Michigan State rallies in third period to beat Gophers 3-2

The No. 9 Minnesota men’s hockey team saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the third period of a 3-2 loss at No. 8/7 Michigan State Friday evening from Munn Ice Arena.

Mike Koster and Oliver Moore scored the first two goals of the game for the Golden Gophers (14-7-4 overall, 7-5-3 B1G) and they carried that margin into the final frame before the Big Ten Conference-leading Spartans (17-5-3 overall, 11-2-2 B1G) responded. MSU scored a shorthanded goal with less than five minutes to play that tied the score, 2-2, and added the winning goal in the closing seconds to complete the comeback.

After the home side generated a pair of chances, it was Koster, a Maroon and Gold captain, that silenced the capacity crowd just 1:28 into the contest. Luke Mittelstadt faked a shot from the blue line and slipped a pass down to Koster, where the senior jumped into the play and fired over the blocker to the top corner, giving the Gophers a 1-0 advantage. Each team had a power play during the middle of the opening frame and were promptly shut down by the opposing defenses. Minnesota netminder Justen Close stopped a late flurry by MSU and the visitors skated back to the locker room with a one-goal cushion.

The second period kept the same high-paced action up and down the ice but bouncing pucks led to turnovers for both sides. In a matchup of programs known for their scoring, it was the defense that was a noticeable factor through a majority of the stanza, leading to block shots combined with strong goaltending. Jaxon Nelson nearly doubled Minnesota’s advantage as his attempt from a sharp angle rang off the right post with six minutes to play in the frame. The Gophers maintained their pressure, forcing back-to-back icing calls on MSU that made the home side defend its own zone, building up to their second goal of the night.

Jimmy Snuggerud intercepted an errant pass before toe-dragging around a Spartan defender and flipping a pass into the path of a streaking Moore. The freshman ripped home a quick shot to the blocker side and as the clock read 1:17 left in the period, it was a 2-0 margin for the Maroon and Gold. Thanks to a Spartan slash, the visitors went to a man advantage six seconds after the goal, and the power play carried over into the final frame where it was erased. MSU used the momentum from another successful kill to go on the attack and finally broke through on a rebound at the 2:36 mark, its sixth shot during the period, closing the gap to 2-1.

With the crowd back into the game, the Spartans kept Minnesota on its heels until they took their fourth penalty and delivered another kill. The Gophers went right back to the man advantage 17 seconds after the previous chance, but an offensive-zone turnover allowed MSU a shorthanded tally with 4:58 to play in regulation that evened the score, 2-2. As the game neared the finish, both teams had chances to break the deadlock. The Spartans capitalized on another Minnesota giveaway as they put away their third rebound goal with just four seconds on the clock, escaping with the 3-2 victory.