Early in the third period, Michigan State junior Mackenzie MacEachern found himself in all alone on Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn. MacEachern tried to go five-hole on the freshman, but Schierhorn got his stick down to make the save. Later in the same period, Spartan forward Matt Deblouw hit the post on a wide-open shot from the slot. Those were just two of the many chances the Spartans had in their 4-2 loss to Minnesota Friday night at Munn Ice Arena.
“We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game tonight,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said postgame. “I thought we did a lot of good things. They generated the puck luck they needed in certain situations and they finished their opportunities. We didn’t.”
Coming off of a bye week, the Spartans seemed to respond well in the opening period. Although they saw a lot of short short trips in the Minnesota zone, they were able to match speed and intensity with one of the best teams in the nation.
The Spartans got the first goal in this contest despite being outshot 11-5 in the opening 20 minutes of play. MSU defenseman Zach Osburn made a nice play breaking out of the Michigan State zone to keep the puck alive and get it into the Minnesota territory. JT Stenglein eventually brought the puck out of a scrum along the boards and found a wide open Matt Deblouw, who netted his seventh goal of the season with 15:23 to play in the first.
Spartan goaltender Jake Hildebrand was his normal self in the opening stanza of play. The senior stopped 10-of-11 shots along with a few key saves. Schierhorn matched the play of Hildebrand, making saves on four of the five shots he faced.
The Gophers were able to tie the game at one as the first period came to a close. Junior defenseman Jack Glover was in the right place at the right time when he poked at a rebound that went past Hildebrand. Tommy Novak and Nick Seeler picked up assists on Glover’s second of the season.
The Spartans were able to keep up their pace in the second period, continuing to skate stride-for-stride with the Gophers.
About midway through the period, the two teams would trade goals that came less than one minutes apart. The first came from Gopher defenseman Michael Brodzinski, who wound up and took a hard shot at the net that just grazed the pants of Taylor Cammarata and past Hildebrand. The senior looked to the sky with disappointment after giving up a goal he usually catches with his glove.
Fortunately for him, Hildebrand’s disappointment was short-lived. Exactly 41 seconds later, forward Mackenzie MacEachern scored his 13th of the season from an improbable angle. The junior was able to buy sometime along the half-boards and snuck one just over the shoulder of Schierhorn to tie the game at two.
The two teams traded chances in the final period, but Hildebrand and Schierhorn continued to stand tall.
The two best chances for the Spartans in the third came on the aforementioned Deblouw shot and MacEachern breakaway.
“I faked the shot and tried to freeze him, but I think it kind of froze me at the same time.” MacEachern said. “The people on the bench said I had him to the backhand, but I just tried to go five-hole. Obviously it didn’t work.”
As the Spartans’ power play came to an end, Minnesota forward Hudson Fasching cleared the puck out of the zone. The puck fell right on the stick of Justin Kloos fresh off the bench. Kloos took a shot that hit a skate and bounced right to Novak, who scored to put the Gophers up 3-2.
Glover added an empty net goal with 15 seconds left to seal the win for the Gophers, who look to be on their way to another Big Ten title with Michigan losing to Ohio State Friday night.
“The chances were there,” senior captain Michael Ferrantino said. “We had chances to win the game and chances to score goals. It’s just about bearing down and finding a way to put them in.”
The two teams will face each other again Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.