Sunday, December 12, 2010

Missed Opportunities for Gophers and Bulldogs Result in 2-2 Tie

Coming off a surprising 3-2 victory over the #2 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the Minnesota Golden Gophers had a rare chance to sweep the 12-3-2 Bulldogs, who had not been swept all year. Friday's Gopher victory stemmed from a 60-minute effort... could they give another solid effort and steal yet another win from the Bulldogs?

Sunday: 2-2 Tie

Alex Kangas did not dress for Sunday's game, so Kent Patterson got another start in net. Rightfully so, as well, since Patterson was the player of the game in Friday's contest. Patterson didn't have much to do in the first period, though, as the Gophers dominated the action.

Outshooting the Bulldogs 15-6 in the first period, the Gophers had tons and tons of scoring chances but could not convert. Perhaps the best of these chances was a Taylor Matson breakaway, but Bulldog goaltender Aaron Crandall made a big save to keep the game at a 0-0 tie. Minnesota finally did cash in on a powerplay opportunity late in the period, when Jake Hansen tipped a Justin Holl slapshot from the point, giving the Gophers another 1-0 lead. The goal came at 17:26 of the period and gave the Gophers a well-deserved lead. However, just like Friday night's game, the Bulldogs scored a last-minute goal to even the game. Duluth's high-powered scoring line struck again, as Jack Connelly sniped a shot into the upper corner of the net at 19:23 of the period to tie the game.

Friday night's game saw the Gophers come out strong in the second period despite giving up a late game-tying goal. Sunday was a different story, however. The Bulldogs absolutely and thoroughly controlled the second period from beginning to end. Duluth outshot the Gophers 22-5 in the middle frame, but Minnesota limited the damage nicely, giving up only one goal on Mike Seidel's near-perfect shot from below the circle on a strung out two-on-one attempt. Kent Patterson and the defense could do nothing to stop that shot, but other than that the Gopher defense stood tall, with lots of help from Patterson.

The Gophers kept the game within reach heading into the third, and capitalized on a great individual play from Jacob Cepis when the gritty senior forward stole the puck from a Bulldog defender and slid the puck through Crandall's five-hole to tie the game at two goals to two. After the Gopher goal at 5:24 of the period, both teams settled into their game-plans, for the first time matching each other up and down the ice. The game was very much in the balance until about the ten-minute mark of the period.

At that point, the Gophers drew a penalty when Jacob Cepis once again hustled and got tripped. Just ten seconds later, the Bulldogs cleared the puck down the ice, and Kyle Schmidt stole the puck from the Gopher defender and beat Kent Patterson. However, Schmidt's steal was ruled a hooking penalty by the referees, and the call gave the Gophers a 5-on-3 powerplay for nearly two whole minutes. Although the Gophers had a plethora of quality scoring chances, Aaron Crandall and the Bulldog defenders stiffened and turned back the Gopher attack.

Less than a minute after the Bulldog penalties expired, Max Gardiner checked a Bulldog player hard in the back, and was whistled for a five-minute major for checking-from-behind. The Bulldog powerplay now had five whole minutes to try and score against one of the worst penalty kills in the country. However, the Gophers came up with a big penalty kill and shut down the Bulldog attack. The third period finished 2-2, and the teams headed into overtime.

The overtime was fairly evenly played, and there were not too many big chances until Jacob Cepis again drew another big penalty which gave the Gophers just under two minutes of powerplay with a chance to win the game. Again, though, the Bulldog defense stopped the Gopher attackers, and both teams skated away with a hard-fought tie.

Gopher Player of the Game: Kent Patterson

Kent Patterson is again the Gopher player of the game, surrendering only two goals (on two impossible-to-save shots) on 43 Minnesota-Duluth shots. Patterson was the most important cog in keeping the game within reach once again, stopping numerous quality Bulldog chances, including all six of Minnesota-Duluth's powerplays opportunities. Without Patterson's consistent goaltending the Gophers would have been in trouble from the get-go, and Patterson was instrumental in the Gophers stealing one point tonight and three points on the weekend.


