Michigan State’s trip to “The State of Hockey” was a forgetful one after a 5-1 defeat and sweep at No. 4 Minnesota Saturday night.
The first period started off slowly with lots of faceoffs and few shots on goal. Minnesota would register the first shot on goal by either team just over five minutes into the game, followed by Michigan State’s first shot on goal a minute and a half later.
Midway through the first period, the game was still in the balance with both teams fighting hard.
It was Minnesota though who opened up the scoring, converting a counterattack after winning a draw in their defensive zone. MSU senior defenseman Tommy Miller tried to break up a cross-ice pass on the backcheck, but it was just out of his reach and Minnesota senior forward Cullen Munson tapped it into the net.
Munson’s goal was the tipping point for a Golden Gopher offensive bombardment where they would score four goals in 8:14 of play.
"I thought the first 12 minutes we did an outstanding job," MSU head coach Danton Cole said. "We had good pressure and good spots and we were countering real well and we were outshooting them. We had probably three bad reads and three of them ended up in the back of our net and those things unfortunately happen, but usually, they don't end up in the back."
Senior forward Scott Reedy scored the second Minnesota goal converting on a two-on-one chance. That was followed by a tip-in goal 1:42 later by sophomore forward Ben Meyers and then another two-on-one goal by sophomore forward Jack Perbix.
DeRidder struggles as Minnesota proves weight behind No. 4 ranking
MSU starting goaltender Drew DeRidder was sent to the bench in favor of freshman Pierce Charleson following the Golden Gophers’ fourth goal. Four goals and six saves certainly do not look good in the box score, but some of that may have been to no fault of his own. DeRidder’s skates were doing him no favors Friday and Saturday giving Minnesota multiple easy scoring chances.
The Gophers added a fifth goal 7:31 into the second period by junior forward Sammy Walker, just one of the many weapons Minnesota has.
Michigan State finally got on the board in the second period on a tip-in from senior forward Gianluca Esteves, his second of the year, off a shot from fellow senior forward Brody Stevens.
With the game essentially over heading into the final frame, Minnesota sailed smoothly into a victory allowing just three shots on goal in the third by the Spartans.
Making his third appearance in green and white, Charleson had perhaps his best performance while facing the high-powered Minnesota offense. Granted, he was not facing as many odd-man rushes and grade A scoring chances as DeRidder was, but his performance is definitely worth noting. His one goal he surrendered came when Walker was completely wide open and got a feed from behind the net for an easy goal. And I mean very wide open.
Charleson impressively hung in there during his 41-minute performance making 20 saves. His performance Saturday night gives himself an argument to perhaps get a start in the last five regular-season games – a chance to potentially jump-start the team.
Besides the MSU goal scorer, freshman forward Kyle Haskins was one of the few bright spots releasing a team-high three shots on goal while also being one of the few players to not be on the ice for a single Minnesota goal.
"It was one of those things when it goes bad, it goes bad," Cole said. "Overall I know games are 60 minutes, but there were an awful lot of things our guys did right and we got to take that part out and tighten it up."
It was a pretty clean game all-around with only three combined penalties by both teams, one by Minnesota and two by Michigan State. The MSU penalty kill did a nice job Saturday killing both of the penalties and did so Friday as well killing four penalties and scoring a shorthanded goal.
Michigan State (7-13-2) has now lost four consecutive Big Ten games and has won just two conference games since Jan. 9. Ohio State split their series versus No. 7 Michigan this weekend, further distancing themselves from MSU at the cellar of the Big Ten.
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The Spartans now return home for a five-game homestand to round out the season before the Big Ten Tournament in March. Notre Dame is next up, with games on Friday and Saturday and the times yet to be announced.
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