EAST LANSING, Mich. — In Minnesota’s 3-2 win over Michigan State, it was the first 10 minutes of the game that made the biggest difference – and that was no accident.
“I thought that we had better energy throughout our lineup tonight than we had last night,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, “and I thought that we won the game in the first period, the way we came out and played with great energy and got pucks behind their ‘D.’”
After playing to a 2-2 tie Friday night and losing the subsequent shootout to the Spartans — and scoring their first goal with less than two minutes left in the first period of that contest — the Gophers emphasized the first 10 minutes of play in this contest, said Christian Isackson, who scored the first Minnesota goal at 11:47 in the first.
“I think it was just our goal tonight to get shots to the net and get pucks to the net,” said Isackson. “We knew we had to win the puck battles. We’d gone over the stats from last game and we had a lot of shot attempts, but there were no really second chances, so it was just important for us to get to the net and jam pucks away.”
The Gophers led 2-0 after the first on Isackson’s goal and Seth Ambroz’s eighth marker of the season, on the power play at 18:25. Isackson picked up the rebound of Gabe Guertier’s initial effort and Ambroz redirected Michael Brodzinski’s shot from the top of the slot.
“I thought that we had great play from Guertler’s line tonight,” said Lucia.
Defenseman Mike Reilly scored at 6:05 in the second to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead, which was cut to 3-1 when Michigan State’s Villiam Haag scored on a power play at 15:17. Ferrantino’s goal came with one second left in regulation.
“We’re the type of the team where we’re not going to rely on the one guy,” said Lucia. “Some of the guys that needed to score night in and night out haven’t scored in a while, but like we’ve done so often, our ‘D’ chipped in with a goal and then some other guys scored tonight.”
The Spartans’ top center, Lee Reimer, was injured in the first period and did not return to the lineup.
“Obviously, losing Reimer early in the game threw us off a little bit with line combinations,” said Michigan State captain Greg Wolfe, Reimer’s linemate. “When you’re playing with different guys, it’s a little disruptive, but I thought we worked through it.”
Michigan State defenseman John Draeger said that the Gophers’ style of play is what undermined the Spartans tonight.
“They’re a good team,” Draeger said. “They can skate well. They’re a good forechecking team, and I think that’s what got us today.”
The Gophers outshot the Spartans 38-21, including a 17-3 differential in the first period alone. Hildebrand had 35 saves for the Spartans, and Adam Wilcox stopped 19 for Minnesota.
Lucia confirmed after the game that senior defenseman Jake Parteneau will be out indefinitely with a broken leg, an injury he suffered in Friday’s contest.
Minnesota (12-2-2, 3-0-1-0 Big Ten) is off from now until Jan. 3, 2014, when it hosts the Mariucci Classic. Michigan State (5-8-1, 0-1-0-1 Big Ten) hosts Ferris State Dec. 14.