Mike Koster left the game in the 2nd after getting checked with contact to the head. Photo By Craig Cotner
Mike Koster left the game in the 2nd after getting checked with contact to the head. Photo By Craig Cotner

Gophers Overcome Early Struggles to Sweep Spartans

Minneapolis, MN – In Friday’s game between Minnesota and Michigan State, it took all of nine seconds for the Gophers to take control of the contest.

Saturday’s game took much longer to start feeling comfortable.

Behind a flurry of goals in the second half of the game, the Minnesota Gophers (20-7-1 Overall (3-3 OT), 13-2-1-2 B1G) turned around an early MSU lead to down the Michigan State Spartans (13-13-2 (1-1), 6-9-3). The Gophers won the game 6-3 and swept the two-game series, expanding their lead in the Big Ten standings.

The nature of college hockey is often that two teams play a close game just a day after one team dominates the other. Such was the case Saturday between the Spartans and Gophers. After an 8-0 Minnesota win Friday, Michigan State came to play in the rubber match Saturday afternoon.

The Spartans took advantage of some early Gopher lethargy to control much of the first period, outshooting Minnesota 12-4 in the opening 20 minutes while controlling the pace of the game. For its part, Minnesota looked hung over in the first period, with Justen Close making some big saves to keep the Gophers tied at 0-0 through the first period.

The MSU pressure continued early in the second period, when Karsen Dorwart scored at 2:35 on the powerplay to give the Spartans their first lead of the weekend at 1-0. The Gophers responded just over a minute later when Jimmy Snuggerud sniped a wrister past MSU’s Dylan St. Cyr to tie the game at 1-1.

MSU retook the lead just over a minute later on a Daniel Russell 2-on-1 goal. From there, Minnesota slowly started building pressure, and finally broke through again to tie the game at 13:31 on a thoroughly reviewed Garrett Pinoniemi goal. Logan Cooley rushed the puck up the right wing before cutting in front of the goalie and sliding the puck to the goal line. The net was slightly off its moorings before Pinoniemi touched it over the line, but the referees deemed it a good goal after a lengthy review.

Just two minutes later, Bryce Brodzinski scored on a breakaway to give the Gophers their first lead of the game at 3-2.

Early in the third period, Minnesota increased their lead when Ryan Chesley and Matthew Knies scored before the seven-minute mark to put the Gophers up 5-2. Snuggerud tacked on his second goal of the game at 13:09 to put Minnesota up 6-2. MSU added a late goal, but the Gophers pulled out the game 6-3 to earn the weekend sweep.

The win was the Gophers’ 13th in a row against the Spartans – Minnesota has not lost to Michigan State since the 2019-2020 season.

Minnesota is now up to 43 total points in the Big Ten standings, good for a 16 point lead over second place Penn State and Ohio State, who both have 27 points. If OSU wins out they can reach 51 points, which means that just nine more Gopher points clinches the conference title. Wisconsin and MSU can no longer pass Minnesota, while Notre Dame (44) and Penn State (45) are close to being eliminated from title contention. With two games in hand, Michigan (24 points, max 48) still has a chance if they win out and the Gophers collapse down the stretch.

The Gophers increased their lead on the #1 spot in the Pairwise rankings, as St. Cloud State was swept by UMD this weekend and Penn State was swept by Michigan. Quinnipiac moved up to #2, BU is currently #3, and Michigan moved all the way up to #4 as of Sunday morning.

The Gopher goal-scoring leader race is heating up, with Matthew Knies sitting on 17 goals on the year while Jimmy Snuggerud has 16. Logan Cooley’s 13 goals is third place on the team, and Bryce Brodzinski’s 12 is good for fourth.

Minnesota has next weekend off before resuming the final three weeks of the regular season schedule. Minnesota travels to Wisconsin for a Feb 10-11 weekend series before heading to Happy Valley to battle Penn State Feb 17-18. Finally, the Gophers return home for the regular season finale against Ohio State.