The Gophers go into the winter break at 9-7-2 overall and 6-6-2 in the WCHA. Minnesota is in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference at 14 points, tied with Wisconsin and Colorado College. The Gophers are behind only Nebraska-Omaha (17 pts), UMD and Denver (20 pts) and North Dakota (22 pts).

I think that Minnesota has a great chance to make up some points in the standings in the second half. This team has won in the first half on talent alone. Goal scoring cannot be coached, and the Gophers have it. One would think that the defense will tighten up as the season moves along and the players learn more from their coaches as well as the very young defensive corps gains valuable WCHA experience. I can see this team pulling off a North Dakota-like run in the second half and being primed for a playoff run when the regular season is over.

The Gophers play next in the Mariucci Classic, with games against Union College and Ferris State. Both Union and Ferris State are ranked teams, so this non-conference series should be a very important for the Pairwise rankings which determine the NCAA tournament field. Let's hope the Gophers can pick up a couple wins on their way to a really good second half run!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gophers Win a Thriller Versus #2 Minnesota-Duluth

The Minnesota Gophers face a tough challenge this weekend in the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs, ranked #2 in the country with a 12-2-2 record coming into the series, are a tough team with a high-end offense that is led by their first line. Mike Connelly, Jack Connelly and Justin Fontaine has combined for 27 of the team's 65 total goals (42%). The UMD powerplay has hummed along at just over 25% on the season, and with the Gophers sporting the nation's third-worst penalty kill (at 73% on the season) as well as a penchant to play poor defense in their own zone, this game looked like a blowout on paper.

However, we've seen the Gophers step up and beat good teams when they give a solid effort for a full sixty minutes. The Gophers beat a very good Michigan squad with maximum effort for three whole periods. Could they bring that work ethic against a very good UMD squad?

Friday: 3-2 Gopher Win

Don Lucia gave the nod to Kent Patterson in goal, and with the aforementioned firepower UMD possesses, Patterson would likely need to come up big if the Gophers stood a chance in the game. It would also be important for the Gophers to get on the scoreboard early. The Gophers have only won one game this year when giving up the first goal (a 2-1 win against St. Cloud State), so it was imperative that the team get off to a good start.

And they did. Just three minutes into the game, Nick Larson tipped a Seth Helgeson slapshot from the point past Bulldog goalie Kenny Reiter to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. Shortly after, defenseman Cade Fairchild took a Bulldog check and went into the boards hard, appearing to dislocate his shoulder or break his collarbone. Fairchild did not return to the game, and his status for the rest of the season remains in doubt.

Minnesota skated with Duluth all period, at times looking like the better team, until a late powerplay gave UMD a chance to take advantage of the Gophers' lackluster penalty kill. The potent Bulldog powerplay clicked with just under 14 seconds remaining in the period, as Jack Connelly put a screened shot past Patterson to tie the game. Although Duluth had just scored, you got the sense that the Gophers still had the momentum going into the break. The fact that Minnesota had skated toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country through twenty minutes seemed to embolden the Gophers.

The second period was a very even affair. Both teams had quality scoring opportunities, but the goalies came up big. Patterson especially made quality stops, stoning Bulldog attackers left and right with plenty of help from the short-handed defensive corps. About seven minutes into the period, Nico Sacchetti cut to the slot in the offensive zone and fired a wrister into the corner of the net, to give the Gophers another lead at 2-1. This goal really fired up the Maroon and Gold, who played with passion and vigor, generating chances and keeping Duluth on their heels. Midway through the period the Gophers drew a Bulldog penalty, and after all the bad puck luck from last year's UMD-Minnesota series (at least two UMD goals scored off of Gopher skates) the Gophers were due for a break. They got one, when a Reiter rebound bounced off of Bulldog defenseman Dylan Olsen and into the back of the net. The goal at 13:36 of the period, was unassisted to Barriball, but the Hockey Gods definitely got an assist on that one. The Gophers finished the period strong, and had a two-goal cushion going into the third period.

