For the second night in a row the Michigan State Hockey team (4-8-1, 0-2) had the #11 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-5-2, 2-0) on the brink of an upset but could not finish the job off again as they lose 4-2.
For the second straight game the Spartans came out the gate with a lot of speed which created numerous chances during the first half of the first period. MSU got the first power play opportunity of the game when Gophers forward Taylor Cammarata went into the sin bin for holding. The Spartans were not able to cash in on the opportunity.
It was not until there was four minutes remaining in the first period when MSU capitalized on one of those opportunities, and just like Friday night it was JT Stenglein to be the first player of the game to find the back of the net. Spartan defenseman Mitch Eliot fired a shot at Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn from the right side of the blue line. Before the puck could get to Schierhorn, Stenglein stepped in front of Eliot’s shot and tipped the puck right between the pads of the Gopher net minder for his second goal of the season and second in as many games.
Stenglein’s goal was the only to occur in the first period as the Spartans were able to take the lead on only four shots on goal compared to Minnesota’s 11.
The second period came to an end with the Spartans and Gophers knotted up at two goals apiece.
Early in the period it was all MSU on the offensive end of the ice. Three minutes into the period Stenglein and forward Joe Cox flew down the ice on a two-on-one opportunity. Stenglein tried to cross a pass over to Cox but Minnesota defender Jake Bischoff dove into the passing lane and knocked the puck into the corner and away from danger. It was not long after when Stenglein had an opportunity for his second goal of the game. Coming down the middle of the ice Stenglein found a loose puck and fired it to the net but Schierhorn was able to come up with the stop.
On the Spartan’s third major opportunity of the period they struck gold. As Cox skated down the left side into the Gopher zone he dropped the puck off to a cutting Thomas Ebbing. He fired a shot to the top right corner of the net to beat Schierhorn right over his glove for his second goal of the season. This gave the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
Minnesota was able to get two quick goals of their own to tie the game back up. Not only did Jake Bischoff make an impact on the defensive end for the Gophers but he also contributed to the offensive attack.
With ten minutes still remaining in the second period, MSU forward Villiam Haag attempted to clear the puck out of the Spartans zone. His attempt landed right onto the stick of Bischoff who then gathered and fired a slap-shot to the top right corner over the glove of MSU goalie Ed Minney. Bischoff was not done in the period.
Three minutes later On Minnesota’s second power play of the game, Bischoff crossed a pass to the right side of the MSU zone to Gopher forward Rem Pitlick who hit a one-timer into a wide open net to tie the game back up at 2-2.
On the Pitlick goal, Justin Kloos picked up his 18th career point (five goals, 13 assists) against Michigan State in only 14 games which leads all active Minnesota players.
After the second period Minnesota led Michigan State in shots on goal by a tally on 19-13. Heading into the third period Sparty’s upset bid was still in tact.
With their third straight goal of the game the Golden Gophers were able to take their first lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game.
On their third power play opportunity of the night the Minnesota unit struck gold for the second straight time. As the puck got worked around the MSU zone, Gopher defenseman Steve Johnson passed a puck to the slot where forward Brent Gates had crossed into. Gates collected the puck and sent a wrist shot passed Minney for his sixth goal of the season and gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead.
Michigan State had a power play chance of their own to tie the game back up. As the puck got passed around the Minnesota zone, forward Logan Lambdin was left alone at the left face-off circle. Lambdin fired a wrist shot towards the net but the puck could not make its way through all of the traffic in front of Schierhorn and the puck got cleared away.
With 40 seconds remaining in the game Minnesota forward Tyler Sheehy put the nail on the MSU upset coffin with an empty net goal to seal the Minnesota victory at 4-2. With the goal Sheehy recorded his 23rd point this season which leads all Minnesota players.
For Michigan State, goalie Ed Minney was outstanding for the second straight night in between the pipes. Minney followed up a career best 40 saves with 31 saves on 34 shots Saturday night for a 91% save percentage.
Minnesota’s goalie Eric Schierhorn was just as impressive with a much less workload saving 15 shots on only 17 attempts for an 89% save percentage.
Opposite of last night when Michigan State shut down the Gophers’s power play unit, that unit was the catalyst of the Minnesota offensive attack going 2-3 and changed momentum multiple times Saturday night.
With the loss Michigan State falls to 0-2 in conference play and 4-8-1 overall. This was also the first time that the Spartans have been swept at home in a conference series since Nov 3o-Dec 1 in 2012 against Ohio State.
Michigan State will be back at Munn Ice Arena next Sunday Dec 18 for a meeting with the Northeastern Huskies.