As it traveled to Minneapolis, Michigan State hockey was looking for redemption against No. 2 Minnesota after suffering a debacle of a sweep on its home ice to the Golden Gophers in December. Instead, the Spartans experienced nothing but deja vu, unable to keep up with Minnesota’s talented roster chock-full of NHL prospects.
The Gophers thrashed MSU in an 8-0 shutout, bringing the Spartans’ program losing streak versus Minnesota to 12.
Before MSU even had time to adjust to the Olympic-sized rink at 3M Arena at Mariucci, freshman forward Logan Cooley scored his 13th goal of the year, with only nine seconds taken off the clock.
The Spartans did receive a bit of a defensive break with junior defenseman Nash Nienhuis back in the lineup after being out since Dec. 27.
Freshman forward Jimmy Snuggerud put Minnesota up 2-0 at 16:47 in the first. With the goal, Snuggerud tied his father, Dave, in goals scored during their freshman seasons with the Golden Gophers.
Snuggerud had the opportunity to put a third goal on the board for the Gophers before the end of the first, but a block by sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi ruined his chances.
Minnesota controlled the shots on goal 9-7 while MSU dominated faceoffs 19-7 in the first period.
Similar to the first series of the season between the teams, back in December, both MSU and Minnesota skated through the first period without a single penalty on either side of the ice.
Freshman forward Connor Kurth extended Minnesota’s lead to 3-0 at 7:36 of the second, scoring one of three goals by the Gophers in the period.
At last, Nienhuis was whistled on a slashing call at 12:03 in the second period, handing the Spartans the first penalty of the series on the year.
Less than a minute later, Cooley was whistled for interference, sending the teams to skate four-on-four. Neither team was able to convert on the power play.
After graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr gave up three goals in the second period, junior goaltender Pierce Charleson made his way to the ice to man the net for the Spartans in the final 20 minutes of play.
MSU had no answers to Minnesota’s dominant performance in the third, as senior defenseman Jackson LaCombe scored a power play goal to put the Gophers up 6-0, three minutes into the period.
The misery didn’t end there for the Spartans as the home team tacked on two more goals in the final 15 minutes of the game. Minnesota’s seventh goal was scored from behind the net by sophomore forward Aaron Huglen. The nail in the coffin was from freshman forward Garrett Pinoniemi, which also happened to be his first collegiate goal.
Giving up two power-play goals, MSU has now allowed an opponent to score on the man advantage in the last eight games.
While MSU pulled its starting goalie, Gopher senior goaltender Justen Close earned his fifth shutout of the season, with 21 saves on the night.
The Spartans will have the opportunity to regroup and redeem themselves as they return to 3M Arena for a rematch with the Gophers Saturday at 5 p.m.