Justen Close during a media timeout.
Justen Close during a media timeout.

Gophers Bounce Back from Friday Collapse in 5-1 Drubbing of Michigan State

East Lansing, MI – After a Friday night letdown punctuated by a Spartan game-winning goal with four seconds left in the third period, Saturday’s Gopher team meant business.

An indication of what this team can be if they play good hockey for 60 minutes, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-7-4 Overall (2-0 OT), 7-5-1-3 B1G) beat the Big Ten-leading Michigan State Spartans (17-6-3 (0-1), 11-2-1-2) 5-1 Saturday night. The win could be a springboard to a second-half surge, if the team can learn the lesson from Friday night’s loss and respond accordingly.

Minnesota’s all-business attitude was evident from before the puck even dropped, as Frank Mazzocco called the team bus ride over to the rink “the quietest [he]’s ever heard.” Once the game actually started, that resolve translated into success on the ice.

Bryce Brodzinski got the Gophers on the board first at 4:52 of the opening period, when his high-slot wrister beat All-World goalie Trey Augustine to put Minnesota up 1-0. The Gophers doubled their lead when Aaron Huglen tapped in a rebound at 6:14 to make it 2-0. Later in the first period, it looked like the Gophers went up 3-0 when Mason Nevers found the twine, but the referees waived the goal off due to goalie interference and upheld the call after video review.

Oliver Moore scored at 4:22 of the second period to give Minnesota a big 3-0 lead and a little breathing room. MSU’s Matt Basgall scored the Spartans’ only goal of the game at 11:05 of the second to make it a game at 3-1.

Heading into the third up two goals was the same position the Gophers were in on Friday, when they allowed MSU to dominate the period and lost the game late. Saturday’s Gopher team wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Minnesota put 15 shots on goal in the third period to MSU’s seven, and put the game away when Oliver Moore scored his second goal of the game (and third of the weekend) at 11:00 after a beautiful against-the-grain pass from Jimmy Snuggerud. In a moment of poetic justice, Mason Nevers scored on a bank shot into an empty net at 17:16 to close out the scoring at 5-1.

Getting to three goals has to be a big point of emphasis for the Gophers, especially given how much they lost on the defensive side of the puck from last year. Minnesota is now 15-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and just 0-5-2 when scoring two goals or less. This team doesn’t win low-scoring contests like last year’s team could, so they need to outscore the opposition.

Minnesota currently sits third in the Big Ten standings with 26 points, behind MSU (37) and Wisconsin (32). Notre Dame is in fourth place with 24 points, while a surging Michigan (19) is fifth, two ahead of Penn State (17). Ohio State sits last in the conference with 7 points.

Up next for Minnesota is a trip to Madison to take on the Badgers. Wisconsin came into Mariucci in late October and ripped off a sweep, looking like the best team in the country at the time. Time will tell whether Friday’s loss to MSU was the wake-up-call that this Gopher team needed to kick the season into the gear everyone expects the team has left in them. The Friday/Saturday series has both games scheduled at 7PM central time.