud built a 5-0 lead on the Gophers, before Minnesota scored two meaningless goals in the third period.
Sunday afternoon, the Gophers made some pretty big defensive adjustments and earned a tough 2-1 victory over the Huskies. The big difference, to me, is that the Gophers finally seemed to play with a game plan for the personnel they have, rather than the personnel they wish they had. It was established last week, and hammered home multiple times on Friday, that the Gophers defense is not very good. Sunday, instead of forcing a bunch of not-yet-ready and never-will-be-ready defensemen to fail at their high-wire act, they kept things extremely simple and conservative. The result was some not very exciting hockey, especially offensively, but the Gophers also didn't give up any crippling odd-man rushes, or let opposing players stand all alone in front of their net. It may not have been pretty hockey, but it was the type of pragmatic approach that got the Gophers to the NCAA tournament three seasons ago.
Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, Nebraska-Omaha continued to impress everyone by beating Michigan 4-2 on Friday night, before Michigan rebounded with a resounding 6-1 win on Saturday night. Michigan's team isn't exactly Jekyll and Hyde. They're more like Edward Norton in that movie he did with the gerbil guy, and you've got to figure out which alternate and distinct personality is the "real Michigan". Are they the team that coasted through the majority of last year and somehow finished 7th in a one-team conference? Or are they the team that slashed through the CCHA tournament and was a blown call away from the Frozen Four? Judging by some preseason quotes, Michigan certainly seemed to believe they were the latter, but blowing a four-goal lead to Mercyhurst, being dominated by New Hampshire, and getting blown away at home by UNO suggests there may be plenty of evil still in their hearts. The good news is that Saturday's response suggests this year's team may be a bit faster in correcting those problems than last year's team was.
The rest of the weekend's action, as well as some thoughts on Fox Sports North's new announcing crew after the jump.
This doesn't get above-the-fold treatment, but I should probably join everyone else in giving my opinion of FSN's new broadcasting duo. Personally, I don't mind them as much as some others seem to. Change is hard. Frank Mazzocco and Doug Woog had been in the booth for a very long time. Both seemed like incredibly nice people, and definitely deserved a better fate on their way out than FSN gave them, but at the same time, it was probably time for a change.
As for the new guys, I've always liked Anthony LaPanta. This often gets overlooked, but if you went to any major media market in the country, and asked one of the top broadcasters who usually covers MLB, NHL, etc. to start covering high school sports, that broadcaster is more than likely to completely phone it in. LaPanta did a great job covering high school hockey, which takes a pretty impressive passion for the sport. In terms of actually calling the game, I think what makes a great broadcaster is developing sort of a relationship between the broadcaster and the viewer, and that takes more time than just three weeks.
The color chair has been a little rougher. FSN was in a bit of a bind when Darby Hendrickson was hired by the Minnesota Wild, and they had to move on to their second, less experienced choice. I was critical of Rob McClanahan last weekend, but this weekend seemed a little better. I can't recall him ever referencing Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks. Bottom line is that I think it may be rough to watch him learn on the job, but eventually it should get better.
As for actual games, Notre Dame continued their strong start to the season by pulling off a huge 2-1 upset over Boston College at home on Saturday. The underdog always seems to pull off an upset when these teams meet early in the season, but it's still another positive sign that Notre Dame is rebounding nicely after last year's disaster.
Minnesota-Duluth avoided their recent struggles against Alaska-Anchorage at home. After pulling out on OT win on Friday, they cruised to an easy 6-0 win on Saturday.
Sam Brittain was up to the challenge in his first career back-to-back starts. He was solid in both games as Denver earned three points from Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Wisconsin freshman Mark Zengerle is off to a great start and leads the WCHA in freshman scoring.
Michigan State lost a shootout on Friday, but won on Saturday at home against Alaska. Their win and tie against Maine looks all the better now too. The Spartans are off to a pretty good start.
Speaking of Maine, North Dakota traveled out east and was swept by the Black Bears. Friday's game was a disaster with UND spending much of the first period in the penalty box and Maine building a 5-1 lead, thanks in part to three power play goals. It can be tough for teams to deal with a different standard of officiating elsewhere in the country, especially when you play an aggressive style like the Sioux.
What was more surprising was that the Sioux were unable to come back the following night and get a win. It could be another slow first half for the Sioux. That's no concern since they've played through that problem in the past. The real concern may be in goal, where Brad Eidsness has a terrible .763 save percentage, and his back-up, Aaron Dell isn't much better at .883. Eidsness has been so good the past two years that you'd have to believe he'll turn it around, but that could be a huge issue for North Dakota if he doesn't.
Lake Superior swept Colgate at home, which is two big wins for the CCHA in terms of conference strength. Same for goes for Western Michigan winning and tying at St. Lawrence, and Bowling Green sweeping at Alabama-Huntsville.
Minnesota State and Colorado College split in Mankato over the weekend. Going back to last season, it took seven tries, but Minnesota State finally held on to a third period lead in their 5-4 win on Friday. Joe Howe earned a shutout in an ugly 1-0 victory on Saturday.
Ferris State and Ohio State split a weekend series at Big Rapids. Miami easily swept Northern Michigan twice at home.