Minneapolis, Minn. — Wrapping up their NCAA record sixth consecutive conference title on Friday meant all six seniors including Mitch Rogge got to play Saturday at Mariucci Arena in front of 9,988.
Rogge earned his first Gophers experience outside of an exhibition game, and his first college ice time since January 18, 2014 when he last played with Sacred Heart. Rogge has been a five-time member of the Dean’s List at Minnesota, and Gophers coach Don Lucia said he’s been a great fifth line guy for practice while he studies to be a dentist.
“It was a reward that we felt it was the right thing to do,” said Lucia. ”Such a program guy, I know it meant a lot to him and his family for him to be able to play in the game tonight.”
#5 Minnesota (23-10-3, 14-5-1-0) tied Michigan State (7-23-4, 3-14-3-1) 1-1 after 65 minutes and then lost the shootout. Pairwise rankings were the only stakes on the line, and there wasn’t any strong play from the Gophers until the third period when they tallied one of their prettiest goals of the year during a night where Michigan State did their best to muck it up. Kloos carried the puck in from the wall, moved it across the zone to Rem Pitlick, and then the puck flashed back to Jake Bischoff on the back door for an easy tap-in. It was Bischoff’s fifth goal of the season, and continued Pitlick’s career-best five-game point streak with three goals and four assists in that stretch.
Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn steady play kept his team in the game as he made 26 saves to match a strong 32-save performance by Michigan State’s Ed Minney at the other end of the rink. Lucia said the Spartans probably found their goalie for the Big Ten Tournament next week, and that he gave them a lot of credit for making the game tough on the Gophers. After Michigan State got a 1-0 lead from Mason Appleton 12:27 into the first period, they locked down the neutral zone and kept Minnesota shooters outside the dots. Minnesota captain Justin Kloos said it was a weird night, with obviously some emotions for the older guys.
“Last night was what we came into this weekend was to make sure we came out as Big Ten Conference champs and that’s what we did,” said Kloos.
Minnesota fell from #4 to #5 in the Pairwise after the result, but the biggest loss of the night was losing Ryan Lindgren to a lower body injury late in the second period. Lindgren had to be helped off the ice after he was tripped up by Taro Hirose during a puck race for an icing. Hirose used his left hand for leverage as they approached the dots, and Lindgren lost his edge to go feet first into the end boards.
“It was a bummer, obviously, that’s a scary part of the game they tried to fix it with the hybrid icing–and it’s still just a dangerous situation,” Kloos said.
Lucia said after the game that the injury didn’t look good and they’ll know more next week. Junior Jack Glover is the next man up on the blue line to draw in the lineup. Coming off of double shoulder surgery in the off-season, he was very limited with what he could train to prepare for the season and has only played in 11 of the team’s 36 games.
“The good thing is that he played a lot of hockey for us the last few years, when somebody gets hurt it’s somebody else’s opportunity,” said Lucia. “He’s practiced extremely hard, he’s been on the bike. He got off to a tough start with those surgeries and he kind of got behind the eight ball a little bit. I think his attitude has been great. I just had a conversation with him this week about working hard and being ready because you never know… well here you go.”
Minnesota already secured its top seed headed into the Big Ten Tournament and they will play the winner of Thursday’s Michigan and Penn State match-up on Friday at 8pm. The Gophers still have a chance to earn a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament, but Kloos said this weekend was a reminder that if they don’t play well things can end really quickly.
“This game doesn’t define us, we still got playoffs starting next week,” said Bischoff. “We just need to move on and have a good week of practice next week and get ready for the Big Ten Tournament.”