MINNEAPOLIS — Michigan State hockey's first-ever Big Ten postseason run came to an end against the only conference foe it couldn’t defeat.
A best-of-three series win over Notre Dame sent the Spartans to Minneapolis to face first-seeded Minnesota, a team with four victories over MSU during the regular season.
The Spartans gave it everything they had at the beginning of period one, landing themselves on the scoreboard first, but the Gophers and their offensive talent were once again too much to handle. In the end, MSU fell 5-1, dropping the single-elimination semifinal game.
Freshman forward Logan Cooley was sent to the box for elbowing at 3:08, handing MSU the first power play. The Spartans were able to capitalize with a pass from graduate student forward Miroslav Mucha to junior forward Jeremy Davidson who snuck it past senior goaltender Justen Close to give MSU an early 1-0 lead.
The goal was Davidson’s tenth of the season and third of the last two weekends.
Freshman defenseman Viktor Hurtig was whistled for tripping with 7:35 remaining in the first period, and the Gophers did what they do best and converted on the man-advantage thanks to senior forward Jaxon Nelson who found an opening on the left side of the net to beat graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr to tie the game.
Although MSU held the edge on shots on goal during the first twenty minutes, the Gophers started gaining offensive momentum toward the end. Freshman forward John Mittelstadt put Minnesota back on top at 17:51, before the first intermission.
The second period was not nearly as eventful scoring-wise, but it was a competitive showing between the opponents. Two minutes into the frame, sophomore forward Aaron Huglen gave the Gophers a 3-1 edge with a shot from in front of the net.
Michigan State had another chance on the power play when senior forward Bryce Brodzinski sat on a tripping minor. The Spartans got six shots off, but were unable to add to their score.
Minnesota continued to pour it on when Cooley found the back of the net at 8:24 of the third period giving the Gophers a three-goal lead.
MSU maintained a steady offensive rhythm, outshooting the Gophers 30-24 when all was said and done, but the talent gap between the Spartans and the best team in the nation was evident in the final 40 minutes.
Cooley notched his second tally of the night, an empty-netter, 29 seconds after the Spartans pulled St. Cyr, putting Minnesota up four with less than six minutes to play. His 18th goal of the season iced the game for the Gophers, sending MSU back to East Lansing.
The Spartans finish their commanding playoff run 18-18-2 overall and 10-13-2 in Big Ten play.
Hovering at a .500 record, Michigan State still has a chance of making the 16-team NCAA tournament. But the Spartans won’t know their fate until Selection Sunday next week, after the league's conference tournament winners are decided.