Minneapolis, MN – Michigan State was in it with a chance for 8 seconds in Friday’s affair against the Minnesota Gophers.
By the ninth second, the Gophers had taken control.
Logan Cooley scored on a partial breakaway at 0:09 of the first period, and Minnesota never looked back, scoring eight unanswered goals to dominate the Michigan State Spartans by a 8-0 margin on Friday night.
After Cooley’s goal, the game settled down a bit, with the Gophers (19-7-1 Overall (3-3 OT), 12-2-1-2 B1G) mostly controlling play in the first period but without another goal to show for it. That changed at 16:47 of the first, when Jimmy Snuggerud’s quick wrister from the slot beat MSU goalie Dylan St. Cyr to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead. Michigan State (13-12-2 (1-1), 6-8-3–0) wasn’t able to beat Gopher goalie Justen Close in the period, and Minnesota went to the first intermission up a pair.
The Gophers extended their lead midway through the second with Connor Kurth’s fifth goal of the year at 7:47 of the middle frame, before pouring it on late in the period with Matthew Knies and Mike Koster both scoring in the final five minutes of the stanza to give the Gophers an insurmountable 5-0 lead.
Minnesota scored twice in the first five minutes of the third to increase their lead to 7-0 on a Jackson LaCombe power play slapped and an Aaron Huglen partial-break wrist shot. Garrett Pinoniemi rounded out the scoring on the power play with his first goal as a Gopher to put the team up 8-0.
Justen Close wasn’t tested like he was a weekend prior against the Michigan Wolverines, but the senior netminder still had to be sharp to stop all 21 Michigan State shots that he faced on the night. The shutout was his conference-leading fifth of the season.
The great thing about college hockey is that tomorrow is always another day. These same two teams square off at 4PM Saturday afternoon, and the score will be 0-0 when the puck drops. It’s tough to beat any team four times in a season, and Michigan State will likely pose a tougher challenge for the Gophers Saturday.
In other Big Ten action, Penn State lost to Michigan, while Notre Dame beat Wisconsin Friday evening. Ohio State was idle. Minnesota jumps up to 40 points on the season, good for a 13-point lead over PSU and OSU. It’s strange to be talking about clinching scenarios in January, but the Gophers’ strong play has them so far out ahead that we can start looking at it.
The best Ohio State can do is 51 points, and the best PSU and Michigan can do is 48 points, so Minnesota getting to 52 assures them the Big Ten title, and any points lost by any of those teams means that Minnesota’s “magic number” drops further.
Of course, the real magic number that matters to this team is the Pairwise ranking, and Minnesota increased its lead over first place with a win Friday coupled with a SCSU loss to UMD. The Huskies remain in second place in the PWR, but the Gophers’ lead on first place is now a comfortable one.