Minnesota Hockey: Gophers clear two deficits en route to 6-3 win, sweep over Spartans
MINNEAPOLIS If anyone forgot earlier this season, the Michigan St. Spartans and Minnesota Gophers made sure to reinforce it: Misconduct completely changes a game’s flight path, like the major and misconduct of the game tonight. That was true against North Dakota, and indeed it was true again in Minnesota’s 6-3 come-from-behind victory at a sold-out 3M Arena in Mariucci in Saturday night’s tilt on Hockey Day Minnesota. It is Minnesota’s 13th straight win against the Spartans.
With the Gophers leading 3-2, michigan stateDaniel Russell was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to the head of Gophers defenseman Mike Koster at 4:07 of the second period. Koster did not return to the game and there was no post-game update. Although the Maroon and Gold failed to score on the ensuing five-minute power play, they scored three more goals in the third period to extend their lead to 6–2. There is no question that the entire series had an impact on the final score as the momentum continued in Minnesota’s favor after the Spartans had to defend for five minutes.
The scoring spike in the third period began just two minutes after the major penalty ended when Ryan Chesley fired the puck from the right circle past top-board Dylan St. Cyr after Rhett Pitlick gave him an underhand pass from around the boards. Then Matthew Knies scored five holes on St. Cyr from the left circle to make it 5-2 after a great play from behind the net by Jimmy Snuggerud.
Knie’s 17th goal of the season tied Ben Meyers’ goal from last season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is now just two goals away from Sampo Rantas’ 19 goals in 2020-21.
Snuggerud’s one-timer from the close with 6:51 left in the game extended the lead to 6-2 as if the top line hadn’t done enough damage in the series. As Motzko puts it, his release is ridiculous.
Snuggerud’s goal was undoubtedly the knockout. They made plays when we needed them, Motzko said of the top line. … They looked awfully good tonight. The Spartans got one back through a late goal from Cole Krygier.
It was an unexpected turn to say the least.
The Gophers and Spartans may have been scoreless after the first period, but Michigan St. dominated the first 20 minutes, beating Minnesota 12-4 with a 22-10 lead on shot attempts. The visitors also hit the post.
We flipped pucks and didn’t get pucks deep and got badly out of bounds, said Gophers head coach Bob Motzko. It could have gotten away from us.
The Spartans short-changed the Gophers two shots in the first 18 minutes of the game. It was exactly the battle Gophers Captain Brock Faber envisioned, and their slow start showed it.
We came out with that less intensity, and we thought it would be too easy, which of course you can’t have in these kinds of games, Snuggerud said. We came back from it, and we got the win. But we can’t start such a game.
The Spartans finally broke through at 5:25 p.m. from mid-frame on the power play. Minnesota responded 65 seconds later with an equal strength goal from Snuggerud to tie the game. The freshman winger shot the puck over St. Cyrs’ glove hand and the top shelf right after a faceoff win in Cooley’s strike zone.
But it only took 88 seconds for the Spartans to react and retake the lead. However, the Gophers did not give up. After all, the Gophers responded pretty nicely in the second period by beating Michigan St. 16-6 with a 28-16 lead on shot attempts.
For the second weekend in a row, Knies was robbed of a goal. This time it wasn’t a quick whistle, but a remarkable save by St. Cyr, who stretched all the way to stop Knie’s one-timer from the rebound.
Video review determined that his glove did not fully cross the goal line, and Motzko said he was told he was three-quarters across the goal line. It would have been Goal No. 18 for Knies.
But the Gophers responded again as Cooley slammed his defender into the net, wrapped it around St. Cyrs furthest path and Garrett Pinoniemi jabbed the puck over the goal line as the net came loose for his second goal in two games after returning to the lineup. Michigan State challenged for goaltender interference, not losing their timeout in the process.
I just try to focus on the little things, winning battles (and) things Coach Motzko said Pinoniemi said about his motivation to return to the lineup. I just try to keep it simple, and I finally succeeded.
Motzko said the team didn’t play their A game, but they improved as the game progressed against the Spartans, who played damn hard.
About two minutes later, Bryce Brodzinski scored in the breakaway for Minnesota’s first lead of the game, 25 seconds before the major called on Russell. It was the result of a dominant second period by the Gophers, enough for the Maroon and Gold to complete the comeback and sweep the season series.
I think it was incredible, Snuggerud said of the team’s reaction. Those are the things we need here. It got better and better throughout the season, so it was a lot of fun and the response was good.
The Gophers have a week off and resume play against Wisconsin en route on February 10 and 11.
We’re going to use it to our advantage, Motzko said. We have some work to do; we have some free time.
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