East Lansing, MI – A lot has happened since the Gophers last won in Michigan just a month ago.
A 5-1 Friday clinic was followed up by a disappointing 6-2 Saturday finish for Minnesota’s fifth-straight split. Minnesota had four players (Brock Faber, Matthew Knies, Chaz Lucius, Ryan Johnson) depart for the World Junior tournament in Canada. The World Juniors were cancelled. The NHL pulled out of the Olympics. Several Gopher players (Faber, Knies, Meyers, Johnson) have been connected with the Olympic team. Minnesota played and won two exhibition games against St. Thomas and the US Under-18 Team.
It was one of the busier break periods in recent memory for the University of Minnesota, who returned to action Friday against Michigan State, trailing league-leading Michigan by four points in the Big Ten and needing to get off the split-train.
Step one of that journey was a win on Friday, and the Gophers (11-8-0 Overall, 7-4-0-1 B1G) took care of business, with the Meyers/Knies/Lucius line contributing 3 goals and 8 points in a 4-1 win over a pesky Michigan State Spartans (11-9-1 Overall, 5-6-1-0 B1G) team.
Minnesota got off to a 2-0 lead in the first with goals from Sammy Walker at 8:32 and Ben Meyers at 14:48. Michigan State struck back with a big momentum goal late in the period at 16:07 to cut the Gopher lead to 2-1 entering the 2nd.
Although Minnesota had the majority of the shots and quality scoring chances, MSU’s Drew DeRidder kept the Spartans in the game, keeping the Gophers off the board and giving the Spartans a chance to mount a comeback. Fortunately for Minnesota, captain Ben Meyers decided to put the team on his back, and scored a big insurance goal at 16:44 of the 2nd to put the Gophers up 3-1 going into the 3rd.
Michigan State put up 10 shots in the 3rd and Gopher goalie Jack LaFontaine stopped all 10 to drive Minnesota to victory. Chaz Lucius netted the Gophers’ final goal at 16:20 of the 3rd (although it’s possible that the stats team ends up giving the goal to Meyers, which would be his third of the night).
The win pulls the Gophers within one point of league-leading Michigan, who is playing non-conference this weekend.
Minnesota gets another chance for their first sweep since Halloween weekend Saturday. The puck drops at 6:30PM Central, and can be seen / streamed on BTN, and heard on AM1130 / FM 103.5.