CM – FINALS: Minnesota 4, MSU 1, Spartans begin sluggish offensive performance in 2022

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Senior striker Mitchell Lewandowski is an extremely valuable asset for the state of Michigan. The statistics speak for themselves.

With Lewandowski scratched after leaving MSU’s last game with an injury, the Spartan offensive fought for dangerous scoring opportunities and fell 4-1 against Minnesota.

For the first time since a heartbreaking loss in extra time in the Big Ten tournament, the state of Michigan faced for the first time since the 2019-20 season beating the hugely talented Minnesota Golden Gophers.

There were some early fireworks in the opening phase, with visitors jumping for an early guided tour.

MSU was whistled for the first penalty of the game when defender David Gucciardi, who scored three goals in two games in the Great Lakes Invitational last week, made a call on hold. The Gophers man’s advantage was cut in half in a strange game in which Michigan State defender Christian Krygier broke the stick of Minnesota’s Sammy Walker in half. Walker continued playing with the broken stick and was sent to the penalty bench.

The Spartans received a short power play, but ended up paying the price for the first goal of the games.

Senior defender Dennis Cesana tore off a shot from the point that was blocked after the power play and he got caught in a pinch. At the same time, Walker jumped out of the box and hit the ice with his linemate, senior striker Blake McLaughlin. A strange rush on two of Minnesota’s best strikers is dangerous and the two Minnesota residents took advantage of a goal from Walker.

Six minutes later, Minnesota extended its lead to two goals and a phenomenal shot from an acute angle from Junior Center Ben Meyers.

Just when it was looking like MSU was going to have a long night against one of the top teams in the Big Ten, two goals behind woke the Spartans and they played with a different energy. Michigan State shot Minnesota 4-1 in the last five minutes of the period, but a shot from second defender Nash Nienhuis’s traffic went over the pads of UMN goalkeeper Jack LaFontaine. The goal was Nienhuis’s first career goal after being kept goalless in 45 career games.

The Spartans spent a large part of the first 10 minutes of the middle third with the penalty shoot-out thanks to a penalty trio.

Amid their second penalty shoot-out, a rough call against senior defender Cole Krygier, a loose puck formed a near-runaway for MSU. LaFontaine came way out of his cage and was hit by junior winger Jagger Joshua, perhaps the most physical player in the state of Michigan. The two had a tremendous collision that resulted in both enemies being thrown onto the ice in a frightening incident. Joshua was found guilty of charges, while LaFontaine stayed online and booed all over the arena to disapprove of Joshua’s conviction.

Michigan State killed the 22 seconds five against three, keeping MSU within striking distance. Senior goalkeeper Drew DeRidder made 10 stops in the period, but a pass from Minnesota’s freshman striker Matthew Knies to Meyers gave the Gophers a 3-1 lead in the third period.

The Spartans had the chance to cut Gopher’s lead in half with two power plays during the period. MSU collected a couple of shots at LaFontaine, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.

Minnesota played strongly defensively and put the dagger in the game on a goal from newcomer striker Chaz Lucius to play with 3:40.

Michigan State will get a second crack in Minnesota on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in East Lansing.

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