Sloppy play contributed to a Michigan State hockey (2-2-1) 3-1 defeat as they hosted Minnesota (5-0-0) at Munn Ice Arena on Thursday night.
Drew DeRidder started in net, sliding his season record to 2-2-1. Senior Jack LaFontaine, who was strong in net all night, improved his season record to 5-0-0.
It took an early 2-0 lead for MSU to wake up. The Gophers came out flying in the first period, looking exactly like a top-five team in the country, and quickly gaining a two-goal lead.
Chrsitian Krygier was called for a high sticking penalty just over five minutes into the game. The penalty kill was almost able to hold off, but Ben Meyers was able to rip off a wrist shot to beat DeRidder with just a few seconds left in the penalty.
Just under two minutes later, Minnesota scored again on a back-hand goal from Sampo Ranta in front of the net.
At that point, the shots were in favor of the Gophers, but the goal seemed to spark some energy for Michigan State. The Spartans were able to show some fight and reduce the Gophers’ shooting lead to just 12-10 including a shot from center Mitchell Mattson that beat LaFontaine but was denied by the post.
MSU had a chance early in the second to cut the lead in half as Minnesota was called for a penalty less than a minute into the period. The Gophers’ penalty kill, which has not allowed a goal all season, stopped the Spartans during the man advantage.
“They have a lot of skill, and they move the puck fast,” senior center Tommy Apap said. “That second goal we just have to clamp down and get that rebound, clear the puck. That’s an easy mistake.”
Apap also said they need to do a better job of blocking shots to limit their opportunities on the powerplay.
Shortly after killing the penalty, defensemen Aiden Gallacher was sent to the box for tripping. Minnesota’s Scott Reedy gathered his own rebound off of DeRidder and flipped it back on net giving the Gophers a 3-0 lead with 15:51 left in the 2nd period.
The goal, and penalty that led to it, was an absolute gut punch for MSU. Up until that penalty, the Spartans looked like they had some fight in them with a chance to make a comeback. But, with a three-goal deficit, the ice became heavily tilted in favor of the Gophers.
The rest of the game was mostly filled with frustration by MSU and Minnesota holding possession of the puck to kill time. Michigan State finished the game with seven penalties, two of which led to Minnesota goals.
Michigan State was finally able to break the shutout with just over three minutes remaining when a long shot from junior defensemen Cole Krygier snuck past LaFontaine as he was screened by freshmen forward A.J. Hodges.
MSU Head Coach Danton Cole pulled DeRidder from net with two minutes remaining but could not get two more goals.
“If you would have told me at the end of the first period that we’d be two minutes to go pulling our goalie and having some decent chances I probably wouldn’t have taken that bet,” said Cole. “But they fought through it, so it’s a learning process. But, you can’t give 40 minutes away, not a good plan.”
Despite the score, Michigan State won the faceoff battle 31-27 in a battle between the two best faceoff teams in the country. MSU outshout Minnesota in the final frame, 11-7, but it was not enough to get the job done Thursday.
“I think we are a really good team over here too, and we just have to show that tomorrow,” Apap said.
The Spartans will have another crack at the team from the “State of Hockey” at 8 p.m. on Friday night.
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