Both teams came in seeking a reversal of fortune. Neither quite got it, but neither could be terribly unhappy with the outcome as Minnesota and Michigan State battled to a 4-4 tie Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
For the Spartans, their four-goal output was a welcome change from their seven-game losing streak, during which MSU had not scored more than one goal in any contest.
â€œYou know, right now for us it is [a good tie],â€ said Michigan State head coach Rick Comley. â€œTonight Minnesota never had a power play â€˜till the third period, and that helped.â€
Michigan State (4-9-3) got a pair of goals from freshman center Daultan Leveille in the process of taking two separate two-goal leads, though the Spartans were unable to hold either one.
Meanwhile, top-ranked Minnesota (7-2-5) — coming off its first two losses of the season — used makeshift lines in the absence of four players including Jay Barriball (injury) and captain Ryan Stoa (ejection).
Three of the Gophers’ four goals were the scorers’ firsts of the season, with two of those being career firsts.
â€œYouâ€™re down three bodies to begin the game, and Stoa gets tossed, and you look around and think, â€˜Whoâ€™s going to do it for us?â€™â€ said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, who was pleased with the performance of his team.
â€œAll in all, I thought our guys battled,â€ added Lucia. â€œIt was nice to see some guys step forward tonight.â€
Goaltending might have been expected to be critical given both teams’ recent results, but the netminders were not the decisive factor.
Minnesota sophomore ‘keeper Alex Kangas stopped 26 of 30 Spartan shots, but permitted four goals for the third game in a row after only doing so twice in his first 42 career games. Meanwhile, freshman Drew Palmisano made his fourth start of the season in place of MSU captain Jeff Lerg and made 22 saves on 26 shots.
â€œI thought he was pretty good,â€ said Comley of Palmisano. â€œI was tempted to play Jeff again, but I want to get Drew ready for next season.â€
Down a goal heading into the third period, Minnesota rallied for the second time in the game when Patrick White knotted the score 4-4 at 6:20 with his first goal of the season.
White’s short-range putaway off a diagonal pass from freshman defenseman Aaron Ness came after Ness faked a shot and skated around a Spartan defender to open up the passing lane.
With just under five minutes left in regulation, matching minors were handed out to White and Leveille — White for hooking Leveille and Leveille for embellishing the infraction with a nifty flip. That left the teams skating four-on-four, but nothing came of it on the scoreboard, nor after the return to full strength or in overtime.
That left each team with one point, and not much in the way of complaints.
â€œThere was one thing I was disappointed in, some of the goals we gave up,â€ said Lucia. â€œJust positional play.â€
In an inauspicious beginning, Stoa hit MSU’s Andrew Conboy into the boards from behind and was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct just six minutes in. Conboy suffered what was described as a dislocated shoulder, and his playing status was not yet known.
In the waning seconds of the penalty, Leveille got MSU on the board. Off a behind-the-net centering pass from Tim Crowder, Leveille stuck home his own rebound to make it 1-0 at 10:44.
Barely a minute later, a seat-of-the-pants play — literally — by Corey Tropp doubled the MSU lead. Carrying the puck up the right side, the sophomore winger fell but still shoveled a cross-ice pass to Daniel Sturges, who hammered his first goal of the season past Kangas’ blocker side.
Another Spartan man-advantage turned into the Gophers’ first goal when Justin Bostrom scored with one second left on the power play. Tony Lucia led the shorthanded rush, and Bostrom put his partially-deflected pass through Palmisano’s five-hole to narrow the lead to 2-1 at 15:30.
Joe Miller knotted it up for Minnesota with his first collegiate goal at 6:14 of the second period. Mike Hoeffel set up the play, digging the puck out of the corner and backhanding it out front to Miller, who reached past a defender to swat it home.
But the Spartans regained the lead less than two minutes later. Crowder’s shot from the top of the right faceoff circle sneaked through traffic, redirecting off Leveille and landing inside the left post. Leveille’s second goal of the game and fifth of the season came at 7:55.
Continuing the bang-bang scoring, MSU restored its two-goal edge 48 seconds later, thanks to Tropp and Andrew Rowe. Circling behind the Gopher net with the puck, Tropp centered to Rowe unmarked in the slot. Rowe’s putaway was his fourth goal of the year, and the score was suddenly 4-2.
But Minnesota narrowed it to 4-3 with Nick Larson’s first goal as a Gopher. Rookie center Jordan Schroeder made the play with a diagonal pass that Larson, skating up the back side, tipped past Palmisano at 15:11.
That set up Whiteâ€™s tying goal and the eventual draw.
Next weekend Michigan State returns to conference play in a CCHA home-and-home against archrival Michigan, while Minnesota is off pending a Dec. 13-14 home series versus Colorado College.