In their final game before an unplanned extended break due to COVID-19 issues elsewhere, Minnesota scored early and often against Michigan State, winning their fourth game in a row in a sweep of their weekend series.
The Gophers host the final game of the Michigan State series.
Needing wins with the Big Ten season winding down and the desperate to stay atop the standings, the Minnesota Gophers got a good, not great, effort on Friday versus Michigan State.
The game features the top and bottom teams in the Big Ten race.
The Minnesota Gophers will have to wait until next season to try and get back on the winning track at Penn State. On Thursday that school announced cancellation of their Feb. 27-28 hockey series versus Minnesota due to on-going issues with positive COVID-19 tests among the Nittany Lions.
Michigan State has not scored many goals or gotten many wins this season, but the Spartans' non-secret weapon is in goal, where junior netminder Drew DeRidder has backstopped the team for three years, and nights of 30-plus saves are routine.
While the Minnesota Gophers are 700-some miles away at a rink in Ohio, radio voices Frank Mazzocco and Wally Shaver have gotten used to calling the action from afar during the pandemic. Also, two Gopher legends honored for their work in the 1990s, the Gophers take two of the Big Ten's three stars, and a college hockey wardrobe malfunction in the Upper Peninsula.
Minnesota Gophers senior forward Brannon McManus was an established hockey player before he took his first strides on a sheet of ice. He learned to play the game on wheels in his native Southern California, before coming to the State of Hockey for prep school and a successful college career.
Episode 68: The Rink Live video podcast for Feb. 15, 2021
Minnesota Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine responded to his worst game of the season with his best weekend as a collegian, shutting out Notre Dame for the second consecutive night, as his team swept a road series and re-established itself atop the Big Ten standings with six games to play.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 33-24-5 but was swept by the Irish in the last series at 3M Arena at Mariucci in mid-January.
After a humbling weekend versus Wisconsin, the Minnesota Gophers found exactly what they needed at Notre Dame on Friday, turning in an end-to-end, start-to-finish effort to get back into the win column, sparked by Jack LaFontaine's fourth shutout of the season.
Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko believes you can only effectively lose your cool a few times each season. One of those times was Monday, when he worked the boys hard in practice after a rough outing against Wisconsin. The Gophers head to Notre Dame in second place, looking to get their groove back vs. defensive-minded Irish.
Seemingly everything that could have gone wrong for the Minnesota Gophers went wrong on Saturday, in their most lopsided loss of the season. Dylan Holloway had a goal and five assists for the Wisconsin Badgers, which took over first place in the Big Ten with an 8-1 win in Minneapolis.
The BIg Ten rivals conclude their series Saturday night.
Wisconsin blew open a tie game in the later stages of the third period with a trio of goals, handing Minnesota its fourth loss of the season and pulling within one win of overtaking the Gophers atop the Big Ten standings on Friday night in Minneapolis.
The teams split a series last month in Madison as the Badgers stopped Minnesota's 10-game winning streak to start the season.
Even with a pandemic, the unofficial state holiday known as Hockey Day Minnesota will still happen in 2021, with an adjusted and reduced schedule of events. Also: One of the Gophers' Big Ten rivals is taking an unplanned paused, and Gophers hockey TV ratings are through the roof.
Cole Caufield is leading the Big Ten offensively and draws plenty of notice from fans and opponents whenever he steps on the ice for the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers travel to play at Minnesota this weekend with a chance to take over 1st place in the conference, and their coach hopes the attention paid to Caufield frees up some other sources of offense.
Minnesota finishes up its two-game series in Columbus.
Minnesota is 33-8-5 all-time against the Buckeyes.
The Minnesota Gophers will head to a rink where they have had regular season success -- and postseason heartbreak -- for the Big Ten tournament in March. Also, two Gophers honored by the conference after their 20-goal weekend versus Arizona State, and MIAC parents petition to get in the rink.
Episode 16: The Rink Live video podcast for Jan. 28, 2020