MINNEAPOLIS — Late-charging Minnesota got a hat trick from rookie Thomas Vanek, but a young Michigan State team escaped with a 5-5 tie Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
The Spartans never trailed in the game and gave their coach, Rick Comley, an inspired effort.
“It was our best game all year, emotionally,” Comley said. “I saw some things I have not seen all year. We fought very hard. They took it to us early. We fought through it.”
At 2:56 of the first period the Spartans’ first shot of the game found the back of the net as Mike LaLonde one-timed a goal-line pass from Jim Slater into the far left corner.
Minnesota tied up the game at 8:17 of the first period on a rebound goal from Matt Koalska. Koalska tapped in the puck from the paint past MSU goaltender Matt
Migliaccio after trailing Vanek on his break up the left side.
38 seconds later Minnesota thought it had taken a two-goal lead on another tap-in from the goal crease from Dan Welch, but the linesman waved the goal off immediately. The net had been knocked of the moorings seconds before.
The Minnesota goal sparked the Gophers’ attack, which proceeded to outshoot the Spartans 17-6 in the period but did not find the net again, ending the first in a 1-1 tie. It was a period of missed opportunities for the Gophers.
“I thought we came out fast, best in several weeks,” said Don Lucia. But the Gopher head man was not as pleased with his team’s defensive play.
“We keep giving up first goals and making mental mistakes,” Lucia said.
The Spartans took advantage of those opportunities in the second, scoring four goals on 10 shots including two in the last 30 seconds of the period.
Their first opportunity came when Minnesota’s Andy Sertich was called for hooking at 5:17, and Ash Goldie put the Spartans up 2-1 on a power-play goal at 6:55. Goldie buried a rebound of a John-Michael Liles shot from the blue line.
Three minutes later, the Spartans returned the favor twofold, giving Minnesota a two-man advantage for 1:02. Freshman defender Chris Harrington tied the game on a screened shot from the point at 12:25.
The game then exploded into a scoring frenzy as both teams tallied again in the next two minutes. Three goals on four shots: game tied at 3-3.
A pair of freshmen scored the goals. MSU tallied first at 13:39 on a base-line rush from David Booth. Vanek answered with an unassisted goal from the top of the circle at 14:17.
Scoring took a brief respite until the Spartans rallied for two last-minute goals, running the Gophers off the ice.
The first tally was set up by a wraparound attempt from Brook Radunske when the puck trickled past Travis Weber to the waiting stick of Lee Falardeau on the far side. Seventeen seconds later, Booth put the Spartans up by two goals on a screened shot off a pass from linemate Slater. It was Slater’s third assist of the night.
“Slater played really good. He has always been a great player against us,” said Lucia.
The third period cast its luck to the Gophers — or more precisely, Vanek. The freshman led the rally, completing his natural hat trick with two tallies in the third.
The Spartans controlled play early in the third period and closed the gap in shots to 31-29 with 10 minutes to play.
But the Spartans could not keep the Gophers down.
At 13:03 Vanek took two swipes at the puck in the crease, the second slipping past a sprawling Migliaccio to bring Minnesota within a goal. Vanek completed his hat trick 3:29 later on another rebound goal, knotting the game at 5-5.
“I prepare myself the same for every game. Luck was just on my side. I was just the third guy on the line in the right spot,” said Vanek.
The Gophers continued to apply the pressure throughout the remainder of the third and in the overtime stanza, outshooting Michigan State 51-30 for the game. That, though, wasn’t quite enough for the win.
“Under the circumstances, trailing by two going into the third, I will take a tie,” said Lucia.
Michigan State freshman defenseman Corey Potter suffered a shoulder injury during the game, believed to be a broken collarbone.
Minnesota’s Troy Riddle notched two assists on the night, scoring his 100th career point.
Michigan State travels to Madison to face Wisconsin Saturday night. Meanwhile Minnesota plays host to Michigan on Sunday afternoon.