Minn. picks up a point in Mich. St.

The Gophers lost to Michigan State on Friday and tied on Saturday.

by Dane Mizutani

MinnesotaâÄôs menâÄôs hockey team has cooled off in recent weeks after starting the season 9-1-0 and climbing to the No. 1 ranking in the national poll.

The No. 3 Gophers fought to a split with Wisconsin and St. Cloud State in their past two series and failed to record a win against Michigan State this weekend.

Minnesota (11-4-1, 8-2-0 WCHA) lost to the Spartans 4-3 on Friday and skated to a 4-4 draw Saturday.

It was the first time the Gophers failed to record a win in a weekend series this season.

âÄúItâÄôs a small rink,âÄù Zach Budish said. âÄúWeâÄôre not really used to playing on a small rink so itâÄôs a little bit of an adjustment but itâÄôs definitely not an excuse. They played hard both nights.âÄù

Budish tallied a goal and an assist Saturday âÄî both in the third period âÄî to propel the Gophers to a tie after they had fallen behind early in the game.

Minnesota dug itself an early hole Friday as well and was unable to salvage any points on the night.

The Gophers have made a recent habit of losing in the first game of a weekend series and continued this trend Friday, falling 4-3 to Michigan State.

âÄúWe just didnâÄôt do a very good job all around,âÄù Nick Bjugstad said after FridayâÄôs loss. âÄúWeâÄôve struggled coming out hard in the first period these past couple weeks on Friday night. ItâÄôs definitely going to be addressed.âÄù

MSU (8-5-1, 4-4-0 CCHA) jumped out to an early lead in the first period Friday when Kevin Walrod and Brent Darnell scored a goal apiece.

Minnesota, however, was quick to respond.

Seth Helgeson and Bjugstad tallied goals 47 seconds apart to knot the score at 2-2 at the first intermission.

Neither team scored in the second period but early in the third Minnesota had a chance to take control of the game.

Brock Shelgren took an interference penalty to put the Gophers on the power play barely a minute into the period.

Minnesota has boasted a successful power-play unit this season but Walrod scored his second goal of the game while shorthanded and momentum swung toward the Spartans.

Matt Berry made it 4-2 less than two minutes later, which seemingly put the game out of reach.

Bjugstad scored his second goal of the game 13:02 into the third period to provide a glimmer of hope.

That hope was nearly actualized as Kyle Rau found his sweet spot near the crease with Kent Patterson pulled for an extra attacker.

Rau had an open net as he controlled a rebound to the right of the crease but goaltender Drew Palmisano robbed the Minnesota freshman with an acrobatic glove save to uphold a one-goal lead.

âÄúIt was disappointing but we put ourselves in that position,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúWe had some looks, we had some chances, but we didnâÄôt do enough to win.âÄù

Minnesota didnâÄôt do enough to win on Saturday either but did manage to earn one point with a 4-4 tie.

âÄúWe came out in the first five minutes of the game playing physical and the rest of the first period they kind of took it to us,âÄù Budish said.

Brock Shelgren put the Spartans on board in the first period when he netted a goal to make it 1-0.

The lead stretched into the second period before Ben Marshall tied the game for the Gophers.

Mike Merrifield and Matt Crandell added a pair of goals subsequent to MarshallâÄôs game-tying goal, which gave MSU a two-goal lead.

Erik Haula then cut the lead to one when he housed his first goal since Oct. 28 on the power play.

Budish scored the game-tying goal early in the third period and Rau gave the Gophers their first lead of the series two and a half minutes later on a rebound shot near the front of the crease.

âÄúThatâÄôs been an emphasis all year and thatâÄôs one area [where] weâÄôre kind of struggling right now âÄî is getting those rebound goals,âÄù Budish said. âÄúWeâÄôre getting a lot of shots on net right now but not a lot of rebound shots.âÄù

That lead was short-lived, as Daultan Leveille beat Patterson less than two minutes after Rau pounded in the rebound to pull the Spartans even.

Neither team netted a go-ahead goal in the final 11 minutes so the game went into overtime âÄî just the second overtime game of the year for the Gophers.

In their first overtime game of the season against Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 14, Nate Condon scored the game-winning goal with 56 seconds left in the game.

He and his teammates were unable to replicate the heroics Saturday and the game ended in a tie.

âÄúWe scored a handful of goals this weekend but their goalie made some big saves at big times in the game,âÄù Budish said.

It was the last road game Minnesota will face in the calendar year, as it will host all seven games it plays in December.