Minnesota headed into its weekend series against the Michigan State Spartans on the cusp of a remarkable climb in the standings. Several weeks ago it looked like the Gophers were destined to stay at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, but with a sweep of the Spartans, the Gophers were primed to rise into first place in the conference.
Minnesota was unable to finish the task, splitting the series with Michigan State to stay two points off the Big Ten Conference lead.
Gophers win sixth straight as Reedy scores twice
Starting fast has been consistently at the top of the Gophers' wish list. They were able to do so on Friday as Blake McLaughlin found the back of the net just one minute into the first period which propelled Minnesota's night.
"Once we get one, it gives us that confidence where [we're like] 'okay we can score, we're not going to get shut out', and just knowing that we can do it," McLaughlin said.
Goaltender Jared Moe allowed only one goal on the power play all night which came in the first period from Michigan State's Mitchell Lewandowski.
The Gophers continued to dominate the game, outshooting the Spartans 12-5 in the first period before scoring two more goals in the second period. First from Sampo Ranta, who found the back of the net by shoveling in a loose puck on the doorstep to regain the Gophers lead at 2-1. Then, from Scott Reedy who scored with just two seconds remaining in the period.
"I think that buzzer-beater is just a huge feeling for us," McLaughlin said. "Any goal under a minute is going to hurt the other team, and it gives us more insurance heading into the locker room with a two-goal lead."
Reedy finished the game with two goals, adding an empty-netter to extend the lead to 4-1. Reedy leads the team with 13 goals on the season despite missing two games for injury.
The win briefly elevated the Gophers into a tie for first place in the Big Ten standings.
Minnesota fails to take lead in the Big Ten, falling 4-2 to the Spartans to snap winning streak
Mistakes in the third period cost the Gophers their Saturday game against the Spartans as well as their win streak, which halted at six wins after Michigan State scored three unanswered goals to beat the Gophers 4-2.
The third period got off to a rough start for the Gophers. They had two penalties called in the first five minutes and Michigan State was able to convert on the second power play to tie the game 2-2. The goal gave the Spartans' significant momentum through the rest of the period, and they went on to score two more unanswered goals to complete the comeback win.
Defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf said there wasn't one thing that stood out in the way that they lost but said the game was something to learn from. The loss is different than the losses in the first half of the season, Zuhlsdorf said.
"We have a young group and this is definitely something they have to learn from. Those two games out there were a lot like playoff experience, just gritty games... every shift, every battle, you've gotta be working your nuts off," he said.
Minnesota started the game off on the right foot, too, outshooting the Spartans 18-9 in the first period, and notching the first goal of the game with five minutes left in the opening frame. Reedy scored the goal, with assists from Walker and McLaughlin.
The second period looked similar to the Friday game, with the Gophers scoring in the final minutes once again. McLaughlin scored with 1:30 left to regain the lead at 2-1 before heading to intermission. Unlike Friday, the momentum didn't carry into the third period as unanswered goals by Dennis Cesana, Butrus Ghafari and Brody Stevens distanced the Spartans from Minnesota and dropped the Gophers into a tie for second place in the standings.