Gophers Give Up Three Leads to Sparty, End Up with One Point

Photo credit: Ethan Fine, Gopher Sports
Photo credit: Ethan Fine, Gopher Sports

Minneapolis, Minn. — The Gophers threw 80 pucks towards the Sparty net on Friday night and had three leads, but only came away with one conference point in a 3-3 tie after losing the shootout.

No. 8 Minnesota (6-4-3, 2-3-2) got nice goals from Connor Kurth, Bryce Brodzinski and Rhett Pitlick that all came from great plays getting the puck to right player in the right spot, but No. 7 Michigan State (10-3-2, 5-0-2) found ways to equal those tallies and then capitalize in the shootout.

“I liked everything about our game tonight except for giving up the two leads we had in the third period. One deflection and we got mixed up on one coverage,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “Outside of that we had the right guys with the puck all night long in front of their goalie and he had a pretty good game obviously.”

Kurth finally got his first goal of the season in his 13th game of the season when he converted an Aaron Huglen pass to open the scoring 1:41 into the game. The sophomore forward has tallied seven assists on the year, but putting one in the back of the net took some patience despite plenty of quality scoring chances. He had an absolute Grade A chance last weekend against Notre Dame similar to the one he converted tonight, but the returning Big Ten Goaltender of the Year Ryan Bischel played it much more aggressively last Saturday.

Michigan State goalie Trey Augustine got beat with a couple pretty Minnesota goals, but the highly touted freshman tender made 44 saves during regulation and denied all the Gophers during the shootout.

“Obviously a great goaltender on their end with Trey, but we’ve got to find a way to win those games. I think we were sloppy for 10 minutes and that can cost you in this league,” said Minnesota forward Oliver Moore.

“I know [Augustine] really well and it’s funny because I just don’t know his weaknesses yet. He’s one of those guys where I’ve played with him for two years [at the USNTDP] and he’s such a good goalie I don’t know what his weakness is yet.”

Michigan State appeared to tie up the contest 5:46 into the second period as a loose puck out in front of Justen Close was put home by NMU transfer Joey Larson. There were four Spartans on top of the Minnesota crease during the sequence including Red Savage right on top of Close. Motzko challenged the call and the refs overturned it for goalie interference after a short review.

Larson still eventually got the initial tying goal as he one timed a puck from his off wing dot and made no doubt about it 10:05 into the second on the power play.

Minnesota took the lead back 8:01 into the third period when Brodzinski scored late during a major penalty power play. Tommi Männistö was called for the five minute penalty when he put Mike Koster into the end boards with a dangerous play.

The lead was short lived when Nash Nienhuis wristed one near side from the dot with traffic from two Sparty forwards in front of the Minnesota goal at 9:23.

Rhett Pitlick got the Gophers their third lead of the game 14:14 into the third period. Koster passed the puck through the slot, it got a little knock from Oliver Moore on the way through and right to Pitlick’s stick for a catch and shoot.

Michigan State tied it up yet again 2:10 later when Tiernan Shoudy got his stick on a David Gucciardi shot for his first goal of the season.

The overtime was back and forth including Jaxon Nelson hitting the pipe on a breakaway, but the game went into a shootout where Karsen Dorwart converted on the first opportunity while Pitlick, Mason Nevers and Jimmy Snuggerud were denied.

The two teams will face each other again on Sunday and Motzko said he’ll look at film tomorrow, but was overall happy with the way his team played.

“The key now is we continue to play like we’re playing, we continue to grow and our young guys can’t get frustrated like we do. We’re a little wired to offense and they have to take how many opportunities we had tonight. If we continue to do that we’ll put pucks away,” said Motzko.

“There are shifts where nothing’s happening and they have to know that’s okay. Sometimes two shifts in a row and then we have some guys just start going off off the rails because something’s not happening… it’s okay. You have two good teams going at it. A couple shifts, you’re gonna have nothing happening, but it’ll come back to you as we saw tonight with almost 50 shots.”

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