Gophers skate past Spartans at home

Minnesota lost in a shootout Friday but battled back and won Saturday.

Gophers forward Hudson Fasching skates against Michigan State at Mariucci on Friday night. Gophers lost in a shoot out after tying 2-2 on Friday night, but won 1-0 Saturday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Gophers forward Hudson Fasching skates against Michigan State at Mariucci on Friday night. Gophers lost in a shoot out after tying 2-2 on Friday night, but won 1-0 Saturday.

by Megan Ryan

It seems the series of big weekends for the Gophers men’s hockey team finally took its toll.

After the Hockey City Classic and North Star College Cup on consecutive weekends, the Gophers returned to Mariucci Arena against Michigan State. But Minnesota managed only a 2-2 tie with a 2-1 shootout loss Friday and a tight 1-0 win Saturday.

Those underwhelming performances were still enough to claim the Mariucci-Bessone Trophy, which is given to the winner of the season series between the two teams.

It was also enough to extend the team’s NCAA-best unbeaten streak to 14 games.

Still, sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox said his team wasn’t satisfied with the series.

“We know that every point counts, especially in shootouts,” Wilcox said. “Even though it’s one point, toward the end, it could be life or death for us.”

The Gophers started Saturday’s game with all the fire they lacked Friday, and it paid off. Minnesota junior forward Kyle Rau scored at 6:44 into the first period after a scrum in front of the net.

That goal proved to be the game winner — but not for lack of trying on the Gophers’ part. Minnesota peppered Spartans’ goaltender Jake Hildebrand all night long, outshooting Michigan State 38-19.

Gophers head coach Don Lucia said his players did well to keep chipping away at shots on goal even when Hildebrand, shot-blockers or the pipes denied them.

“You’ve got to stay with it. I mean, you can’t get frustrated,” he said. “Even if we lost tonight, I would have been disappointed but not upset because the process is about how you’re playing, and tonight we played well.”

That was not the case Friday night — perhaps due in part to the absences of senior forward Tom Serratore and freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski with injuries and junior defenseman Ben Marshall, who sat out with a suspension.

“[Serratore]’s kind of a heart and soul of our team … and having him out is definitely a hole in our team,” freshman forward Hudson Fasching said. “And obviously Marsh and Brodz are great defensemen. It’s tough.”

Michigan State started hot, scoring first about 10 minutes into the game off Michael Ferrantino. The Spartans increased their lead less than two minutes later when Villiam Haag found the net.

Fasching managed to pull one back for the Gophers with less than a minute left in the first period, but it took Minnesota until five minutes into the third period to level the score on a goal from freshman forward Justin Kloos.

And after a scoreless overtime, the Gophers found themselves in familiar territory with another shootout against the Spartans.

While both goaltenders were in fine form as the first four rounds passed without a goal, eventually Michigan State’s Matt Berry sunk his shot. It looked bleak for Minnesota, but freshman forward Taylor Cammarata stepped up under the pressure and scored on his attempt.

JT Stenglein scored for the Spartans on the subsequent shootout try, and Gophers junior forward Sam Warning missed his shot to end the game.

“It was a hard-fought game, like we expected it to be,” Lucia said. “I thought both goaltenders were sharp and made some good plays.”

And as far as the Spartans’ shootout success against his team, Lucia said it shouldn’t come as a surprise.