Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last six years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason is nearing two years with the Star Tribune.
Playing understaffed didn’t have too much of an effect on the Gophers.
The five remaining defensemen recovered from a slow start to hold Michigan State to only two goals in a 2-2 tie capped by a 2-1 shootout loss to the Spartans on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
Michigan State scored twice midway through the first period, but wouldn’t score again throughout the 52-plus minutes of regulation and overtime. Gophers coach Don Lucia was pleased to see the group hold up so well after the Spartans’ early surge.
“I thought for the most part [the defensemen] did a good job. There were a couple times you could see they got a little fatigued and got caught out on shifts,” Lucia said. “When you get really tired you can make some mental mistakes, but for the most part they hung in there pretty well tonight.”
They were even part of the Gophers scoring. Mike Reilly, Brady Skjei and Justin Holl all were credited with an assist.
A sixth defenseman will be available for Saturday night’s series finale. Ben Marshall returns from his one-game suspension, but will have to play a much more cautious game. Because he’s already received three game misconduct penalties this season, any more result in another one-game suspension.
“It’ll be better for the other guys back there,” to have Marshall back, Lucia said. “They won’t have to play as many minutes and if anyone can play a lot of minutes tomorrow it will be Marsh.”
• The Gophers are now 1-4 in shootouts this season. Their first shootout victory was just last Saturday in the North Star College championship game against Minnesota Duluth.
Michigan State, however, has won three of four shootouts this season. Two of those wins have come against the Gophers.
Lucia credited their success to the fact they come from a conference (CCHA) that used shootouts. The Gophers old conference (WCHA) did not sponsor shootouts.
“Well our goaltender has been outstanding, that’s one. We’ve scored some timely goals,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said about his team’s shootout success. “I guess you never know when you go into those. I don’t want to jinx myself, but it certainly feels better to be on that side of it than the losing side.”
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