Clark’s overtime goal lifts Gophers over Spartans

The veteran line of Bryce Brodzinski, Jaxon Nelson and Mason Nevers combined for seven points Sunday, but it was a freshman that finished off an overtime victory for the No. 8 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team. Jimmy Clark scored with 1:02 left in the extra session to be the hero of a 6-5 win over No. 7 Michigan State at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

On a day where special teams were at the forefront as a total of 42 penalty minutes were assessed to the two teams, Minnesota (7-4-3 overall, 3-3-2 B1G) handed the Spartans (10-4-2 overall, 5-1-2 B1G) their first loss in Big Ten Conference play behind a 3-for-5 effort on the man advantage. The Gophers led three times during regulation, including a two-goal edge with five minutes to play, but MSU fought back to force overtime where Clark scored to complete the win. Brodzinski scored a pair of power-play goals during a four-point day for the Maroon and Gold and Nelson set up the first three goals, while Rhett Pitlick and Sam Rinzel also had two points apiece.

Less than a minute into the matinee, Aaron Huglen started a rush up the ice and was hooked, sending Minnesota to a power play that was erased by the visitors. Despite the early start time, both teams had their legs moving and generated chances at each end of the ice that were denied by the talented netminders. MSU was gifted a man advantage in the middle of the period and were shut down thanks to shot blocking of the Gophers. At the 10:23 mark, the Maroon and Gold appeared to have taken the lead, but its goal was waved off for goaltender interference as the Spartan defender was knocked into his own goalie.

The eventful first frame continued with another Gophers power play and this time they were not stopped. Brodzinski fired a wrister from his office at the top of the circle that made it through traffic and over the goal line for the opening tally with 8:39 remaining in the period. As they did each time Friday night, the Spartans answered the deficit and scored to tie the game, 1-1, in the final three minutes of the stanza.

Fifteen seconds after the puck was dropped for the start of the second period, MSU took a post-whistle penalty but were the ones to capitalize, scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal for a 2-1 edge. For the second-consecutive game, the same Spartan player was handed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct, coming at the 4:18 mark, before it was negated when the Gophers were called for the same penalty a minute later and the teams skated 4-on-4 for more than four minutes.

Minnesota used the open ice to its advantage and created an extended forecheck, leading to the equalizer. Ryan Chesley finished off a back-door pass from Brody Lamb and the Gophers evened the score, 2-2, on the sophomore’s second goal this season. Another MSU penalty led to a rare 4-on-3 opportunity and Brodzinski made the visitors pay with his second power-play goal of the afternoon. Nelson sent his fellow fifth-year senior a perfect feed, giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead at the 8:14 mark. The Spartans rallied and found a late goal to make it 3-3 heading into the second intermission.

Connor Kurth wasted no time in helping the Gophers retake a one-goal cushion as he outskated the MSU defense and put away a breakaway just 59 seconds into the third period. Pitlick found the streaking sophomore up the middle of the ice and Minnesota led for the third time. The tempo remained frantic throughout the frame until Oliver Moore was tripped and put the home team to its fifth man advantage. The Gophers converted their third power-play goal as Pitlick tipped home a Rinzel shot from the point and made it a 5-3 advantage with 9:45 to play in regulation.

The Spartans made a late push and cut the margin to one with less than five minutes on the clock before pulling their goalie and evened the score, 5-5, with just 18.1 seconds remaining to extend the action. It was all Minnesota in overtime and Brodzinski pounced on an offensive-zone loose puck after an MSU player broke his stick. He got the puck to Rinzel and the freshman found the open stick of Clark, who made a quick move around the goalie and buried the first game winner of his young career, sending the fans home with a 6-5 win.