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Gopher Hockey Notebook: February 24 News & Notes

An update on Jack Glover playing forward, the short week and a look at what this week's opponent Michigan State has been successful at lately.

Minnesota Athletics

With Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to Penn State barely over and emotions still running high, Sam Warning was already aware of the quick turnaround his team was facing.

"It definitely doesn't feel good," he said after scoring the game-tying goal only for Luke Juha to become the hero moments later. "I think we worked the last two periods to get back into the game. I thought Boyd did a good job on the power play, really got the team going and Coxy got some big saves at the end to give us a chance. So right now it doesn't sit too well with us. It's a quick turnaround, though."

The time off is short.this week. Minnesota came back Saturday night from State College, but the lead up is one day fewer. The Gophers host Michigan State on Thursday and Friday (both games are 8 p.m. CT starts) rather than the "traditional" college hockey Friday-Saturday series.

Both teams are among four in the Big Ten within two points of the standings with six regular season games remaining.

"Every game is important from here on out. As it is throughout the year you have to take it one game at a time." Seth Ambroz said. "Every win from here on out is huge and we have the ability I feel to do special things here at the end of the year. So hopefully we take it one game at a time and play the way that we're capable of and I think that we'll be successful."

The result has been that the team had Sunday off before a short practice Monday. A couple players took a maintenance day, according to head coach Don Lucia. Everyone was ready for Tuesday's practice and participating on the ice.

If Brady Skjei had his way, this would be the norm.

"We're not looking too far into the Thursday-Friday series. I kind of like it," he said. "Actually I like playing more games and less practice so I'm looking forward to it for sure."

Still, Minnesota is preparing for the Spartans. Both teams are in different places since last playing one another on December 5-6.

While Skjei noted the Gophers have settled down defensively - before Saturday's loss Minnesota had given up two goals or less in five consecutive games and the team was on a seven game unbeaten streak following a rough patch - defense continues to be MSU's identity the same way shooting pucks from everywhere is last week's opponent.

Since the second half, junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand has a .950 save percentage, leading the nation over the same period, and three shutouts. Despite losing to Wisconsin in Madison on Friday, MSU has gone 6-2 in its last eight games.

In East Lansing on December 5-6, the Gophers were able to utilize special teams like no one else has versus Michigan State in a 5-1 win before the Spartans battled back in a 3-3 tie. (Michigan State won the ensuing shootout. Oddly enough, that's been the same way all three Big Ten series between the two teams have gone.) The Spartans are 12th in the country in total team defense. Tom Anastos' team has given up only 23 goals in the last 13 games.

"Everyone was working hard on (Michigan State the second game)," Ambroz said. "That's something I think that we need. If we can do that - if we can match them, if we can match their work ethic, if not working harder I think for us we'll have the ability with our talent to also take over and with the skill that we have.

"They have been playing very well of as late, they have been just as hot as we have. It'll be a good series and they're a whole different team than what we saw earlier in the year. It'll be a lot of fun to play them."

Michigan State hands out pair of suspensions

The Spartans will be without two freshmen this weekend for a violation of team rules.

Freshmen Carson Gatt and Dylan Pavelek were each suspended indefinitely by Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. No further details were given although it wouldn't be the first time Anastos has internally suspended a player. Matt Berry was "day-to-day" with the program earlier this year, according to the Lansing State Journal. He's back now.

This also makes it three of the last four weeks that Minnesota, not a stranger to suspensions, has played a team with at least one suspended player. Ohio State's Matthew Weis and Penn State's David Goodwin each were suspended for the Friday game against the Gophers coincidentally for hits against Michigan State.

Connor Reilly Update; Glover still playing forward

Minnesota is healthy besides Connor Reilly, who remains out indefinitely. The redshirt sophomore will be looked at soon as to whether or not he is able to come back and Lucia is hopeful he will be able to get back on the ice at the end of this week or the next. Reilly was injured on February 1st when Wisconsin's Corbin McGuire collided with him in a knee-on-knee collision.

That means defenseman Jack Glover, who played as a fourth line forward in both games against Penn State, will be staying in that role. Both Lucia and linemate Christian Isackson were happy with his play last weekend. Glover made the move after only a day or two of practice.

"I think he did some good things," said Lucia. "We're trying to practice him this week so that he gets some reps and that he's a little more comfortable in the game. He's got some size, some reach, some range."

Pairwise Update:

Minnesota is currently 10th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the NCAA Tournament selection criteria. That is the good news although it is a little fickle and single games can have big effects. BU's OT victory over Northeastern in the Beanpot on Monday jumped the Gophers up two spots. The 6-1-1 streak since the North Star College Cup has been helpful to get Minnesota back in a spot, as was having success against other streaking non-conference teams (BC, St. Cloud State, etc).

At the same time, loss this weekend to Michigan State (33rd) would have a drastic effect in both the Big Ten standings and Pairwise.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --