(South Bend, IN) — The No. 4/5 Gopher men’s hockey program got its first taste of overtime for the season on Sunday, emerging with a 2-1 victory over Michigan State to advance to the Big Ten tournament semifinals on Monday night.
In a game that saw Minnesota outshoot its opponent 50-23, the Maroon & Gold (21-6-0) rallied in the third period and found the game winner in overtime to pick up the program’s first win of the season when trailing after the second period (1-4-0).
Sampo Ranta played the hero for the Gophers, tallying his team-best 17th goal of the season at 10:35 of the overtime period off an assist from Jaxon Nelson. The junior forward has tallied points in six of the last seven games for Minnesota and leads Minnesota in goals (17) and points (27) this season. Ranta ranks third nationally in goal scoring this season.
After being held scoreless for over 55 minutes to open the game, Bryce Brodzinski breathed new life into Minnesota with the equalizer at 15:01 of the third period. The sophomore forward scored for the third-straight game and recorded a point for the fourth-straight contest – tying his career long streak for goals and setting a new career-best streak for points. With his eighth goal and 13th point of the season, Brodzinski has now set new career highs for both statistics after being set up with assists from Mike Koster and Matt Staudacher.
Michigan State (7-18-2) opened the game with a power-play goal at 10:39 of the first period when Dennis Cesana scored his second goal of the year.
The power-play goal was the lone blemish for Jack LaFontaine, who picked up his NCAA-leading 19th win of the season by saving 22 of the 23 shots he faced. A candidate for the Hobey Baker Award and a finalist for the Mike Richter Award and the Senior CLASS Award, LaFontaine (19-6-0) has now allowed two goals or fewer in 25 of his last 29 starts. Pierce Charleson (0-3-0) took the loss for Michigan State.
Quotes from Coach
“It was a hard fought game. Michigan State did exactly what you knew they were going to do tonight. They were going to play a good, stingy hockey game. I thought we were good too,” Minnesota Head Coach Bob Motzko said. “You find yourself in those games – we had plenty of chances, we just couldn’t get one by that goalie. Thank goodness Bryce tied it up late. I felt we deserved to win, but they were going to make it hard on us.”
The Gophers improved to 5-0-0 against Michigan State this season and earned the victory in the first-ever meeting between the two programs in the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin is now the only Big Ten team that Minnesota has not met in conference postseason play. The Gophers improved to 8-7-0 all-time in the Big Ten tournament.
Up Next: Big Ten Semifinals
Minnesota continues play at the 2021 Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament tonight against Michigan at 7:30 p.m. CT
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)