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Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey: Michigan State Wins In Shootout 4-3

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This game got off to an ugly start.  Freshman Jack Glover took an unnecessary holding penalty and MSU capitalized a minute later and took a 1-0 lead.  Brent Darnell continued his ridiculous streak of luck against the Gophers and put away a rebound.

Seth Abmbroz took a penalty about a minute later, and the rest of the period was spent in the Gophers end.  Ben Marshall also got in on the penalty train in the first.

So to summarize the first period: three Gophers penalties, no real quality scoring chances after the first shift of the game, and Michigan State led from the beginning.  This was shaping up to be one of "those" games for the Gophers.  I was starting to think that the refs might not ever call a penalty against MSU.

Thankfully, Connor Reilly blasted a one-timer past Jake Hildebrand with about five minutes remaining in the period.  Immediately after the goal, the Gophers were able to reestablish an offensive zone presence, and it eventually resulted in a penalty against Villiam Haag.

Connor showed up again on the ensuing power play.  He blasted a low one-timer off a pass from his brother, Mike Reilly, which Captain Kyle Rau tipped in to the net.  The Gophers had taken the lead after 15 minutes of flawless hockey from the Spartans.

The lead didn't last long.  Jake Bischoff misplayed a puck in the neutral zone, which sprung Joe Cox and Mackenzie MacEachern on a 2-on-1, which MacEachern buried.

The period ended 2-2, but I was actually pleased to see the Gophers play through some adversity and respond after they got down early.  It's not something they've showed a lot of, so far this season.

The second period was less exciting until Darnell scored his second goal of the night (only his third of the season and his 100th against the Gophers in six) by sniping a shot over Wilcox's glove on a 3-on-3 rush where the Gophers defensemen did nothing to on the rush other than watch the Spartans skate.

The Gophers did not look crisp through the second period, and again they struggled to achieve any zone time or shots on goal.  The script was the same as it has been any time the Gophers have struggled: a lack of effort, a lack of winning races to open pucks, poor passing, , and an ineffective forecheck.

Michigan State did a nice job of not allowing the Gophers to cleanly exit the defensive zone.  They did an even better job of not allowing the Gophers to enter the offensive zone.  Those two factors resulted in a 3-2 Spartan lead after the second period.

Luckily, the Gophers were handed an early period power play in the third, which meant it was Connor Reilly time. He scored his second goal of the game, again assisted by Mike Reilly (with a second assist to Justin Kloos).

At this point, I feel like I should mention how good Adam Wilcox was in this game.  In the first two periods, the Spartans attempted 45 shots, and Wilcox faced and stopped multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes.  He played very well in this game.

I'd also like to mention Hudson Fasching, who was mostly ineffective over both games this weekend.  That's about all I can say, I'd like to see more production out of Fasching.  He seems to be struggling with puck control this year.

Michigan State mostly outplayed the Gophers in the third period.  Again, the ice seemed to be tilted toward Adam Wilcox for the majority of the period.  The Gophers managed to muster a little urgency late in the third, but they couldn't find another goal in regulation.  The game headed to overtime tied at 3-3.

In overtime, Hildebrand robbed Seth Ambroz on a point blank opportunity.  The puck came out of the corner on a pass from Travis Boyd.  Ambroz snapped a shot which was gloved, amazingly, by Hildebrand.  Nobody would score, and the game headed to a shootout for the purpose of assigning a bonus point based on not hockey.

That didn't stop the Michigan State arena crew from blaring the Goal horn when Michael Ferrantino scored. on the first opportunity.  Seth Ambroz scored for Minnesota, but he was the only one.  The Spartans scored twice, and took home that extra point.

On the weekend, the Gophers played one excellent game, and tied another, exceeding the "split on the road" expectation.  However, this second game was not pretty.  The Spartans out-shot the Gophers 45-24, and had six more scoring-chances, according to Comcast's statisticians.

The Gophers are now on the dreaded winter break until after the new year.