MSU struggles to generate offense, crushed by No. 5 Minnesota


MSU defenseman Cole Krygier skates against Wisconsin/Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Kyle Hatty, Hockey Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING— No. 5 Minnesota went on the road for the first time this season to take on Michigan State in East Lansing and the Golden Gophers kept their record unblemished with a 3-1 win in game one of the series.

With the loss, the Spartans dropped to 2-2-1 on the season, while the Golden Gophers improved to 5-0.

The first period was all Minnesota. The Golden Gophers came out fast and tested Michigan State early. Christian Krygier was called for a high stick and Minnesota’s power play scored on the man advantage after Gopher forward Ben Meyers found the back of the net on a wrist shot as time was winding down.

Less than two minutes later, the Gophers scored again thanks to forward Sampo Ranta tucking in a rebound behind Spartan netminder Drew DeRidder. 

Minnesota took that 2-0 lead into the first intermission as the Spartans struggled to generate consistent offensive momentum.

The Golden Gophers were also the better team in the faceoff circle in the first period; MSU came into the game with a 61% faceoff win percentage through their first four games.

“I thought our biggest issue was they just came out faster than us,” Spartan captain Tommy Apap said. “When you come out slow, it’s going to hurt you, and it took us ‘til the third period to actually get going.”

Tommy Apap shoots a wrister against Ohio State/Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The second period was a lot of the same. Minnesota added another goal on the man advantage thanks to a rebound goal from Minnesota forward Scott Reedy. The remainder of the period was controlled by the Golden Gophers, who put the Spartans on their heels after utilizing their speed and size (Minnesota is the No. 2 heaviest team in Division I as their average player weighs 192 pounds) to their advantage.

“Some days you don’t have the jump, and you gotta fight through it,” head coach Danton Cole said. “We just weren’t very good at fighting through it.

Michigan State, who had surpassed 40 shots each of their past three games, entered the third period with only 14 shots on net; Minnesota nearly doubled the Spartans in that span with 27 overall shots. The final shot total was 34-25 in favor of Minnesota.

“You can X and O yourself to death but it’s not just ‘let’s do this,’” Cole said. “You gotta get going. They’re too good of a team to play the way we played for the first 40 minutes.”

Minnesota entered the third period in an advantageous spot. They were up three on the road and neutralized the Spartans’ chances on offense as they limited the amount of pucks that Gopher goaltender Jack LaFontaine had to deal with.

 Late in the period, a goal from Spartan junior Cole Krygier pulled the Spartans within two, but the scoring would stop there, and Minnesota would take game one 3-1.

“If you told me after the first period that we’d be pulling our goalie with two minutes left, I probably wouldn’t have taken that bet,” Cole said.

The story of the game was Michigan State’s penalties. The Golden Gophers came into the series converting on 25% of their power-play chances. Michigan State took seven penalties tonight, and Minnesota converted on two of them. The Spartans put themselves in a hole by being down on the scoreboard and having to kill off penalties and it ended up being the deciding factor.

Both teams will play again tomorrow night at 8 p.m. to close out the series.