Following a dramatic sweep of longtime rival Wisconsin last weekend – capped by a roof-raising, literally last-minute win on Saturday, the nation’s top-ranked college hockey team hits the road for East Lansing, Mich., this weekend.
There’s plenty at stake in East Lansing right now but mostly involving football. The 11-1 Spartans are in Indianapolis Saturday to play Ohio State for the Big Ten championship. Back home at Munn Arena, meanwhile, the hockey Spartans are 5-7 and looking for some traction early in the Big Ten campaign. MSU is coming off a weekend sweep of Ivy League stalwart Princeton, wins that snapped a four-game losing jag.
But let’s talk Gophers first …
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Gophers are on a roll: The top-ranked Maroon and Gold has won six of its last seven games, including the 4-1 and 4-3 triumphs over the Badgers last weekend at Mariucci Arena. That series included the first official Big Ten hockey game ever played and launched a new era in the six-team Big Ten.
The Saturday win over the Badgers happened after the teams had traded the lead and looked fair to play in overtime. That was not to be, however, as Tom Ambroz buried his fourth goal of the weekend with 26 seconds left in regulation.
Minnesota’s designated third line of Ambroz, Tom Serratore and Travis Boyd fired the Minnesota attack all weekend. It has to be the hottest third line in all of hockey at the moment.
New-look Spartans sweep Tigers: MSU head coach Tom Anastos has been tinkering with his lines all season, seeking a consistent scoring punch that seemed elusive until last weekend’s sweep of Princeton. All four lines had new looks and the changes paid off: 12 goals in two games with only three allowed. That was in stark contrast to the previous two weeks in which the Spartans had managed to light the lamp only three times in four games.
This weekend, keep an eye out for three green-and-white-clad freshmen who are making things pop in East Lansing. Right wing Villiam Haag, a Swedish import a few years ago, had a solid weekend along with fellow frosh Mackenzie Maceachern and Thomas Ebbing. The three played some high school and junior hockey together prior to coming to Michigan State and Anastos is expected to keep the line together for Sparty’s conference opener against the Gophers.
Solid vs. Spartans: Although they haven’t met in conference competition for years, the Gophers and Spartans aren’t strangers. Minnesota swept MSU in last season’s season-opening series at Mariucci, 3-0 and 7-1.
That was a prolific series for the Minnesota offense: 14 different Gophers scored at least one point over the two-game set. This season, only of 21 regular skaters have yet to record their first goal, much less scoring points.
The teams meet again at Mariucci Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
DOUG McLEOD is the voice of Golden Gopher hockey. Join him along with former Gopher great Tom Chorske for all the action from East Lansing Friday at 6 p.m. on FOX Sports North Plus and Saturday afternoon at 3 on FOX Sports North. “Gophers Live” starts 60 minutes prior to Friday’s game, 30 minutes ahead of the Saturday rematch.