EAST LANSING – No. 5 Minnesota (6-0) completed the road sweep against Michigan State (2-3-1) Friday night in East Lansing with a 4-2 win.
“There’s tons of positive stuff,” head coach Danton Cole said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything out of it, but I think there were some steps forward, and we’ll build on that.”
The first period began very similar to Thursday’s game. Minnesota came out strong and took a quick 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Ben Meyers (who got his second goal in two games), and Jaxon Nelson, who notched his first goal of the year.
However, 19 seconds after Nelson’s goal, Kyle Haskins got the Spartans on the board with his first career goal to pull Michigan State within one going into the first intermission.
Michigan State was fortunate to come out of the first period only down one. Captain Tommy Apap and head coach Danton Cole both expressed how the Spartans came out slow on Thursday night and that it would cost them if they did it again. The Spartans had a rough first half of the first period—not registering a shot on Minnesota goalie Jack LaFontaine until about the halfway point of the opening frame
The middle period was won by the Spartans. With about four minutes gone in the second period, junior Dennis Cesana—the Spartan’s second-highest scorer last season—walked in on LaFontaine and scored low, blocker side and evened the game at two apiece.
The score stayed tied until Minnesota went to the power play and took the lead just four seconds into the man advantage, thanks to Scott Reedy’s second goal of the series. At the end of two, the Gophers led MSU 3-2.
The third period was a back and forth affair, but the Golden Gophers held their slim lead until the very end, including when the Spartans emptied their net and threatened to score numerous times in the dying seconds.
Sampo Ranta added his second goal of the series with an empty-net goal with 11 seconds to go to make it 4-2 Minnesota. The Gophers would go on to win the game by a 4-2 final.
“This just goes to show we can play right with the best teams,” Cesana said. “We gotta trust ourselves and be confident in the group we have.”
One thing the Spartans can take from this weekend is how well they fared in the faceoff dot. Michigan State and Minnesota came into the series among the best in the country in the faceoff dot, winning an impressive 61% of their faceoffs, and the Spartans dominated the weekend in the dot. This included including winning nearly 65% of their faceoffs on Friday night.
“We look at everything,” Cole said. “Bad part is I’m looking at it right now, and we’re 42-and-23 on faceoffs and gave up two faceoff goals. That’s the game, I guess, it’s kinda funny.”
Michigan State (2-3-1) will get only three days to rest before hosting No. 14 Wisconsin. Minnesota (6-0) also will get three days of rest but will stay in the state of Michigan as they will square off against No. 7 Michigan on Dec. 8.