Scott Sandelin's intermission speech must have been pretty good, because the Bulldogs came out strong in the third period. The Gophers played into the Bulldogs' plans, going into the prevent defense and crawling into their shell. Minnesota-Duluth was piling on the offense, taking shot after shot after shot at Kent Patterson. Patterson was up to the challenge, making high degree-of-difficulty saves on shots from UMD's best players. Duluth got a boost when a questionable Mike Hoeffel high-sticking call sent them on the powerplay, and they again took advantage of a bad Gopher penalty kill. A Justin Faulk rocket slapshot hit the absolute top corner of the goal, and with just over five minutes left in the game the Bulldogs were right back in the game.

The Bulldogs put on the full court press for the last five minutes, and the Gophers could only try to hold on for dear life. Duluth pulled their goalie with just under 90 seconds left, and many mad flurries in front of the Gopher net were handled with aplomb by Patterson. However, a cross-ice pass with 20 seconds left set up Justin Fontaine with a wide open net to shoot at. Fontaine's shot was right on the money, but Kent Patterson dove from the other side of the crease and his outstretched blocker got in the way of the twine-seeking puck and batted it to the corner. The Gophers cleared the puck out of the zone and celebrated a 3-2 victory.

Gopher Player of the Game: Kent Patterson

Patterson made 37 shots on the night, none bigger than the diving save on Fontaine's snipe with the game on the line. Patterson gave the team a chance to win, and without his stellar play at the back the Gophers' three goals would never have stood up. Patterson's performance stole a huge game for the Gophers, and gives them a chance to sweep a huge series going into the winter break.

The Gophers will go for that sweep Sunday afternoon at 4 PM. I'll see you there!

Gopher Hockey Snowmageddon Update: 12/11 Game Postponed

I have just received word that the Minnesota Gopher / Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs hockey game scheduled for 7 PM tonight (12/11/10) has been postponed due to this week's version of the storm of the century. The make-up game is due to be played at 4:00 PM on Sunday, December 12th.

Hope everyone drives safe today!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disgraceful Gophers Swept in Mankato

On a weekend that was supposed to mark a new beginning in the University of Minnesota athletic department, the feelings of woe and despair surrounding the Gopher hockey team remained uncomfortably the same.

The hiring of football Coach Jerry Kill could not overshadow the hockey team's abysmal performance, as the Gophers was swept over the weekend by the Minnesota State University - Mankato Mavericks.

Friday: 3-2 Gopher Loss

The Gophers were shorthanded before the puck was dropped. Mike Hoeffel missed the game due to a bout with the flu, and was replaced on the top line by the wildly ineffectual Patrick White. Alex Kangas got the nod between the pipes from coach Don Lucia, who was expected to go towards more of a goalie rotation than in the recent past.

Both teams played well in the opening period of the game. The play was up-and-down the rink and fairly even throughout the period, and even the goals scored were more a result of the open, flowing play than of one team dominating the other for significant stretches of the game. Mankato struck first, on a hard shot through loads of traffic by defenseman Ben Youds. Youds pulled a very familiar Mike Vannelli-like move, faking a shot at the point and sidestepping his man to find an open shooting lane. The goal, at 6:12 of the period, gave the Mavericks an early lead, and as we all know the Gophers have only won one game this year when they give up the first goal. The game they won, though, was one in which they struck back right after giving up the lead, and the Gophers did that again Friday as Nick Bjugstad fought through a defender to reach the puck lying open in the crease and nudged it across the goal line to tie the game at one goal a piece less than two minutes after the Youds marker. However, Mankato took full advantage of a Gopher penalty kill that ranks in the bottom three in the nation and scored a power play tally at 13:11 of the period to re-take the lead. The play continued to be fast and even for the remainder of the period, and it did not appear that one team was much better than the other. Surprising, considering the Gophers were 5-4-1 in the WCHA prior to the weekend slate while Mankato was 2-6-2. The Mavericks always seem to step up their game versus the Gophers, but eventually the Gophers edge in talent would surely wear away at the Maverick will. Right?

