Olympics consideration put aside, Ben Meyers dominates as Gophers beat Michigan State
If, as expected, Ben Meyers will be playing for Team USA in Beijing next month, he looks ready for the world stage. Playing at Michigan State, he turned in a gold medal performance as the Minnesota Gophers jumped back into Big Ten play with a decisive win.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- If predictions about Team USA’s roster at next month’s Winter Olympics are correct, Ben Meyers might be the second-biggest thing in China. After the Great Wall, of course.
The Minnesota Gophers junior forward, who is expected to be named to the American roster soon, scored twice and added an assist on Friday as his team jumped back into Big Ten play with a decisive 4-1 win at Michigan State.
Sammy Walker opened the scoring and Jack LaFontaine pitched in with 24 saves as the Gophers (11-8-0 overall, 7-4-0 Big Ten) ran their winning streak versus the Spartans to six straight games. The Spartans (11-9-1, 5-6-0) got a stellar 32-save performance from goalie Drew DeRidder but trailed throughout.
“I’m just working on my game during the week, and I’ve got great linemates to play with,” said Meyers. “We’ve got a great d-core to move us the puck and I’m just trying to play hard.”
As for the expectation that he will be headed to Beijing next month, Meyers said he is focused on the present.
“We had two games at Michigan State. That’s really the focus,” he said. “I’m (playing) in Minnesota right now and just focused on playing Michigan State in a couple big conference games.”
Playing their first real game in more than a month, the Gophers looked anything but rusty in the opening 15 minutes, testing DeRidder repeatedly and jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Walker, penalized for playing with a broken stick, emerged from the penalty box just in time to catch a lead pass from Blake McLaughlin and slip the puck over the goal line.
Meyers doubled the lead later with a seeing-eye shot from a sharp angle. After the Spartans got on the board via defenseman Nash Nienhuis’ first collegiate goal, Meyers scored again late in the second off a pretty set-up pass from Matthew Knies, who is also expected to be named to the Olympic roster.
"It was a real good game for us. In the first 10 minutes I loved how we came out. It got all the lines going, we got all our energy going, we were on top of pucks and made life very difficult on them," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "They’re a strong team and we lost some strength battles a couple times, but a complete game by our lineup tonight.”
Meyers nearly completed the hat trick, but hit the post on a shot that then went in off Lucius for the Gophers’ fourth goal. Lucius said he almost felt bad about getting credit for the goal after all Meyers did on Friday.
“Honestly, a little bit,” Lucius said, with a grin, when asked if he felt bad for Meyers. “I wish he would’ve got that, but he’s glad I put it in.”
Postgame comments from Minnesota Gophers head coach Bob Motzko, forward Ben Meyers and forward Chaz Lucius following their 4-1 win at Michigan State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.
The bad news for the Gophers came in the third period when forward Jaxon Nelson went down hard and appeared to roll an ankle after a shot. He was helped from the ice and did not return.
“Tough losing Nellie,” Motzko said, hinting that the injury was serious. “He’ll be out a while.”
“Not a lot to say. Minnesota played well, and we’ve got to work an awful lot harder than that and an awful lot more battles to win against a team like Minnesota,” said Spartans coach Danton Cole. “For the first time in a while, I thought it was a pretty uneven effort and we’re going to need to be an awful lot better tomorrow.”
The two-game series concludes on Saturday evening.
Minnesota 4, Michigan State 1
Michigan State 1-0-0—1
First period — 1. MIN, Sammy Walker 8 (Blake McLauhglin, Brock Faber), 8:34. 2. MIN, Ben Meyers 6 (Chaz Lucius), 14:48. 3. MSU, Nash Nienhuis 1 (Jeremy Davidson, Kristof Papp), 16:08. Penalties — David Gucciardi, MSU (holding), 4:52; Walker, MIN (playing with a broken stick), 6:27.
Second period — 4. MIN, Meyers 7 (Matthew Knies, Lucius), 16:44. Penalties — Griffin Loughran, MSU (interference), 3:51; Cole Krygier, MSU (roughing), 7:22; Jagger Joshua, MSU (charging), 9:00.
Third period — 5. MIN, Lucius 6 (Meyers, Knies), 16:19. Penalties — Matt Staudacher, MIN (hitting from behind), 1:29; Faber, MIN (interference), 13:37; Ben Brinkman, MIN (tripping), 18:19.
Shots on goal — MIN 17-13-6—36; MSU 7-8-10—25. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (25 shots-24 saves); Drew DeRidder, MSU (36-32). Power plays — MIN 0-of-4, MSU 0-of-4. Referees — Cameron Lynch, Sean Fernandez. Linesmen — Nicholas Bet, Nick Huff. Att. — 4,922.