Minnesota completes sweep of Michigan State at Madison Square Garden

The Gophers beat Michigan State 2-1 in New York City.

Forward Tommy Novak goes after the puck during the Gophers game against Michigan State at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Nov. 3.

Image by Jack Rodgers, Daily File Photo

Forward Tommy Novak goes after the puck during the Gophers’ game against Michigan State at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Nov. 3.

by Drew Cove

Minnesota had two different stories this season against its two conference opponents from Michigan.

The No. 13 Gophers (15-12-1, 6-9-1 Big Ten) escaped with a win on Big Ten Super Saturday from Madison Square Garden in New York City, beating Michigan State (9-16-1, 3-12-1 Big Ten) 2-1. A week ago, the Gophers were swept by the Wolverines.

Thursday night, captain Tyler Sheehy scored the game-winner, but Saturday the hero was Brent Gates Jr., who is a Michigan native. Gates Jr. broke the late 1-1 tie in the last three minutes of play and took a bouncing pass from Ramsey to put the goal in the back of the net. The score gave the Gophers the lead for the second time in the game.

Gates Jr. scored the game-winner by completing a pass intended to be a deflection for an assist, which led to the first goal for the Gophers. In addition to his in-game heroics, Saturday marked his 100th game with Minnesota. 

“[Jack] Ramsey turned around and swung at [the puck],” Gates Jr. told the Big Ten Network. “It had to have bounced three or four times, so I was just watching it real close and finally took a hack at it and found the net.”

The Gophers scored the opening goal for the first time in three games and it came on a break from Gophers freshman Casey Mittelstadt. The Gophers had a five-minute power play early in the first period, but they only recorded one shot. Mittelstadt and Gates Jr. ignited the offense at even strength after the man-advantage couldn’t get anything going.

Forward Tommy Novak drew a five-minute major penalty when he was hit in the head. He was down on the ice for a while after the hit, but he came back into the game shortly after. Michigan State forward Mitchell Lewandowski was ejected for the hit. Lewandowski’s absence loomed large — he is the top scoring freshman forward in the nation with 28 points this season.

Goaltender Mat Robson started Saturday, marking his fifth appearance in goal for Minnesota. Robson hadn’t played since the first period of the first game against Michigan last weekend. That game, he conceded three goals in one period and was pulled for goaltender Eric Schierhorn.

Robson held off the shorthanded Spartans to allow one goal on 20 shots.

“I thought Matty Robson played well,” head coach Don Lucia told the Gophers Radio Network. “The penalty killers did a good job and [they] found enough to win a game.”

With the Gophers earning the sweep, they got much-needed points in the Big Ten standings and wins overall come tournament time. Minnesota is now tied for 11th in the PairWise ranking, which determines what teams make the tournament. The team now sits fifth in the Big Ten standings, getting closer to deciding home-ice advantage in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota is behind Penn State for home-ice advantage in the Big Ten tournament, with both teams at six wins in the conference.

“Michigan State was behind us in the standings,” Gates Jr. told the Big Ten Network. “That’s one thing we talked about, keeping teams behind us. That’s the only way to climb up, so we knew it was a big weekend coming in.”