MINNEAPOLIS — No. 1 Minnesota held off a third period rally from No. 6 Michigan State for a 5-4 win that extends the Gophers’ unbeaten streak to 14 games (12-0-2).
Junior Defenseman Alex Goligoski lead the offensive charge tallying the game-winner at 11:20 of the third with a power-play goal on a one-timer feed from Tyler Hirsh to break 4-4 tie.
“Tyler made a great pass to Alex,” commented Lucia on the goal.
Michigan State mounted a third-period comeback with two quick goals at 7:06 and 7:42 to tie the game at 4-4.
Tim Kennedy tallied the first goal in the comeback on a tip while on the power play. Tyler Howells took a slapshot from the blueline which Kennedy tipped with a stick slightly above the waste past Minnesota netminder Jeff Frazee.
“Kennedy is a tremendous hockey player,” said Michigan State coach Rich Comley.
Defenseman Mike Ratchuk tied the game at 4-4 on a one-time feed from behind the net by Chris Mueller just 36 seconds later on a defensive turnover.
Minnesota’s Ben Gordan took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone at 19:07 to give the Spartans one last chance to tie, but Goligoski cleared a rebound shot out of the zone to ice the game
Despite the win and Goligoski’s great offensive performance, Minnesota made numerous turnovers creating point blank “Grade A” scoring chances for the Spartans.
“We played well enough to win but sloppy at times,” said Lucia.
Comley was fairly pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss, “Tonight, we battled out there. We did not give them much.”
The first period started rather uneventfully with both teams combining for five shots at the 14-minute mark of the period.
At 13:40, Derek Peltier of Minnesota opened the scoring for the game cleaning up a rebound. Evan Kauffman took the initial shot. MSU goaltender Jeff Lerg made a pad save before Hirsh helped move the puck to the open lane 10 feet in front of the net. Peltier cheated in from the blue line to bury the puck for his first goal of the season.
“The guy I am most pleased with lately is Derek,” commented Lucia.
The Spartans Tim Kennedy answered back quickly at 15:39. Linemate Justin Abdelkader fought off two Gopher defenders to steal the puck off the boards behind the Minnesota net. He found Kennedy alone 10 feet in front of the net for the one-timer.
Blake Wheeler put the Gophers up by one with less than a minute left as the Gophers worked the puck across the line from Mike Vannelli to Goligoski. He then threw the puck and was off target by about 10 feet, but the puck caught the blade of Wheeler’s stick in the left circle and found the back of the net.
“Wheeler was probably the only guy in the building that could tip that puck,” said Comley.
“He has about an eight-foot reach and it was going way wide,” said Goligoski on Wheeler’s goal.
Justin Abdelkader found the upper-right corner of the goal to even the score at two early in the second. Abdelkader stole the puck at the blueline and fired a deadly and accurate shot from 50 feet out.
Ben Gordon and Jay Barriball teamed up for a transitional goal at 15:23. Barriball skated into the zone and took the initial shot from the left circle. Lerg played the puck behind his net where Gordan caught it in stride to circle the net and score on the turnaround from 10 feet out.
Evan Kaufman gave the Gophers the first two-goal lead of the night on another tip in. Goligoski got his second assist of the night throwing another puck toward the net. Kaufman redirected the pass through Lerg’s five-hole.
Saturday night Minnesota will host Michigan and Michigan State heads to Madison this evening for the middnight bus ride to take on Wisconsin.
“Michigan is probably the most talented team we will play this year,” said Lucia. “I think we will have to play our best to win tomorrow.”