Column: Past weekend shows MSU-Minnesota hockey rivalry building
With the closing of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association last spring, many of the annual rivalries have all but vanished.
Annual games against in-state foes such as Western Michigan, Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State will no longer will be a guarantee for MSU hockey.
However, as the classic Semisonic hit song ‘Closing Time’ states, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
This is the case with the growing rivalry between MSU (8-13-4 overall, 2-5-3-3 Big Ten) and new Big Ten conference foe — Minnesota.
Heading into this past weekend, there was no doubt who the more talented team was.
No. 1 Minnesota (19-2-5, 8-0-2) has held the national top-ranked spot for most of the season, and hadn’t lost since since late November heading into the gamer.
MSU hadn’t gone longer than three games without losing and was coming off of a couple tough losses to rival Michigan.
So despite playing well in the first two outings back at Munn Ice Arena against Minnesota, no one would be surprised if the more skilled Gophers rolled through the Spartans.
However, that wasn’t the case.
It was MSU who took an early 2-0 lead in the Friday night gamer. It was MSU who was in both games until the final seconds ticked off the clock. It was MSU who officially has created one of the new hot rivalries in the newly formed Big Ten.
The season series between MSU and Minnesota wrapped up this past weekend with two more down-to-the-wire games, proving games can’t be played on paper.
In the season series, MSU was able to earn four points in Big Ten play, standing currently as the only team to steal points away from the mighty Golden Gophers.
Even in the two losses, MSU was able to keep it interesting, with both games going down as one goal losses.
In all four games of the season it was evident that Minnesota was simply a more skilled and talented team. But it was MSU who played with a drive, the same type of drive seen when the maize and blue is on the opposing bench.
Although these teams have played a combined 162 games over the years, this was the first time since 1979 that the two teams battled more than two times in a season. And in those four games, it appears the rivalry has once again been rekindled.
MSU played with a chip on its shoulder and was ready for the battle. MSU brought intensity to the rink and have created potentially the next big rivalry in college hockey against the Gophers.
There’s no arguing that pound-for-pound, Minnesota is a more skilled, talented and better team.
But based on the play in the four games, no one in the Spartan locker room believes that.
And that creates a scary match-up if the stars align correctly and pit these two teams on opposing benches one more time this year in the Big Ten Tournament.
Robert Bondy is a State News hockey reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.