So, in the preview for this series I made a crack about how little has changed since the Spartans and Gophers met on the ice in December. Little did I know the actual series on the ice would mirror the previous meetings so closely. Friday night the Spartans played with great emotion, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and held on for a shootout win. After getting 2 of a possible 3 points Friday, the Spartans were besieged by shots Saturday, including a 17-4 deficit after the first period. Again like the previous series the Spartans played the Gophers close in the 2nd game but lost a one goal game, this time 1-0. So, once again the Spartans showed great effort and a high compete level, but they also showed the gap in skill that separates them from the top of the B1G.
Friday night was not a fluke game for the Spartans, they outplayed the top ranked team in the country. The Spartans outshot the Gophers 30-28, forced the Gopher defenseman to plenty of mistakes in their own zone and were a controversial goal away from a regulation victory.
The game started with Mike Ferrantino continuing his offensive growth, scoring in his third consecutive game. After two Gopher defenders ran into each other Matt Berry collected the puck and drove hard to the net. As he drove to the net, Berry sent a pass over to Ferrantino who had a wide open net to shoot on. The goal was Ferrantino's seventh of the season, four more than his freshman campaign last year, and moved Ferrantino into 2nd on the team in goals. Less than two minutes later the freshman line broke their goal scoring drought. Villiam Haag circled out from the corner boards and wristed home a shot that cleanly beat goaltender Adam Wilcox.
The Gophers would tie the game with late first period and early third period goals. Hudson Fasching was able to score on the power play for the Gophers late in the first period, as he beat Hildebrand on a rebound goal. In the third Justin Kloos scored a goal that went off his skate. It was reviewed by the officials and since he was not making a clear kicking motion the goal held up. Kloos for sure made an effort to deflect the puck, as he changed his skating stride, but I had no real issue with the goal holding up.
Controversy was not over for this officiating crew though. After the teams played a scoreless overtime the game went to a shootout. In the third round of the shootout Joe Cox appeared to have put the Spartans up 1-0 beating a sprawling Wilcox between the post and his leg. However, when Wilcox had pushed off to move to his left, his leg had kicked the net off its moorings, before the puck crossed the line. The refs felt it necessary to waive off the goal and give the Gophers the chance to win the game on their next shooter. Luckily #PuckDontLie and Travis Boyd was unsuccessful on his attempt against Hildebrand. After both shooters scored in the 5th round, freshman forward JT Stenglein scored the winning goal for the Spartans on a wicked wrist shot.
Spartans tie Golden Gophers, win in shootout (via MSUSpartanAthletics)
Outside of the first period Saturday night the Spartans actually played a pretty good game. The Gophers came out with an amazing first period, outshooting the Spartans 17-4, and if it wasn't for Hildebrand could have been up three or four goals.
The Spartans found their legs in the second and third periods as they were only outshot 21-15 the rest of the way. Early in the third period the Spartans sent a shot off the post and had a bouncing puck get behind Wilcox, only to have a Gopher defenseman bat the puck out of harms way. The Spartans played down to the last second as Matt Berry sent a dangerous chance off the outside of the net as time expired.
The Spartans are still the only team to get any points against the Gophers in B1G play. They have played the number one team in the country tough and gotten 4 of a possible 12 points against them. It is very likely that these two teams will meet up again in the B1G Tournament. For now the Spartans need to focus on a home series against 4th place Ohio State next weekend at Munn Arena.
Highlights: Gopher Men's Hockey Beats Michigan State 1-0 (via Minnesota Gophers)
- Power Play- The power play went 0 for 5 on the weekend, a step back from the great weekend the power play had against Michigan. The Friday night game featured a power play in the last four minutes of regulation for the Spartans, which had a few great scoring chances. Tom Anastos also went with the 4 forward and 1 defenseman unit once again, with forward Tanner Sorenson playing on the point.
- Defenseman- Not a bad weekend overall for the defensive unit. They still need to do a better job clearing the front of the net, especially for the Gophers only goal Saturday. After a disastrous weekend against the Wolverines, this unit rebounded to play much better.
- Jake Hildebrand- 63 saves on 66 shots and a great performance in the shootout Friday to give his team an extended chance to win the game. Hildebrand continues to be the most underrated goalie in college hockey. If he was playing this well for a team like Quinnipiac or Boston College he is probably a Hobey Baker Candidate.
Minnesota now holds a 9 point lead over 2nd place Michigan in the B1G standings. Michigan beat Wisconsin in regulation Friday night and won in a shootout Saturday. Ohio State holds a 1 point lead over Michigan State for 4th place, after the Buckeyes swept winless Penn State this past weekend.