Gophers win, tie in first Big Ten series

Senior Travis Boyd returned to the lineup after missing more than a month.

Ben Gotz

When the Gophers play the Spartans, they often settle things with a shootout.

Each of the three Big Ten series between the two teams has involved a shootout.

It took six rounds, but Michigan State was awarded an extra point in conference play this weekend after tying Minnesota (9-4-1, 1-0-1 Big Ten) and winning a shootout.

It was a better effort for the Spartans than the previous game, which the Gophers won 5-0.

Friday night, no matter how many men were on the ice, the Gophers managed to score.

Minnesota found success on 5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-5 and 5-on-3.

The Gophers got on the board quickly in the first period when senior forward Travis Boyd  scored a power-play goal during his first appearance back in the team’s lineup.

Boyd had missed a month with a lower-body injury, but he wasted no time scoring his fourth goal of the season.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” Boyd told reporters after the game. “The big thing, when you are hurt or when you’re not playing for a while, [is] you want to come back and you want to get your confidence back right away. Really, there’s no better way to get your confidence back than scoring a goal.”

The Gophers added two more special teams goals during the first period to put them up 3-0 at the break.

Minnesota scored three goals only once in four games against the Spartans last year.

The Gophers added to their lead in the second and third periods with goals by Mike and Connor Reilly.

Junior goaltender Adam Wilcox turned away all 24 shots sent his way during the game to give him his 10th collegiate shutout.

Wilcox said the team’s success Friday night came from controlling the offensive zone, something the team has occasionally struggled with this season.

“I thought we did a really good job tonight, especially in the second [period], of just working the offensive zone,” Wilcox told reporters after the game. “Our goal was to do that. Spend more time in the zone, and that creates more shots for us.”

Friday’s quick start was reversed in the second game, as the Gophers found themselves down after an early Michigan State power-play goal.

The Gophers were sluggish, taking three penalties in the first eight minutes of the game.

But the team was able to rally from deficits twice, thanks to two goals from Connor Reilly.

“I think a little bit of [the success] just has to do with me working my butt off to get open,” Reilly told reporters after the game, adding that film work with assistant coach Grant Potulny helped. “[Potulny] showed me some video of certain areas I had to work harder, certain areas I had to get to if I want to score and make a difference.”

Reilly’s second score tied the game, but the Gophers were unable to prevail in the shootout.

The game put an end to the first half of the Gophers’ season, and now they have a month off before returning to play Merrimack.

“Our special teams have been good. That’s been a real shining spot,” head coach Don Lucia told reporters after the game. “We need some guys who scored last year to start scoring. We’ve got some guys that had double-digit goals sitting with one. Those guys have to contribute a little bit more.”