Great eight: Gophers pound Michigan State to open series at Mariucci
Those arriving late at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday night missed some early fireworks. No worries, though. The Gophers men's hockey team gave the sold-out crowd plenty more chances to practice the "Minnesota Rouser.''
Logan Cooley scored nine seconds into the opener of the Big Ten series and added two assists, and fellow freshman phenom Jimmy Snuggerud had a goal and two assists as the Gophers beat Michigan State 8-0. Goalie Justen Close made 21 saves for his fifth shutout of the season.
Mike Koster had a goal and two assists, and Aaron Huglen contributed goal and an assist. Matthew Knies, Connor Kurth, Jackson LaCombe and Garrett Pinoniemi also scored goals for Minnesota, which outshot the Spartans 33-21.
The Gophers (19-7-1, 13-3-1 Big Ten, 40 points) increased their Big Ten lead to 13 points over Penn State, which lost 7-3 to Michigan, and Ohio State, which was idle. Fourth-place Michigan State fell to 13-12-2 and 7-8-2 with 24 points.
Before the sold-out crowd could settle into their seats, the Gophers had a 1-0 lead. Cooley dug the puck out of a scrum on the opening faceoff and quickly passed to Ryan Johnson, who fired a cross-ice pass to fellow defenseman Brock Faber. With Cooley open down the middle, Faber hit him with a pass in stride, and the No. 3 overall draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes raced in and snapped a shot past Spartans goalie Dylan St. Cyr only nine seconds after faceoff.
The Gophers kept the pressure up early, pinning Michigan State in its zone and holding the Spartans to only one shot on goal through the game's first 8:35.
Michigan State pounced on a Gophers offensive zone turnover at 11:28 of the first, but Close made a glove save on Jeremy Davidson near the crease.
Snuggerud extended the Gophers' lead to 2-0 at 16:47 of the first when he took a pass from Johnson and quickly blasted a shot from the slot over St. Cyr's right shoulder. Faber got the second assist.
Michigan State limited the damage by winning 19 of 26 faceoffs in the first.
Kurth put his name on the score sheet in the second period, banging home a rebound of a shot by Koster for his fifth goal of the season and a 3-0 Minnesota lead at 7:36.
Michigan State took the game's first penalty when Nash Nienhuis was whistled for slashing at 12:03 of the second. Fifty-eight seconds into the power play, Cooley took an interference penalty. Neither team scored during the four-on-four stretch, and the Gophers killed the penalty.
The Gophers made it 4-0 at 15:48 of the second when Knies scored his 16th goal of the season on a pretty give-and-go with Snuggerud.
At 17:26 of the second, Koster hammered home a rebound of a Rhett Pitlick shot to make it 5-0. That goal ended up chasing St. Cyr, who was replaced by Pierce Charleson for the third period.
The Gophers blew it open in the third. LaCombe scored on a power play 3:09 into the period, and Huglen followed that up with an even-strength goal for a 7-0 lead at 4:26. Pitlick nearly made it an eight-goal lead at 14:19 on a breakaway, but his between-the-legs shot drew gasps from the crowd but sailed wide.
Pinoniemi's first career goal, on a tip of a Koster shot, made 8-0 at 16:52.