MINNEAPOLIS — A peek at the conference record for the Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team, shows Minnesota atop the Big Ten Conference standings with an unbeaten record.
Look a little closer and the Gophers’ record in conference play isn’t so unblemished.
As part of the first season of Big Ten play, the conference went to a shootout to determine a true winner and a recipient of an extra point in the conference standings. For NCAA purposes, the game goes down as a tie.
Michigan State stole another point from No. 1-ranked Minnesota on Friday at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers (18-2-5, 7-0-2-0 Big Ten) battled back from a 2-0 deficit, but took a 2-2 tie, for Minnesota’s purposes, after losing in the sixth round of the shootout.
"I think we’re going to be motivated to come out and beat these guys now that they’ve taken points away from us in conference," Gophers freshman forward Hudson Fasching said of Saturday’s second game of the series. "We’re not happy about that. We’re going to come out tomorrow and get the job done."
Fasching scored his ninth goal of the season. Fellow freshman Justin Kloos added his ninth of the year and goaltender Adam Wilcox made 28 saves for Minnesota, who was playing without suspended defenseman Ben Marshall, injured forward Tom Serratore and injured defenseman Michael Brodzinski.
Marshall was forced to miss the game after he was called for a game misconduct penalty for a hit to the head in last Saturday’s game against Minnesota-Duluth, which was his third game misconduct of the season and means he had to sit out Friday’s game because of NCAA rules. Serratore and Brodzinski are out for a period with injuries.
The loss of Marshall and Brodzinski meant sophomore forward A.J. Michaelson was the extra player and the Gophers played with five defensemen for much of the game. Minnesota, which owns the nation’s third-ranked defense in giving up just 2.04 goals per game, was left scrambling in parts of the game, including when Michigan State scored twice in the first period.
Wilcox made several highlight saves to keep the Gophers in the game.
"We didn’t give up a lot," coach Don Lucia said. "But we gave up a couple of Grade-As and I thought the five ‘D’ held in there pretty good. I think there were some periods of the game where you could see they got a little fatigued and they got caught on the ice. And Jake (Parenteau) is still coming back from his injury and he’s not at 100 percent yet as far as the physical part of it. It will be good to get Ben back in the lineup tomorrow night, but I thought the kids played hard and they were into the game. You could hear it on the bench and I thought Michigan State played well."
The Spartans (8-12-3, 2-4-3-3 Big Ten) are the only conference team to win a shootout this season, maybe an advantage from their days playing in the CCHA. They’ve taken three shootout wins, including two against Minnesota.
Complicated? Yes. But the players don’t mind the skills competition in their first season in the Big Ten.
"We enjoy it," Fasching said. "It’s kind of fun, but it’s also a little bit stressful, to be honest. It’s a good way to have a little bit of finality in the games. You don’t just feel like a tie."
Fasching got the Gophers on the board, poking home a rebound after a shot from Travis Boyd on the power play. After not scoring for 11 straight games, Fasching has goals in each of the past three.
"He’s putting himself in a position to score goals when you’re around the blue paint, especially off rebounds and that’s the type of player that he is," Lucia said. "We talked about it about a week and a half ago that all of a sudden he was trying to play fancy and to play one-on-one hockey, and that’s not him. It’s not anybody at this level. Be a power forward, get to the net front and use your strength wide and make plays that way."
Kloos scored early in the third period after a shot from the point by Brady Skjei deflected off Kloos’ skate. After a lengthy review, officials ruled it a goal because Kloos didn’t use a distinct kicking motion.
Referees had to go to replay in the shootout as well. Michigan State’s Joe Cox appeared to score right as Wilcox knocked the net off the moorings. Referees ruled it a goal, but disallowed it after review because the net was out of position during the shot.
The Spartans’ Matt Berry scored in the fifth round of the shootout, but Taylor Cammarata answered for Minnesota. JT Stenglein then beat Wilcox with a hard shot in the next round and Gophers forward Sam Warning missed his attempt.