The second period saw a little bit of a Gopher letdown. The defense softened enough to let Maverick forward Adam Mueller to walk out of the corner with the puck, and Alex Kangas softened up quite a bit in letting Mueller's weak backhander get through the five-hole and into the net, giving the Mavericks an important two goal cushion. Nick Larson and Nico Sacchetti hooked up past the midway point of the period to get the Gophers back within one and a little more jump into their steps. Sacchetti's long shot from the blue-line was kicked aside by Mankato goalie Phil Cook, but Nick Larson beat his man to the rebound and fired it past Cook to get the Gophers within one goal again. There were no more goals the rest of the period, but the Gophers stepped their games back up to the same level as Mankato, who had showed no signs of letting down throughout forty minutes.

The Gophers really started to put the pressure on in the third period, firing shot after shot at the Maverick's Cook. Cook, however, was equal to the task. The Gophers had plenty of chances in the period, including several powerplay opportunities and a 6-on-4 advantage for the last minute of the game, but Cook stoned Minnesota to lead the Mavericks to victory.

The Gopher player of the game Friday has to be Nick Larson. Larson again scored a big goal to get the team back into the game. His hustle has always been the most prominent aspect of his game, but if he can mix a little scoring punch in like he has been the last couple weekend he could become a very valuable player to the Gophers shortly.

Saturday: 2-1 Gopher Loss

The result of this game ended up being the same as Friday night, but the feel of the game was completely different. The Gophers dominated every facet of the game, but their inability to finish and terrible special teams doomed them to a zero point weekend.

Kent Patterson got the start in net and again looked like he was the veteran goalie of the Gopher tandem. Patterson played well, stopping 30 shots in total, but the real story was Phil Cook, who stood on his head and amassed 49 saves during the game.

The first period was another fast paced one, but the play favored the Gophers. Jay Barriball and Jake Hansen each had breakaway opportunities that were stopped by Cook (or, in Hansen's case, he lost control of the puck before he was able to get a shot on goal). Nick Bjugstad's can't-miss one time attempt was thwarted when the freshman's stick broke on the shot attempt, and Bjugstad had another goal disallowed when Nate Condon was in the crease and impeded Cook's path to make the save. Kent Patterson was solid if not spectacular, and Mankato was lucky to get out of the period with a 0-0 tie given the amount of quality scoring chances the Gophers piled up.

The second period was very similar to the first. The Gophers put tons of shots on goal and had numerous good opportunities, but again Cook stopped everything the Gophers threw at him. A late powerplay gave the Mavericks a chance to take the lead going into the third period, and they did not disappoint, with Rylan Galiardi scoring at 19:11. The way Phil Cook was playing, it appeared that the one goal might be all Mankato would need.

However, the Gophers put on the full-court press in the third. Minnesota recorded 23 shots on net during the period, and got another breakaway opportunity from Jay Barriball (who missed). Mankato's Kurt Davis gave the Mavericks that all-important two goal lead when he scored on a half-breakaway by firing a rocket from the left circle past Patterson's glove side and off the inside of the post before settling into the twine. Davis' goal did not break the backs of the Gophers, as Cade Fairchild tucked a bouncing puck into the net just 39 seconds after the Davis goal to get the Gophers back within one.

Mad scramble would be a good way to define the Gophers charge to the finish, with Minnesota putting chance after chance at goaltender Cook. Again, though, Cook steered aside all the Gopher chances. A Cade Fairchild slashing penalty at 19:47 ended the Gophers chances and sealed the victory for the Mavericks. The Gophers finished with 50 shots on goal, but only one of those shots made it past Cook, who was outstanding in the victory.

The Gopher player of the game Saturday was Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad is really starting to come into his own over the past couple weekends, using his large frame to play with a physical edge as well as his tremendous skill to stickhandle through opponents and put himself in a position to score. Bjugstad should have scored twice on Saturday, and I don't think it's any fluke that he's picked up his scoring over the past month.

Three Gopher Stars of the Weekend

Third Star: Mike Hoeffel

Although Hoeffel didn't play in Friday's game, he made his presence felt in Saturday's contest. Hoeffel is at his best when he's in the corners, scrumming for the puck and digging it out to continue the offensive rally. A healthy, productive Hoeffel could be the cure for what ails the Gophers moving into the second half of the season.

Second Star: Kent Patterson

Patterson has moved up to the #1 goalie on Minnesota's depth chart, and rightfully so. He rarely gives up soft goals and plays solid positionally all the time. Having two solid goaltenders is a good thing, and Patterson continues to show that he is a viable option as a starting goalie.

First Star: Nick Bjugstad

Bjugstad really impressed this weekend, using size and skill to put himself in position very frequently to help out the team. Bjugstad should have scored two goals on Saturday, and his goal on Friday was all hustle. The Gophers will need his scoring punch if they look to rebound from the sweep at the hands of the Mavericks.


The Gophers head into their toughest series yet, at home against the visiting Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Duluth has only lost two games so far this year, and they could steamroll a unsure Gopher team. If the Gophers can steal two points this weekend I think that should be considered a success. Frankly, my money is on one point for the Maroon and Gold.

See you at the rink!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

College Hockey Showcase: 3 Gopher Stars of the Weekend

Here are the three Gopher players who shined during the College Hockey Showcase:

Third Star(s): Nick Larson and Taylor Matson

Both Larson and Matson provided great effort in both games of the showcase, and both Larson and Matson scored huge goals. Matson's goal brought the Gophers to within one goal of Michigan State at 3-2, and Nick Larson put the Gophers up 2-0 in the game against Michigan. Their effort and goal scoring nab Larson and Matson the #3 stars of the weekend.

Second Star: Erik Haula

Haula was instrumental in the 3-1 Michigan victory, getting many scoring opportunities of his own while providing many more opportunities for others. Haula scored the biggest goal of the game, the separation goal that made the game 3-1 right after Michigan had scored to narrow the Gopher lead to one. Haula's offensive output nets him the #2 star.

First Star: Alex Kangas

Kangas allowed three goals on the weekend in five and a half periods of action, and a case could be made that none of those goals were his fault. Kangas made the stops that he needed to make and kept the Gophers in both games on the weekend, including a big shorthanded breakaway stop against Michigan in the third period. The Gophers need Alex Kangas to be as good as he can be, and hopefully this weekend will springboard Kangas back to the level of play that we're used to out of him. A Kangas-Patterson rotation should be solid for the Gophers down the stretch. Kangas's solid, steady play gets him the weekend's #1 star.

Gophers Play Best "Full" Game of the Season, Beat Michigan 3-1

As if an ugly loss Friday night at the hands of then 4-6-3 Michigan State wasn't bad enough, the Gophers were set to host the then-#8 Michigan Wolverines (8-3-4 overall coming into the game) in the last ever game of the College Hockey Showcase on Sunday afternoon. Would the Gophers give a good effort and play like they're capable of, or would they again mail it in and allow Michigan to walk all over them?

Sunday: 3-1 Gopher Win

I was actually quite nervous after the first ten minutes of the game. Michigan had tilted the ice and was constantly on the attack. However, the Gopher defense played a superb game all around, and goalie Alex Kangas was up to the task, stopping all 11 Michigan shots that came his way in the first. The Gophers did a nice job weathering the Wolverine storm before taking advantage of an offensive opportunity of their own at 14:50 of the period. Nate Condon and Jacob Cepis darted into the Michigan zone on a two-on-one, and Cepis slid a perfect pass through a Michigan defender to Condon, who made a nifty move and put the puck past Bryan Hogan for a 1-0 Minnesota lead. After the goal, the Gophers settled down and started to dictate the pace of the game. This would last until the last several minutes of the game.

