Minnesota sent Michigan State back to East Lansing with a pair of losses, winning 4-2 Friday night and 3-1 Saturday. MSU has now lost eight straight and has yet to win a game in 2022.
The Spartans are dead last in the Big Ten standings, with a conference record of 5-13-0-1.
For the first couple of minutes, it looked as though the Gophers were going to repeat their previous performance against the Spartans with another win. Minnesota applied plenty of pressure on MSU, controlling the puck and notching a few shots on goal.
However, MSU found the back of the net first. Senior defenseman Christian Krygier collected a puck and blitzed towards the offensive zone on a breakaway, flipping the puck past junior goaltender Justen Close to take an early 1-0 lead.
Minnesota had an opportunity to respond with a power play just four minutes later. The Gophers had plenty of possession in the offensive zone, but MSU's penalty kill stood strong — thanks in part to a few great saves from sophomore goaltender Pierce Charleson. As the power-play expired, sophomore forward Jeremy Davidson raced from the penalty box to join an odd-man rush entering Minnesota's defensive zone. Junior forward Erik Middendorf slid the puck to Davidson, who ripped it in to extend the lead to two.
The counterattack remained Michigan State's greatest strength through the rest of the period. The Spartans were comfortable letting the Gophers take low-percentage shots, waiting for the odd puck bounce or turnover to quickly transition from defense to offense. Michigan State's defensemen, led by senior Dennis Cesana, were especially active in the transitional game.
After a successful first period, things fell apart quickly for Michigan State.
Minnesota turned up the heat in the second period, peppering Charleson with a flurry of shots. Freshman forward Rhett Pitlick finally converted for the Gophers, slapping a one-timer from the slot to chop MSU's lead down to just one. Minnesota tied things up just two minutes later, chopping in a rebound in the crease.
The Golden Gophers entered the third period with all the momentum — it took them just four minutes to capitalize on it. Senior forward Blake McLaughlin fired from the slot for his tenth goal of the year.
Minnesota comfortably controlled the rest of the period, as Michigan State's offense struggled to generate any sort of pressure. The Gophers tacked on another goal eight minutes into the third, securing a 4-2 come from behind win.
While the 3-1 scored indicates a relatively even matchup, Minnesota comfortably controlled Michigan State for all three periods.
Senior defenseman Ben Brinkman slapped in a goal from the top of the slot just 1:39 into the game to take an early Minnesota lead.
Despite dominating the first period by only allowing one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes, Minnesota went to the first intermission with just a one goal lead. Senior goaltender Drew DeRidder impressed between the pipes, stifling multiple quality scoring chances and keeping the game within MSU’s reach.
Michigan State came out swinging in the second. Freshman forward Jesse Tucker scored his second goal of the season just 16 seconds into the period, cranking in a pass from Davidson right at the front of the net.
For the remainder of the period, the Spartans were better offensively than they were in the first, but Minnesota still collected plenty of shots on goal, DeRidder continued to act as a brick wall in net, stopping anything from breakaway chances to rockets from the point.
Things finally fell apart for Michigan State in the third period. Although MSU did not play its worst hockey of the night in the final twenty minutes, senior forward Sammy Walker solved the DeRidder puzzle for Minnesota, potting two goals in just two minutes.
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