Gophers Extend Big Ten Lead with 4-2 Win Over Sparty

Kloos Tallies 100th Career Point as a Gopher

Minnesota’s split with Michigan last weekend gave the Gophers a lead going into the last lap for a third consecutive Big Ten Title. Coming out of the first turn, Minnesota defeated Michigan State 4-2 while Michigan slipped by falling 7-4 to Ohio State 7-4, giving Minnesota a four point cushion in the conference race.

Minnesota’s (18-14-0 overall, 13-4-0-0 Big Ten) victory at Munn Ice Arena over the Spartans (9-21-3, 5-11-1-0) clinched a first-round bye after the end of conference play Friday night as Michigan and Penn State will now battle for the other top seed. The win didn’t move the needle on the Gophers’ #16 PairWise Ranking, and it appears the only way for them to move up into the top 14 is by getting help from other teams losing.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” said Don Lucia to the media after the game. “But bottom line is it’s three points and we’ll take it and move on to tomorrow night.”

Jack Glover scored two goals, Taylor Cammarata and Tommy Novak scored the Gopher other goals, Justin Kloos three assists moved him to 100 career points, and the team tallied their sixth consecutive road victory.

Michigan State scored the opening goal of the game 4:37 by capitalizing on an aggressive forecheck and quick play to the net. J.T. Stenglein took the puck off the turnover at the half-wall to the middle of the ice, his pass was partially deflected by Steve Johnson, but still made it to Matt DeBlouw at the far post. DeBlouw wristed the puck over a sprawling Eric Schierhorn to give Sparty the lead.

Minnesota stayed patient with their game and continued content to grind the puck along the boards with Michigan State throughout the rest of the period. The Gophers got an opportunity at 16:16 when Glover rushed the puck up the ice, dished it to Novak and then drove the net. Novak threw the puck on net, Jake Hildebrand lost track of the puck, leaving it out for Glover driving the net, and the defenseman poked the loose puck in for his second goal of the season.

Minnesota added to their lead in the second period when after a broken rush Michael Brodzinski jumped on a loose puck and let loose a wrist shot that deflected off Taylor Cammarata near the side of the net over Hildebrand’s glove. The goal was eventually credited to Cammarata for his fifth of the season at 7:46.

Michigan State came right back the next shift and MacKenzie MacEachern turned a nothing opportunity into a tie game. The St. Louis Blues third round pick looped around the right wing boards and wristed a puck from the wall hashmarks through a screen into an upper corner.

After finishing killing off a Novak holding penalty, Kloos and Hudson Fasching sparked an odd-man rush. Novak joined them out of the box, jumped on a loose puck, and wristed a shot off a sprawling Hildebrand for the eventual game winning goal at 12:51. Glover then added his second goal of the game on an empty netter at 19:45 when his clearing attempt from his own goal line went off the glass and into the center of the Michigan State goal.

Minnesota played a patient game against Sparty most of Friday night, outshooting them 28-20. However, the Gophers got some fortunate bounces with Michael Ferrantino and Matt DeBlouw hitting pipes on clean looks and Schierhorn bailing out his team with two big saves on MacEachern chances including a breakaway late.

“Our goaltender made a couple saves, they hit a couple pipes, so we got a little puck luck tonight and our defensemen came through with three of the four goals, but we finished,” said Lucia. “Sometimes earlier in the year we had a hard time finishing games.”

The Gophers finish out their final regular season road series with Michigan State on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on the radio by ESPN 1500, but not televised. It will be streamed via BTN Plus.