Gophers split final rendition of College Hockey Showcase

First year Justin Holl handles the puck against Michigan State on Friday at the Marriucci Arena.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

First year Justin Holl handles the puck against Michigan State on Friday at the Marriucci Arena.

Lindsay Guentzel

A tradition that spans 18 years came to end this weekend as the No. 15 Gophers split the final frame of the College Hockey Showcase, losing to Michigan State on Friday before beating No. 8 Michigan on Sunday. Coming up short in a surprising loss to the 4-6-3 Spartans, the GophersâÄô presence in the first period Friday was nearly non-existent, save for an elbowing penalty on junior Jake Hanson that resulted in a power play goal for Michigan State just minutes into the game. But even back at full strength, the Gophers were flat, letting Michigan State score a second goal on junior goaltender Kent Patterson just 22 seconds later. âÄúItâÄôs not the way you want to start, taking a penalty right away,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúItâÄôs one of those games. Kent had played so well for us all season long, just wasnâÄôt his night.âÄù The SpartansâÄô first-period rout didnâÄôt end there, as Brett Perlini jumped at a rebound to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead before Minnesota was forced to send senior goalie Alex Kangas in to relieve Patterson. Kangas saved the last six Michigan State shots on the period, but with nothing happening offensively for the Gophers, they went into the locker room with a heavy deficit to overcome. It would be easy for the Gophers to blame their slow start on too much turkey âÄî a tryptophan-induced lull that settled over Mariucci and the 7-4-1 Gophers during FridayâÄôs game âÄî except itâÄôs not a new hurdle for the Gophers. Minnesota has failed to score a first-period goal in all five of its season losses. âÄúWe got on each other in the locker room a little bit,âÄù junior forward Taylor Matson said. âÄúIt definitely wasnâÄôt Gopher hockey in the first period.âÄù The pep talk must have worked for the Gophers, who cut the deficit to two on Cade FairchildâÄôs power play goal. Matson added another five minutes later, his sixth of the season. But the celebration was short-lived as Michigan State scored a fourth goal off a Minnesota stick, putting the Spartans up 4-2 heading into the third. The Spartans added a fifth goal on a power play midway through, sealing their first victory over Minnesota since 2000. âÄúWe had a lot of good looks to get ourselves back into it,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWhen it was 3-2, I said, âÄòOkay, we got a chance here.âÄô Obviously, the back breaker was the one late in the second when it went off [HelgesonâÄôs] stick and into our net. The guys did a lot of good things, but to me, it was our start and turnovers that duped us.âÄù Luckily for the Gophers, they had time to turn things around before squaring off with Michigan, a team that boasted an 8-3-4 record leading into SundayâÄôs match-up. âÄúOn Friday night, we turned pucks over in the neutral zone and it just kills you transitioning back,âÄù junior forward Nick Larson said. âÄúWe knew Michigan was going to be a good transition team so we made sure to get pucks in deep and go to work down low.âÄù Larson scored his first goal of the season against the Wolverines, putting Minnesota up 2-0 late in the second period after a first-period goal by freshman Nate Condon. The Wolverines answered back quickly, however, cutting MinnesotaâÄôs lead to one less than a minute later. But the Gophers capitalized on a power play opportunity, as freshman forward Erik Haula scored his third of the season with less than a minute left in the second, which was all theyâÄôd need for their first win over Michigan since 2006. âÄúThis is one of those nights where, win or lose, I liked the way weâÄôre playing,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe guysâÄô will was there and they were hungry.âÄù