Oct. 14, 2012
Minneapolis, Minn. - For the second consecutive night, No. ½ Minnesota came out with a big first period and rode it to a commanding victory over Michigan State, finishing off a two-game sweep with a 7-1 win. Brent Darnell had the lone score for MSU in the third period, while both Will Yanakeff (18 saves) and freshman Jake Hildebrand (nine saves in the third period) played in the MSU crease.
"That is a very good team. We knew that coming in," said head coach Tom Anastos. "Im not going to make any excuses. They are playing and executing at a level where we want to be. We're working to get there, and obviously, the difference between where we are and where we want to be is pretty big right now. We're young, and we have to get better. That's what we preach - get better every day. That's what we will do this week - get back to work and focus on getting better."
The win was the 599th career victory for Minnesota coach Don Lucia. There was celebration throughout the evening at Mariucci, as the team's 2012 regular-season WCHA Championship banner was unfurled in a pre-game ceremony.
The Gophers jumped on the board at 1:25 of the first. After a Spartan turnover along the right wall, Erik Haula carried the puck to the top of the circle and put a shot on net that was blocked by Nickolas Gatt. Haula collected the puck and pushed through Gatt, forcing the blueliner into the goalcage and knocking down Yanakeff; the puck crossed the line under Gatt, giving the Gophers the early lead.
Minnesota doubled its lead at 5:19. Winger Christian Isackson got the puck to Kyle Rau in the high slot, and Rau fed Nick Bjugstad at the left post, who was all alone and had a wide-open net into which he deposited his second goal of the weekend. Two minutes later, Tom Serratore put back a Justin Holl rebound for his first of the year - and for the second straight night, the Gophers had a 3-0 first-period lead. They added one more before the final buzzer, as Ben Marshall's shot from the right point trickled through Yanakeff's five-hole at 19:06. Kyle Rau opened the scoring for the Gophers just :30 into the second frame, as Isacks set him up at the left post to give the home team a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Through the middle of the period, the Spartans were whistled for three straight penalties, back-to-back-to-back that gave Minnesota just over six consecutive minutes of power play time. The Gophers weren't able to convert with the man advantage, but padded their lead with a sixth goal at 15:58 while skating five-on-five. Nate Condon had the goal, wristing a shot from below the dot in the right circle.
Jake Hildebrand got his first taste of collegiate action, spelling Yanakeff in the third period. At the other end, Brent Darnell broke up the Wilcox shutout at 2:05, walking out of the left corner and beating the goaltender with a sharp-angle shot.
The Spartans had to kill a five-minute major by Jake Chelios (hitting from behind) late in the third period, and the Gophers turned it into their first power-play goal of the night. Brady Skjei's shot from the right point found its way through traffic for his first collegiate tally.
The Spartans will open at home next weekend with a two-game series against Atlantic Hockey entry Niagara.
NOTES: MSU dropped its first two games of the season for the first time since the 1992-93 season. That team dropped a two-game set to Miami, but went on to finish 24-14-2 ... MSU allowed its most goals in a two-game series (12) since allowing 13 to Northern Michigan in the 2009 CCHA First Round ... Minnesota's seven goals tonight is the most the Spartans had surrendered since NMU's eight goals in the second game of that CCHA series ... In all, nine players saw their first action in a Green & White sweater this weekend, including four on the blueline ...