The Spartans came into tonight looking to run their unbeaten streak to four games, but fell 4-2 to #11 Minnesota in their Big Ten opener.
The Spartans last competitive games were Thanksgiving weekend when they beat and then tied #5 ranked North Dakota. The Spartans looked to carry that momentum early into the game against #11 Minnesota and were successful. JT Stenglein called his own number on a 2-on-1 3:30 into the first and beat Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn five hole to open the scoring. On his next shift Stenglein was denied on anther 2-on-1, but was hit after the whistle putting Michigan State on the power play. The Spartans were unable to capitalize, but controlled the game early holding the Gophers without a shot for the first six minutes.
Midway through the first the Gophers would equalize on a goal that stemmed from Spartan goaltender Ed Minney and his defensemen mishandling the puck after a strange bounce. Minnesota would carry this momentum through the rest of the first finishing the period with a 16-8 shot advantage.
The second period was more of what was seen in the latter half of the first. A Minnesota goal felt inevitable, but Minney stood tall for the Spartans, until Tyler Sheehy broke the deadlock late in the second. Minnesota would double their lead just over a minute later when Vinni Lettieri was the beneficiary of an open net, after Minney misplayed the puck behind his own goal. The game looked like it could be spiraling out of control for the Spartans who were only able to generate three shots in the second period, but one of those found the net to give the Spartans life heading into the third. Patrick Khodoreko won a puck battle on the boards and sent the puck where Taro Hirose cashed in on his third goal of the year.
The third period saw the Spartans take three penalties and Minney stand on his head once again stopping all 14 shots he faced in the period. The Spartans made a late push to try and equalize, but were unable to do so, and with just over a minute remaining Minnesota put the puck into an empty Spartan net to extend the lead to two.
Minney who has been superb MSU of late was again; making a career high 40 saves on the night. “They were throwing a lot of pucks at the net, pretty much everything they could. I felt really good out there, it is nice to start stringing some games together where I am feeling consistent, and all of it just goes back to my defense though. Those guys are throwing it outside and clearing the net front so it just makes my job easier,” said Minney.
“I wasn’t happy with two and a half periods of hockey from us. I liked our start, and obviously something changed,” said Tom Anastos. “They won all the puck battles, they won all the races, and they were stronger one on one on pucks. We were not hard enough to play against.”
The Spartans will look to split their first Big Ten series of the year when the face off again tomorrow at 8.