A goal landed on the board for the Gophers in the first period and then again in the second, but it was the Spartans who got the last word in.
After another game of being down in the first 40 minutes of gameplay, the Spartans knew what needed to be done to come back from that two goal deficit and prevent an overtime game by putting up three goals, even through a period of three early penalty kills.
“I just felt like we were playing on the perimeter, we needed to get more pucks to the net and more bodies to the net, so that was the main message after the second period," sophomore forward Daniel Russell said. "I think we came out and did that.”
While the Spartans played the first 40 minutes of the game with some broken passes and only three shots on goal in the second period, they were able to generate so many early shots in the final period that led to freshman forward Griffin Jurecki's first goal of the season and sophomore forward Karsen Dorwart's short-handed goal.
“Obviously in the third I thought there was no panic and, you know, we had to kill a couple penalties there,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “What I liked was our focus was not on whether it was a good call or a bad call. And then to get rewarded there at the end, that was big time, I thought the crowd was great and now it's about moving on to tomorrow.”
But the goal that put the cherry on top was the goal that came with four seconds to go in regulation for Michigan State to take home its first regulation win against the Gophers in 16 games.
Daniel Russell was the player who truthfully capitalized on the win for the team, as the clock ran down quickly, the Spartans shot the puck into their offensive zone and as Russell shot the puck straight at the Minnesota goalie, it was the rebound he tapped in for the big win.
“I was just trying to get on net, their goalie made a great save,” Russell said. “I was kind of rattled in my head but then the chance comes again, and I just sort of tipped it and then banged in the rebound, so yeah that was awesome.”
Through his two seasons at Michigan State on the hockey team, Russell has seen improvement on and off the ice, including his leadership efforts and his continuous hard work through the program.
“Danny brings a lot more than just scoring,” Nightingale said. “I mean, you talk about a guy who does it right every day. We get to see him in practice, and I could argue he’s been one of our best forwards in a lot of those games. The effort he made on the back check to catch a guy, those are things that we value, how he practices and how he trains, and what I like about Danny is it’s always about trying to make Spartan hockey better.”
With the game winning goal from Russell, he banked in his shot to get back into the game and grab his first goal in quite some time, as his last was an empty netter. Russell helped to completely solidify the win for the Spartans and get back into the swing of things on the top line, as well as helping his whole line buzz for the whole game.
“I think the team is doing well, it’s not all about individuals,” Russell said. “Anyone's like, pucks aren't really going in, they’re kind of gripping their stick more, so just to see one go in the back of the net for me is really big going into the rest of the year.”
With the exhilaration of the comeback win on its backs, Michigan State now knows what needs to happen to make improvements for the Saturday game. From what they've learned just last night, the team needs to know that no matter how much a team is down by, there is always a way to come back.
The Spartans are back for night two against Minnesota on Saturday, Jan. 27 where they look for a sweep against the Golden Gophers to extend their number of wins in the Big Ten to 12. The game is an early afternoon 4 p.m. game and will be streamed on Big Ten Network.
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