The Minnesota Gophers will face off against Michigan State this weekend at 3M Arena at Mariucci bringing an 11-game winning streak over the Spartans to the ice. Minnesota leads the Big Ten by ten points over Ohio State and Penn State and will look to increase that lead wile the Buckeyes are on their bye weekend and Penn State has to head to Ann Arbor. Meanwhile Michigan State is looking to cling to their current home ice spot in the Big Ten playoffs as they have slid to fourth place in the conference and lead fifth place Notre Dame by just four points.
Minnesota comes into the weekend after split with Michigan at home last weekend that featured a pair of overtime winners. The Gophers didn’t play their best hockey against the Wolverines and it showed as they needed to chase in both games making third period comebacks to force overtime. Mathew Knies would win it for Minnesota on Friday night with just 8 seconds left in the OT period, but the Wolverines quickly got the winner on Saturday to earn the split.
Michigan State comes into the weekend after a weekend off. Their most recent series at Penn State on January 13th and 14th they would take four points from the Nittany Lions with a OT win on Friday and a shootout win on Saturday. That snapped a five game losing streak for MSU and kept them in their fourth place spot in the standings.
Minnesota swept the Spartans in East Lansing back in December riding five points from Logan Cooley and a Justen Close shutout in a 5-0 and 6-3 sweep. That series set some NCAA Hockey history as the only known series between two teams that did not feature a single penalty the entire weekend on either team.
Minnesota brings a high powered offense to the series and should have the distinct advantage if they can play up to the level they need to. The Gophers lead the Big Ten and rank #4 in the nation scoring 3.88 goals per game. The Spartans average almost a goal less per game at 2.92. Defensively the Gophers also have the edge allowing 2.46 goals per game to the Spartans 2.81. The Gophers also have the edge in special teams play—if they get the chance to actually use those teams this weekend.
Jackson LaCombe earned the #1 Star of the Week from the Big Ten after his four point performance against the Wolverines. He scored the game-tying goal on Friday late in the third period and then assisted on the game winner in OT. He then also assisted on the Saturday night game-tying goal that once again forced overtime. His 25 points lead the nation in scoring by a defenseman. He is one of three Gophers nominated for the Hobey Baker Award along with fellow defenseman Brock Faber and Mathew Knies.
Minnesota hopefully will play up to their potential and not look ahead to their bye weekend next weekend. This team should take care of the Spartans and continue to earn their way towards back to back Big Ten titles. Saturday afternoon’s game is already a sellout with only 200 tickets left for Friday night. If Minnesota can get Friday’s game sold out, it would mark the first time in a VERY long time that the Gophers had back to back sold out series. So if you don’t have tickets...
HOW TO WATCH:
#15 Michigan State Spartans @ #2 Minnesota Gophers
Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7 PM Friday/ 4 PM Saturday
TV: Bally Sports North Extra
Radio: 1130 AM/103.5 FM/ I Heart Radio App