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Michigan State Bounces Back for Split with Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – The losing streak is no more for Michigan State.

Taro Hirose scored and had two assists, and Brody Stevens broke a third-period tie to help lift the Spartans to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci and earn a Big Ten series split. Michigan State snapped a six-game losing streak as they earned their first conference victory, and head coach Danton Cole is happy with the effort to help finally get that giant monkey off their backs.

“We had a little bit of a run here where we haven’t had things go our way, and we deserved a couple wins. We earned it tonight, and it was hard. Sometimes those hard-fought ones feel really good,” Michigan State head coach Danton Cole said.

Tyler Sheehy scored twice for Minnesota (4-6-1, 2-2-0-0 Big Ten) and had four goals on the weekend overall, but all that matters to him right now is the inconsistency of the team after failing yet again to get their first sweep of the season.

“Not too concerned about the goals right now. Obviously we wanted to come in this weekend and get two wins,” Sheehy said.

While Minnesota was the hot team in the first period on Friday, both teams looked rather sluggish on Saturday in the opening 20 minutes as they struggled to get a forecheck going and had only limited chances.

Both offenses finally showed some life in the second period. Sheehy put Minnesota up 2-0 with a pair of power-play goals, but just as it seemed they would take that lead into the intermission, Michigan State (5-7-0, 1-3-0-0 Big Ten) and their dangerous top line came flying right back with a pair of their own in the final two minutes as Hirose buried a loose puck out front, then Patrick Khodorenko tied it on a one-time top-shelf snipe.

“It’s fun to watch,” Cole said. “They’re a lot of fun to watch, and they’re hard to handle.”

The Gophers looked like they were stung following the sudden late second-period surge by the Spartans, and they are regretting the chances they had to put the game away that they did not convert.

“There was not much going on in the first part of the game, until we scored two power-play goals. That should have been our [chance] to put the foot down and take control of the game,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said.

The Spartans finally grabbed their first lead of the weekend with 13 and a half minutes left as Stevens scored the game-winner from the slot, and linemate Tommy Apap added an insurance goal as he buried a rebound and took advantage of a Minnesota defense that was completely out of position in the defensive zone.

Drew DeRidder had a much better performance in net for the Spartans, making 28 saves – with many of them late in regulation with Minnesota pressing with the extra attacker – to get his first victory of the season. Eric Schierhorn had 18 saves for the Gophers as he fell to 1-3-0 on the year.

Michigan State will take on Michigan in a home-and-home series in East Lansing and Ann Arbor respectively next weekend, while Minnesota will host Ohio State for two games.

Scoring summary:

First period:

No scoring.

Second period:

MINN power-play goal at 10:09: Tyler Sheehy (4). Assisted by Clayton Phillips (6) and Rem Pitlick (5).

MINN power-play goal at 12:27: Sheehy (5). Assisted by Blake McLaughlin (5) and Sampo Ranta (3).

MSU goal at 18:03: Taro Hirose (6). Assisted by Patrick Khodorenko (3) and Mitchell Lewandowski (9).

MSU goal at 19:14: Khodorenko (9). Assisted by Hirose (12) and Zach Osburn (5).

Third period:

MSU goal at 7:24: Brody Stevens (3). Assisted by Hirose (13).

MSU goal at 9:42: Tommy Apap (1). Assisted by Brennan Sanford (2) and Stevens (1).

Power plays: MSU 0-4, MINN 2-4.

Shots on goal: MSU 22, MINN 30.