Back & Forth Game Ends After 6 Rounds of the Shootout
Gopher coach Don Lucia said after the game on Friday night - that he expected a much different MSU team on Saturday. He certainly was dead on with that prediction as Sparty was a signifcantly different team on Saturday. For a decent amount of the game, it seemed like they were step ahead of the Gophers and while the game ends - officially - as a tie, the Gophers leave East Lansing with only four points on the weekend after a dominating effort on Friday.
The Gophers came out on fire but it was quickly extinguished by a lazy holding penalty on Jack Glover. Brent Darnell wrapped in a rebound off of a point shot by Villiam Haag just minutes into the game and the Spartans had the early lead they needed after getting blown out on Friday night.
After fighting off two more minors, the Gophers started to finally work in the Spartan zone, and some dirty work by Travis Boyd got the game tied. After stealing the puck to keep it in the zone, and then grabbing a rebound in the corner, he passed to Seth Ambroz on the wall. Ambroz found Connor Reilly at the top of the circle, who ripped a shot past Jake Hildebrand with 4:30 left in the period.
Less than two minutes later, Kyle Rau put the Gophers ahead 2 - 1, sneaking in front of Hildebrand and tipping home a shot from Connor Reilly after getting their first power play opportunity.
It should have been a one goal lead going into intermission, but a big error by Jake Bischoff wouldn't allow it. With less than 30 seconds left in the period, a harmless clearing attempt through the neutral zone by Sparty came up the boards to Bischoff, who was standing in front of the Gopher bench. Joe Cox sped by the flat footed & fumbling Bischoff, and passed to Mackenzie MacEachern who was able to get the puck past Wilcox to knot the game at two.
Sparty took the lead back in the middle of the second period. Brent Darnell potted his second of the game off of a highlight reel play. He took the puck at the point, faked Rau out of his pants in the slot between the circles, and worked his way to the goal line, waited for Wilcox to commit, and he ripped it off the pipe and in.
The Gophers tied it on the power play early in the third. Connor Reilly sent his second laser beam past Hildebrand, a one-timer from Justin Kloos that went far side. The remainder of regulation was fairly entertaining, with some good chances on both sides. Seth Ambroz had the best chance in OT but his bang-bang pass play and tip in front was saved by Hildebrand, easily his best of the night.
Sparty won the shootout after 6 rounds. The Gophers appear to not even practice it as every shooter seemed really uncomfortable with their moves, which were mostly deke attempts. Ultimately the shootout matters little, but it would have been nice to get 5 points out of the weekend, but the guess here is that won't change the standings much at the end of the year.
So...the Gophers are now off until the Mariucci Classic, when they take on Merrimack on Friday, January 2nd. It's been a bit of a struggle for the team so far, in that they have more losses than most would have predicted and haven't been as consistent as probably everyone expected. Lots of time to get back at it, the bulk of the Big Ten schedule awaits after the New Year.