Late rally not enough to overcome Spartans mistakes in loss vs. No. 4 Minnesota


Jack Moreland

Daniel Russell lunges for the puck during Michigan State’s loss to Minnesota on December 2, 2022. Photo Credit: Jack Moreland/WDBM

Jacob Stinson, Hockey Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — In order for No. 13 Michigan State to pull off the upset over Minnesota on Saturday, the team would have to be nearly perfect. 

The combination of speed and skill that the Golden Gophers possessed would make the Spartans pay for nearly every mistake they made. A 5-0 beatdown the night before proved such.

“We thought we took a backseat to them (Friday) a little bit,” junior forward Jeremy Davidson said. “They can be an intimidating team with all the skill they have and the depth they have.”

The first two periods were anything but perfect.

In the early stages of the game, the Spartans had no answer for Minnesota. Late in the first period, a Justin Jallen turnover led to a 2-on-0 breakaway with Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud — first-round NHL draft picks each with 20+ points to their names. Players with that pedigree will make any team pay given that opportunity, and they did.

Whenever Michigan State seemed to generate momentum, Minnesota would jump at the first hiccup the Spartans made. Just over seven minutes into the second, Bryce Brodzinski got a breakaway of his own to give his team the 2-0 lead.

The Golden Gophers’ onslaught continued for the rest of the second period. Both Jaxon Nelson and Matthew Knies found the back of the net. Down 4-0, some fans started to make their way to the exit.

“Obviously we dug ourselves a hole,” Michigan State coach Nightingale said. “But I liked our push in the third. We talked to our guys about going out and winning the third period. I was proud of our guys for that.”

Just over two minutes into the final frame, Christian Krygier would connect on a cross-ice feed with sophomore Jesse Tucker, who would one-time his fourth goal of the season.

From that point on, Michigan State started to crawl its way back into the contest. Davidson would fire in a loose puck, and the Spartans started playing with an energy that was absent for most of the game.

“I think we just totally got back to our game,” Tucker said. “It was things like getting pucks deep, getting on the body and just playing to our system…not making soft turnovers and things like that.”

Minnesota, however, knew just how to respond to the Spartans’ push. Less than two minutes after Davidson’s goal, Mason Nevers would push Minnesota back up by three, cleaning up a stray rebound of his own. Golden Gophers captain Brock Faber would score his third of the season just a few minutes later.

While Davidson would also score his second of the game, it was too late, and Minnesota completed the sweep of the Spartans with a 6-3 victory — the first back-to-back losses for Michigan State with Nightingale behind the bench.

Despite the loss, the rookie coach saw the weekend as a learning experience, choosing to emphasize his team’s late push to make the game competitive.

“If I pay money to watch a team play,” Nightingale said, “and I see them push like that when it would have been easy for them to roll over, I think that says a lot about our group of guys.”

The players shared the same sentiment. Going into next weekend — a home-and-home series with No. 5 Michigan — the Spartans want to build off the strong third period to prove they can compete with the best teams in the country.

“There were times in the game where I felt like the momentum was tilted our way,” Davidson said, “and that kind of gave us some hope. Hopefully, we can carry that into next weekend and just have the belief that we can play with those high-end teams because I believe we can.”