The Gophers came out in the second period much like the last five minutes of the first, controlling play (for the most part) and getting several good chances. However, an Aaron Ness checking from behind call at 10:03 of the period put the Wolverines on a five minute powerplay. Great penalty kill efforts by nearly all the Gopher team allowed Minnesota to kill off the major, and one of the loudest roars of the season thus far in Mariucci Arena was heard when the Gophers returned to full strength. The penalty kill gave the Gophers all the momentum in the world, and it didn't take long before the team capitalized, with Nick Larson rocketing a slapshot past Bryan Hogan to give the Gophers that all-important two goal lead. The goal, at 17:10 of the period, was followed up quickly by Michigan's first goal of the game at 18:05, an effort goal that saw Scooter Vaughan take the puck from behind the net and jam it twice into Alex Kangas before getting it to squeeze past the Minnesota goalie and into the net. However, just seconds later Michigan had taken a penalty, and with only 16 seconds remaining on the clock Erik Haula took a goalmouth pass from Mike Hoeffel and roofed it for the Gophers' third goal of the game. A huge goal, it gave the Gophers another separation goal as well as the momentum heading into the locker room.

A solid Alex Kangas third period was all she wrote for the Wolverines. Kangas shut down Michigan, stopping 11 shots in the period to seal the victory. Michigan outshot the Gophers 11-4 in the period, and their desperation was obvious throughout the last 15 minutes of the game. However, Kangas and the Gopher defense were up to the challenge. You have to especially appreciate the effort of the Gopher defensemen, who had to play the second half of the game without Aaron Ness, who is arguably the best defensive defenseman on the team. All of the remaining defensemen (Kevin Wehrs, Cade Fairchild, Seth Helgeson, Mark Alt and Justin Holl) played good games to keep Michigan off the board in the third.

Gopher Player of the Game: Alex Kangas

Kangas stopped 35 Michigan shots to grab the victory for the Gophers. He was stellar when the Gophers needed it the most - in the first ten minutes of the game and the last ten minutes of the game - when Michigan was attacking hard. For his rock solid effort between the pipes, senior alternate captain Alex Kangas earns the Player of the Game honors.


Strange weekend for the Gophers. They lose horribly to a bad Michigan State team, and then come back and put together a great win against a very good Michigan squad. The key to this team is effort. If the Gophers play 10 good minutes of hockey like they did in the MSU game, they can lose to just about anybody. If, however, they play 50 good minutes of hockey, they can beat just about anybody. A win over Michigan WILL be big in the Pairwise rankings at the end of the year, and such a complete effort will hopefully be something the team can build on. Let's see if the Gophers can get two wins in Mankato this weekend and really turn the corner.

Friday Blues Continue at Home as Gophers Lose 5-2 to Michigan State

The Minnesota Gophers entered the final year of the annual College Hockey Showcase riding high. They were winners of two straight and had gone 5-1-1 in their last seven. The Michigan State Spartans, on the other hand, had lost three straight contests and were 1-6-0 in their last seven games.

None of that seemed to matter Friday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, though, as the Spartans scored three goals in the first ten minutes of the game to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish, winning 5-2.

The Gophers actually came out of the gate looking like the better team, racking up 12 shots on goal despite not having any powerplay opportunities. However, a combination of poor defensive-zone coverage and bad puck luck doomed Minnesota in the first. Michigan State's sophomore captain Torey Krug struck first with a powerplay tally from the point that ping-ponged through several defenders before trickling over the goal line behind Gopher starter Kent Patterson and into the net. The goal, at 2:26 of the period, was followed quickly by another just 22 seconds later, this on a two-on-one rush that saw Dustin Gazley deposit a Daultan Leveille pass past Patterson. Not even three minutes into the game and the Gophers were down 2-0 already, and things would get worse before they got better. A Brett Perlini goal which was very nearly waived off due to being played with a high stick gave the Spartans a 3-0 lead only 8:48 into the period, and it gave the Spartans a lead which would prove insurmountable. After this goal Alex Kangas came off the bench to relieve Patterson, and played solidly the rest of the frame.

