East Lansing, MI – After a hard-fought victory over the Michigan State Spartans Friday night, the Minnesota Gophers (18-15-0 Overall, 13-5-0 B1G) laid a massive egg Saturday evening, getting shut out by Michigan State for just the second time in school history, and the first time in nearly sixty years, in a humiliating 5-0 defeat.
Michigan State scored just 46 seconds into the game, and from then on the Gophers were fighting an uphill battle. The Spartans tacked on another goal in the first and a powerplay tally midway through the second before head coach Don Lucia pulled Eric Schierhorn in favor of Brock Kautz. In Kautz’s first action in the Maroon and Gold, he went on to allow two more goals on 10 total shots.
The team was without sophomore forward (and the team’s #2 goal scorer) Leon Bristedt, who was suspended one game for a spearing incident in Friday’s contest, and the loss was more than evident. Bristedt usually brings skill and speed to the Gopher lineup, and both of those things were lacking in Saturday’s performance.
The Gophers went 0-5 on the powerplay Saturday (including a five-minute major), 0-8 on the weekend, and an astounding 1-27 over the team’s previous eight games. In fact, since the start of 2016, the Gophers are clicking on the PP at an anemic 12% clip – just 8 goals in their last 65 attempts. In that time, Minnesota has played somewhere around two full hockey games (~120 minutes) on the power play, and has only scored eight times.
The loss all but eliminates Minnesota from contention for an At-Large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which means the only way the Gophers will make the Big Dance is to win the B1G Tournament. Minnesota still has a chance to win the conference’s regular season title and gain the first seed in the postseason tournament. The Gophers currently sit in first place in the conference at 39 total points, four ahead of Michigan’s 35 points. However, Michigan plays Ohio State Sunday afternoon, and a win would move the Wolverines to within one point of the Gophers.
Minnesota closes the season hosting the Wisconsin Badgers for a pair of games that will decide the B1G regular season title. No matter what Michigan does on Sunday, the Gophers control their own destiny – two wins against Wisconsin will see this Gopher team hoisting another regular season champions banner.