Gophers men’s hockey beats Michigan 4-2 on senior night

After losing Friday night, Minnesota’s offense returned to split its final home series of the regular season.

Forward+Nathan+Burke+blocks+Arizona+State%27s+Justin+Robbins+from+reaching+the+puck+in+3M+Arena+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+22.+The+Gophers+beat+Arizona+State+with+a+final+score+of+10-2.

Shannon Doyle

Forward Nathan Burke blocks Arizona State’s Justin Robbins from reaching the puck in 3M Arena on Friday, Jan. 22. The Gophers beat Arizona State with a final score of 10-2.

Julianna Landis

With Saturday’s matchup marking its final home game of the regular season, the Gophers men’s hockey team started off the night with a brief ceremony honoring the five players in its senior class – goaltender Jack LaFontaine, defenseman Sam Rossini and forwards Scott Reedy, Cullen Munson and Brannon McManus.

Minnesota capped off its lead in the third period with an empty-net goal from Ryan Johnson, who swatted the puck away from the Gophers’ net and down the entire length of the ice to score. The goal was Johnson’s first career goal with the Gophers in his 59 games with the team.
Blake McLaughlin scored the eventual game-winner in the third period after another power play opportunity for Minnesota in the third period with assists coming from Jackson LaCombe and Sammy Walker. Since it came just as time expired, it registered as an even-strength goal.

The Gophers successfully killed off all three penalties called against them and scored one goal on the power play, with Reedy scoring his ninth goal of the year in the second period.

LaFontaine posted a .917 save percentage on the night, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced. Nick Blankenburg and Jack Becker scored Michigans’ two goals of the night.

Bryce Brodzinski opened the scoring early in the first period with assists from Walker and McManus.

In a post-game press conference, head coach Bob Motzko said that the team was solid on both ends of the ice and did well on special teams. Motzko also said his senior class was very resilient as a group and was optimistic that they would be able to bring the team far into the postseason.

“These seniors, I think we’re gonna be in [the NCAA Tournament,]” Motzko said. “These seniors are going to have that opportunity to help lead the way to get Gopher hockey back in that tournament, and I hope that’s enough to really put a special exclamation point on their career… They’ve been resilient. I’m real proud of this group.”

Minnesota will face Michigan State in its first game of the Big Ten Tournament on March 14 at 3 p.m. After the end of the regular season, Minnesota is seeded second in the conference, and Michigan State is the seventh seed.