The period concluded with no more goals scored, but the damage was already done, and the Gophers entered the locker room with a sizable hole to climb out of, like they've done every Friday home game thus far with the exception of the very first game of the season. The Gophers have played five Friday home games so far, and have trailed 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0 at some point four of those five games. The coaching staff needs to prepare this team better to come out and play on Fridays at home - it's tough to win when you're down three-plus goals right out of the chute. It seems like the Gophers just give up when they allow the first goal. The team, 8-5-1 on the year, is 7-0-1 when they score the first goal and 1-5-0 when giving up the first goal. The players need to realize that the game isn't over if they give up the first goal - good teams find a way to win, and this team needs to dig deep and find a way to pull themselves back into games. I'm sick and tired of watching the Gophers give up the first goal and knowing that more than likely they're going to pack it in for the rest of the game. Come back strong and compete!

Minnesota attempted to come back strong in the second period. The Gophers carried most of the play, and broke through on a Cade Fairchild powerplay goal. A shot from the high slot got through a screen and between Spartan goalie Drew Palmisano's legs to get the Maroon and Gold on the board. It actually looked to me like Jake Hansen got his stick on the puck just before it trickled over the goal line, and originally the goal was credited to Mike Hoeffel. The goal occurred at 5:46 of the period and gave the Gophers another burst of life. After generating several more quality scoring opportunities, Mike Hoeffel intercepted a Spartan cross-ice pass and was in alone on Palmisano. Hoeffel fired the puck right into the netminder's glove, though, and the score remained 3-1. The opportunity was not wasted, as just moments later at 10:19 of the period Hoeffel fed Taylor Matson on a two-on-one and Matson unleashed a slapshot from the middle of the right circle that beat Palmisano and drew the Gophers to within one at 3-2.

The Gophers and Spartans traded chances the remainder of the period, with the Gophers retaining the edge in quality opportunities, until the final two minutes of the second. Michigan State broke into the Gopher zone on a two-on-one, and bad luck once again struck Minnesota as Dustin Gazely's cross-ice pass deflected off of Seth Helgeson's stick and into the back of the Gopher net, giving Michigan State a crucial two-goal lead heading into the second intermission. The goal, at 18:10 of the period, completely deflated the team, whose comeback hopes were now put aback once again. The goal was also the first one that Alex Kangas had given up in the game, after having played solidly throughout the first and second periods. This goal was not Kangas' fault, as the puck glanced off of Helgeson's stick before coming to rest behind the Gopher goalkeeper.

The third period was an exercise in and of itself, with the Gophers showing relatively little passion. That passion was all but extinguished when Derek Grant, earlier given a 10 minute misconduct, pulled the puck out of the corner on the powerplay and walked all alone to the net before top-shelfing a shot to give the Spartans their fifth goal of the game. This goal wasn't on Kangas, either, as Grant had no Minnesota player within 15 feet of him.

The game ended at the score of 5-2, and the Gophers played like they deserved it. Only several players showed any will to win or passion, and only one of those players deserves the title of Player of the Game.

Gopher Player of the Game: Taylor Matson

Matson always shines in games when the team phones it in, because #9 ALWAYS plays hard. He's finally getting rewarded, too. Matson continues to see action above his usual fourth-line role, and has already scored six goals on the year, good for third on the team. Matson's goal in this game was a big one, too: it brought the Gophers back within one at the time. Matson's strong, consistent effort and his ability to get on the scoresheet net him the Player of the Game in this one.