Gophers trounce Michigan State in opener

Minnesota scored three first-period goals and cruised to a 5-1 victory.

Drew Claussen

Through one game, the Gophers look like they’ve figured out a way to win with an inexperienced goaltender: Score a lot of goals and don’t give up a lot of shots.

Minnesota came out of the gates strong in its 5-1 victory over Michigan State on Friday at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers scored three goals in the first period while only allowing five shots.

Minnesota outshot Michigan State 42-26 overall.

“We came out hard in the first period, and we really emphasized that,” Nick Bjugstad said. “Last season we played these guys and they took it to us, so that was sitting in the back of our heads as well.”

Ben Marshall got the party started early when he kissed a slap shot past Spartans goaltender Will Yanakeff.

Marshall is one of a handful of sophomores that head coach Don Lucia said he was depending on to aid the scoring this season.

“Those sophomores have to be better,” Lucia said. “They’ve shown that they are better, and they have to be that second-tier scoring that we need.”

A few minutes later following a penalty to Mike Reilly, the Gophers struck again when Reilly came out of the box and set up Bjugstad. Minnesota held a 2-0 lead six minutes into the contest.

“I just wanted to come out and play physical and do our thing,” Bjugstad said. “That was a big thing coming out in the first period in our home rink. Friday night games weren’t our biggest thing last year, so we’re trying to change that trend.” 

Reilly, Bjugstad and Zach Budish all had two-point games for Minnesota.

After scoring a hat trick last weekend in Minnesota’s exhibition game, sophomore Christian Isackson proved he wasn’t a mirage when he took a pass from Bjugstad in the high slot and scored top shelf on Yanakeff.

Minnesota cooled off for most of the second period, but its defense stayed strong.

Erik Haula notched the only goal of the period with two minutes remaining. Haula outworked a Michigan State defender in the corner then proceeded to skate directly to the crease and housed his own rebound for the goal.

Both teams struck once in the third. Travis Boyd crushed any hopes the Spartans had of a comeback on a 5-on-3 power play halfway through the period. Boyd hammered home the puck after the third shot and save of the sequence.

Tanner Sorenson provided the only offense of the night for Michigan State when he launched a one-timer past Michael Shibrowski late in the third.

Shibrowski made a strong effort for the shutout in his first collegiate start, finishing with 25 saves on 26 shots.

“When you can play with the lead you get the comfort level,” Lucia said. “I think [after] the first couple saves you have, then you can settle in.

Lucia said Shibrowski was “chasing a little bit” early in the year and he was “a little nervous” early in Friday’s game.

“I had to talk to him about just relax and play and let the game come to you,” Lucia said. “I think he’s starting to settle in and do that better.”

The game was played fairly cleanly, as the Gophers went 1-2 on the power play and Michigan State went 0-3.