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Minnesota Hockey: Gopher Men and Gopher Women Have Very Different Weekends

The Gopher men get a much needed sweep while the women...oof

Casey Mittelstadt had the first of two Gopher goals on Saturday night

The Gopher men’s hockey team finished their sweep of the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night with a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Meanwhile, the Gopher women were swept in Columbus by the Ohio State Buckeyes putting a huge roadblock in their way to make the NCAA Tournament for a 11th consecutive season.

The Gopher men needed a sweep against Big Ten basement dwellers Michigan State this past weekend and they got it. Minnesota got a 5-4 win over the Spartans on Thursday night in East Lansing before the two teams headed to New York to play Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Super Saturday event.

Minnesota got off to a bit of a slow start as Minnesota could only muster one shot on a five-minute major power play after Spartan freshman Mitch Lewandowski got a five minute major and the gate for contact to the head to Tommy Novak.

The Gophers would finally get back into rhythm after the end of the power play and would take a 1-0 lead when Brent Gates, Jr threw a great pass through the slot and Casey Mittelstadt tipped it over the glove of Spartan goalie John Lethemon.

The two teams wold play a scoreless second period and most of the third before the Spartans finally got on the board as Cody Milan put the puck past Mat Robson with about 12 minutes to play in regulation. It appeared the game might be headed towards overtime when Gates took a bouncing pass from Jack Ramsey in front of the net, waited for the puck to settle down and smacked it past Lethemon to put the Gophers ahead for good 2-1.

The highlights from Saturday’s game are below:

Gates finished the weekend with a goal and three assists for Minnesota, and will be a strong candidate for one of the Big Ten Stars of the week when they are announced on Tuesday. Gates now has eight points against teams from his native state of Michigan this season. Mat Robson stopped 19 of 20 shots to move his record to 3-1 on the season.

The win was key for the Gophers as the weekend sweep moved the Gophers up to #10 from #15 in the pairwise rankings. Minnesota still will need to play well down the stretch to lock up an at large NCAA Tournament berth. Minnesota most likely needs at least a 5-3 finish down the stretch to feel “safe”. It won’t be an easy task as the Gophers will face four of the five teams tied/ahead of them in the Big Ten standings to finish out the regular season. That begins with Notre Dame Fighting headed to Mariucci for a series next weekend. The Fighting Irish were undefeated in the Big Ten until Wisconsin beat them on Sunday at the United Center 5-0.

Meanwhile, the Gopher women went into Columbus and got swept by Ohio State by scores of 3-2 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday. The losses drop the Gophers squarely into third place in the WCHA standings behind Wisconsin and Ohio State. More importantly the loss dropped the Gophers to #7 in the pairwise rankings. That ranking puts Minnesota in very dangerous territory to make the NCAA Tournament as an at large team. The Gophers last missed the NCAA Tournament 11 years ago in the 2006-2007 season. In fact that was the only NCAA Tournament the Gophers have not been a part of.

Minnesota seems to still be having defensive issues. Minnesota blew a 2-1 third period lead on Friday wasting goals from Grace Zumwinkle and Alex Wolken. On Saturday, the Gophers were never in the game trailing 2-0 after one period, and 4-0 after two periods after giving up back to back goals in 25 seconds. Freshman Alex Gulstene started the Saturday game in net but was replaced by Friday’s starter senior Sidney Peters after giving up the four goals.

The Gophers will try and get back on track this weekend when they host their final home series of the regular season at Ridder Arena. The Gophers will host Minnesota State and honor their four seniors, Peters, Sydney Baldwin, Cara Piazza, and Caitlin Reilly on Saturday afternoon.