Michigan's Mac Bennett and Michigan State's Brent Darnell battle for the puck in the GLI consolation game in December. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — The Big Ten boasts two teams in the top 10 in the national rankings.
But unlike years past in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, those teams aren’t Michigan and Michigan State.
Michigan is third and Michigan State fifth in the six-team conference, which is being controlled by No. 1 Minnesota and No. 9 Wisconsin.
Michigan, which entered the Great Lakes Invitational ranked No. 3, hasn’t won in more than a month and is on a five-game winless streak after being swept at Wisconsin last weekend.
“No question, Wisconsin on paper was the team to beat in the summer,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We just played them, and they are good, they’re solid. And Minnesota right now is the team to beat. They have been No. 1 every week since the start.
“I’m still optimistic that we will be in the hunt.”
Michigan State is on a 2-1-1 run that included one shootout win and one shootout loss.
“I feel Michigan State is better than last year,” Berenson said. “And Ohio State is better than their record. Penn State is the expansion team, but it won’t take them long. They’re a question mark because they’ve only had a program for two years.”
Michigan State hosts Penn State this weekend after being swept by Minnesota.
Round 2 of the Michigan-Michigan State series is next week with a game at Joe Louis Arena on Jan. 23 followed by a Michigan State home game Jan. 24.
The Spartans drew first blood this season with a 3-0 victory in the consolation game of the GLI.
The teams meet again in a home-and-home March 7 (Ann Arbor) and March 8.
Michigan’s schedule has been a little unusual lately, with a week off before the GLI, a week off before playing Wisconsin last weekend and another week off before facing Michigan State.
“It is a really weird schedule,” said Berenson, whose team plays four home games during a 2˝-month stretch — Wisconsin on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 and Penn State on Feb. 21-22. Michigan’s last game at Yost Arena was Dec. 11.
■Wisconsin’s Michael Mersch has 10 points and six goals to lead the Big Ten.
■Wisconsin’s Jefferson Dahl is tops in assists (six).
■Ohio State’s Matt Tomkins leads the conference in goals-against (1.93) and save percentage (.937).
■Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox leads the Big Ten in wins (five) and saves (158).
Michigan is 29th nationally in scoring at 2.78 goals. Andrew Copp leads the Wolverines in points (16) and goals (10).
... Michigan freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort has a .932 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against-average. “Overall our goalkeeping has not been an issue,” Berenson said.
... Michigan State sophomore Jake Hildebrand (2.35, .922) bounced back from a sub-par performance against Ohio State by turning aside 28 of 29 shots in a shootout victory in the series finale.