Minnesota’s power play attack leads the way to upset No. 12 Arizona State

The Gophers’ offense put the Sun Devils away after falling behind early.

Junior Ryan Zuhlsdorf skates away from the Gophers' goal during the game against Arizona State on Friday, March 1 at 3M at Mariucci Arena. 

Jack Rodgers

Junior Ryan Zuhlsdorf skates away from the Gophers’ goal during the game against Arizona State on Friday, March 1 at 3M at Mariucci Arena. 

David Mullen

In the first ever match-up between the Minnesota men’s hockey team and No. 12 Arizona State, the Gophers came out on top, upsetting ASU (21-11-1), 5-1 at 3M Arena at Mariucci Friday night.

The Gophers (15-15-4) hadn’t matched up against only two hockey programs at the Division-I level, and the last time they played a “first-ever” game was when they topped Robert Morris 7-3 in March 2014.

Although ASU was the first to get the puck in the net Friday, it was the Gophers’ offense that had the last laugh in the opening game of the final series of the regular season, scoring five unanswered goals the rest of the contest. 

“Obviously they earned a right to be in the [NCAA] tournament, so we made sure not to take them lightly,” said defenseman Tyler Nanne. 

The Gophers’ power play attack was a major factor in the third period of their win as the unit scored two of the five goals. Along with their offensive attack, their power play kill did not allow a goal on four attempts.

“We needed two power play goals and we needed to kill theirs off,” said head coach Bob Motzko. 

Right from the start, momentum swung in favor of ASU early as right winger Jake Clifford scored at 3:53 after a pass from left winger Dominic Garcia from behind the net putting the Sun Devils ahead of Minnesota 1-0. 

However, the Gophers answered with just over four minutes remaining in the opening period on a back hand score from  center Sammy Walker, his 10th goal of the season off of assists from Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Blake McLaughlin. 

“Once they scored that first goal [we had] to get going,” Walker said. “We started playing better and getting pucks deep.”

Although Minnesota had a definitive 14-5 shots advantage in the opening period, it ended at 1-1, with Zuhlsdorf left in the box with 1:09 left.  

The Sun Devils came out firing in the second period as they took the first five shots on goal, but goaltender Mat Robson didn’t let anything in the net only allowing the opening goal off 15 shots. 

From there it would be a back-and-forth battle, but the Gophers took the lead after a go-ahead goal by McLaughlin went in with seconds left on the Gophers’ third power play of the night. Assists came for both Walker and Nanne. 

Minnesota out-shot the Sun Devils 12-7 in the second period giving its a 26-12 shots advantage in the game. 

In the final period Minnesota continued their hot shooting with an opening minute goal in 40 seconds from Nanne after assists from left wing Brent Gates Jr. and Zuhlsdorf. 

The Gophers remained in control of the puck the remainder of the game, and looked to add onto their lead after two minor penalties were called simultaneously against ASU, and with under ten seconds remaining on a Gophers power play captain Tyler Sheehy passed the puck from the right circle to center Rem Pitlick to extend the Gophers’ lead to 4-1 at 9:42. 

After Minnesota gained another 5-on-3 advantage, it was Gates with an electrifying slap shot off an assist from Pitlick put the Gophers ahead 5-1.  

Minnesota finished the game outshooting the Sun Devils 42-15. The Sun Devils also committed the last nine penalties in the game, seven of which were in the third period.

The Gophers return to action Saturday night as they close out their final regular season series against ASU.