Gophers Advance to face Michigan in Tournament Semifinal Monday at 7:30PM; Defenseman Faber Hurt
South Bend, IN – It’s never easy ending another team’s season.
I don’t think anyone thought it would be this hard against Michigan State, though.
The Gophers (21-6-0 Overall) looked like they might get shut out by league cellar-dwellers Michigan State (7-18-2) before scoring late to tie and then again to win in overtime. The quarterfinal victory sets up an exciting semifinal matchup against #6 Michigan.
Michigan State scored the game’s first goal at 10:39 of the first on the powerplay, and for a long time it looked like that may be the only goal of the entire game. Minnesota put on a massive offensive effort throughout the contest, but MSU’s freshman goalie Pierce Charleson was up to the challenge, keeping Minnesota scoreless until the end of the third period.
The teams played to a scoreless second period, but the biggest news was Brock Faber’s injury. Faber went hard arms-first into the defensive end boards in the final minute of the frame, and was down on the ice for an extended period of time. He did not return for the rest of the Michigan State game, and coach Bob Motzko called his availability for the semifinals “doubtful”.
In the third period, Gopher forward Bryce Brodzinski scored in his third-consecutive game to pull Minnesota into a 1-1 tie. Late in the final stanza, Brodzinski rushed the puck to the right-wing half-wall before circling back and finding himself with some open space after a soft gap from the MSU defender. Brodzinski skated towards the slot before sniping a wrist shot into the far corner past Charleson with 4:59 left in the period to give the Gophers new life.
Neither team scored the rest of the period, so Minnesota went to overtime for the fist time all season. The Gophers dominated the extra session, generating 12 shots on goal in the first 10 scoreless minutes of action before Sampo Ranta broke the tie to send Minnesota to the next round of the tournament. Ranta’s shot was Minnesota’s 50th of the game, which means Charleson made a career-high 48 stops in the losing effort.
Jack LaFontaine was Minnesota’s winning goaltender, stopping 22 of 23 shots in the victory.
The win earns the Gophers a rematch with the Michigan Wolverines, with whom they split in the regular season’s final series. Michigan rolled over Ohio State 4-0 in their semifinal matchup. The other side of the bracket saw Penn State upset Notre Dame 6-3 – the Nittany Lions will face off against the #1 seeded Wisconsin Badgers Monday afternoon.
Minnesota and Michigan play Monday evening at 7:30PM central time. The game can be seen on BTN, streamed on Fox Sports, and heard on AM1130.