Through 30 minutes of play Saturday night, Michigan State was outplaying the soon-to-be top-ranked Minnesota on its home ice.
The Spartans dominated the first period, then led at two separate times in the second period. Graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr absolutely robbed Minnesota’s freshman forward Matthew Knies on the power play, and for a slim moment, it appeared there was a realistic chance No. 15 MSU could earn Big Ten points after an 8-0 embarrassment the previous night.
But even that unbelievable team effort in the first half of the game wasn’t close to enough in what resulted to be a 6-3 throttle for Michigan State’s 13th consecutive loss to Minnesota. The Gophers scored five straight goals across the second and third periods, while MSU had no defensive answer.
When Michigan State entered the dressing room for the first intermission, it had to be ticked off the score was 0-0. It was one of the best periods the Spartans have played all season, starting with a stingy defense that allowed just four shots on goal – the same amount senior forward Erik Middendorf had in the first 20 minutes. MSU’s forecheck was humming. Even with the powerful Minnesota power play getting a chance at the end of the period, the Spartans stayed tight and didn’t allow a single shot on goal during the advantage.
Minnesota junior goaltender Justen Close was the sole reason MSU was blanked, standing on his head for numerous stops. Middendorf and his fellow junior winger Jeremy Davidson created plenty of scoring looks, and so did sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi and freshman defenseman Matt Basgall, who both were the few bright spots from Friday’s thrashing.
Following the scoreless first period, the second period was a rollercoaster that saw both teams hold a lead.
Michigan State took the lead first on a power-play goal from freshman forward Karsen Dorwart, MSU’s first time holding a lead against the Gophers all season. That lead lasted just 65 seconds though, with Minnesota forward Jimmy Snuggerud tying it up at 1-1.
Just over a minute later, the Spartans took the lead right back. Freshman forward Daniel Russell forced a turnover at the red line, and Michigan State countered with a 3-on-1. Dorwart fed a pass back across to Russell, who lashed it past Close for a 2-1 lead.
Michigan State then earned a power play, but failed to score and immediately went to the penalty kill on a tripping minor by junior forward Zach Dubinsky. It appeared as if Knies capitalized on the power play, but St. Cyr made the save of his life to rob Knies with his glove. Minnesota sophomore forward Mason Nevers, who was standing in front of St. Cyr, even threw his arms up in celebration – as did the thousands of Gopher fans in attendance for “Hockey Day Minnesota.”
The Gophers kept attacking though, not letting the felonious act deter them. Minnesota went on to score five consecutive goals, two of them coming before the second intermission.
MSU's graduate transfer Michael Underwood and fifth-year defenseman Cole Krygier were miserable together on Friday night and followed it up with an equally as poor performance Saturday. The defensive pairing combined to be -7 on Friday, and then were on the ice for the first four Gopher goals on Saturday.
Underwood was caught flat-footed and freshman forward Logan Cooley raced right past him with the puck and crashed hard to the net. Freshman forward Garrett Pinoniemi got his stick on the puck just before the net was knocked off its moorings for the equalizer that took an official’s review and a failed MSU challenge to confirm.
Then two minutes later, Krygier and Underwood got caught separated from one another, springing junior forward Bryce Brodzinski on a breakaway to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead.
Michigan State completely unraveled after Brodzinski’s goal, taking a five-minute penalty kill on an undisciplined major penalty from Russell for a vicious hit to the head in open ice. The Spartan penalty kill, which has struggled immensely, soundly killed the extended power play, but failed to gain any momentum with the Gophers commanding the third period.
Minnesota's freshman defenseman Ryan Chesley scored at 2:41 of the third period to make it 4-2. Then Knies got revenge on St. Cyr to make it 5-2. Snuggerud scored his second of the night and third goal of the weekend with 6:51 to play to ultimately put the game out of reach for Michigan State, despite Krygier scoring his ninth goal of the season with 1:20 to play.
St. Cyr finished with 24 saves after a phenomenal start but was left out to dry in the final 30 minutes. Faceoffs were an issue for MSU, winning just 27 of 70 draws Saturday night.
Michigan State (13-13-2) returns home next weekend for a pivotal series versus Notre Dame.