Gophers Sweep Sparty

Schierhorn Makes 21 Saves for 10th Career Shutout

Minneapolis, Minn. — It wasn’t exactly a Picasso for the Gophers, but they made enough brush strokes to sweep the Spartans with a 4-0 shutout on Saturday.

“We haven’t proven to be an offensive juggernaut,” head coach Don Lucia said. “We just kind of methodically get to 2 or 3 or 4, enough to win games.”

No. 5 Minnesota (7-3-0 overall, 3-1-0-0 Big Ten) got the first goals of the season from Tyler Sheehy and Tyler Nanne, along with tallies from Casey Mittelstadt and Leon Bristedt in front of 8,349 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Goalie Eric Schierhorn followed up a spectacular Big Ten No. 1 Star of the Weekend performance against Clarkson by making 25 saves on 26 shots Friday, and following it up with 21 saves for his 10th career shutout and 50th career win on Saturday.

“Anytime you can let up one goal in two games it’s awesome for the defensive side, obviously having Eric back there helps, he had an amazing weekend,” Nanne said. “I think we just emphasized keeping it simple in our own end, getting pucks out, and once we got over the red line, get pucks deep.”

Michigan State (4-4-0, 0-2-0-0) was picked by the coaches to finish last in the Big Ten this season, but Lucia said the Spartans are a better team than they were a year ago and noted Patrick Khodorenko, Taro Hirose, and Sam Saliba have shown a lot of growth. The Gophers avoided any letdowns by managing the puck and making sure any turnovers sparked effort and back pressure.

Minnesota did open the third period with a letdown. The Spartans pieced together some sustained pressure, forced the Gophers into some extended defensive zone shifts, and Lucia took a timeout to get his team’s attention.

“I just got on them a little bit. Let’s play the game the right way, we need some shifts down in the offensive zone, let’s just not defend,” Lucia said. “We hadn’t had a lot of shots on goal in the third, or even that much for the game, then we had a little surge after that, we had some good shifts, ended up getting that fourth goal.”

Minnesota special teams went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and have successfully killed off 14-straight penalties during the last three games. Lucia was pleased his penalty kill came to play Saturday, but was said the power play is still a work in progress. The Gophers also got more from their defensmen in the offensive zone this weekend, which is something Lucia has been looking for all season.

“I like the fact our d are jumping and I like the fact we’re using them in the offensive zone, and playing a five-man game instead of a three-man game,” Lucia said.

The blue line tallied nine shots on Friday, 10 shots on Saturday, and defensemen scored goals on both nights.

“Any time you can get point shots, it creates havoc at the front of the net. We did a good job screening the goalie and getting pucks through,” Nanne said. “Coach Lucia especially told us to do all slapshots just to toughen up everyone in front of the net. Forwards did a good job covering the goalie’s eyes, that was one of the big improvements of the weekend.”

The Gophers head to Michigan next weekend for a two-game Big Ten series in Ann Arbor.

“We haven’t played the best in these last four games, but if you’re winning, nothing else matters,” Schierhorn said. “It’s good to know we can win and not play our best–it’s huge for our confidence. Our defense played well all weekend, 21 tonight, 27 last night, if that’s what we’re giving up, we’ve got a good chance to win every night.”