Gophers men’s hockey scores three in third, lifts them to 4-2 win

Senior captain Sammy Walker scored two goals, while sophomore Mason Nevers and freshman Matthew Knies tallied the other two goals for the Gophers.

Gophers+men%E2%80%99s+hockey+captain+Sammy+Walker+celebrates+a+goal+he+scored+en+route+to+a+10-0+win+against+Arizona+State+on+Thursday%2C+Jan.+21%2C+2021%2C+at+3M+Arena+at+Mariucci+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.

Brad Rempel - Gopher Athletics

Gophers men’s hockey captain Sammy Walker celebrates a goal he scored en route to a 10-0 win against Arizona State on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis, Minn.

by Michael Lyne , Sports Reporter

The No. 7 Gophers men’s hockey team (8-6) scored three goals in the third period en route to a 4-2 victory over Penn State Saturday evening to split the series.

“[We had] much greater detail tonight,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “I thought we really played a strong game in the last half of the second period and the third period.”

The keener attention to detail helped fuel the Gophers. Minnesota’s penalty kill went a perfect 4-4, and their power play scored two goals on four attempts.

After their 5-3 loss Friday in the series opener, Motzko made changes to all their forward lines, except the fourth line. Senior Sammy Walker switched from center to right-wing for the first time this season, while junior Ben Meyers centered freshmen Matthew Knies and Chaz Lucius on the first line that produced offense early and onward.

The first line accounted for five of the Gophers’ nine shots in the game’s scoreless first period, and their penalty kill killed off a hooking penalty from junior Jackson LaCombe.

“They were outstanding to start,” Motzko said on the first line. “We are seeing that coming, especially with the big fella [Knies] on the left and that center [Meyers], they have been together a while. Lucius had great chances both nights.”

Penn State’s Jimmy Dowd Jr. scored the game’s opening goal 5:45 seconds into the second period after one-timing a loose puck that ricocheted off the back glass from the bottom of the right circle.

However, the Gophers quickly responded. LaCombe made a heads-up play, sending a bank pass from the left defensive corner off the right boards near Penn State’s blueline. Walker gathered the puck in stride, worked his way to the right faceoff dot, and snapped a shot into the upper right corner of the net to equalize the game at 1-1 with 8:09 remaining in the second.

“When LaCombe got that [puck], I sprung to the far blue line,” Walker said. “We made eye contact and he made a great pass off the boards and luckily [my shot] went in.”

Before he scored, Walker took an unpleasant hit. Later, Motzko stood up for him just 48 seconds after the tying goal but received a bench minor. The Gophers would kill that team penalty, along with one other in the opening minutes of the period, to keep the game tied at 1-1 heading into the second intermission.

“I have never liked getting hit,” Walker said. “But I think we all just had an edge tonight and we got to learn to play like that every game.”

As the third period got underway, freshman Aaron Huglen got tripped in the offensive zone. The Gophers went to their second power play of the night, 4:14 seconds into the third period, in search of a go-ahead goal on the man advantage as they did not capitalize on their first one in the first period.

Just 43 seconds into the man advantage, Meyers fed a pass to Knies at the goal line. Then, he gathered the puck and fired a low, sharp angle shot into the back of the net to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead with 15:03 remaining in the game.

Penn State’s Kevin Wall tied the game at 2-2 with 7:36 remaining. However, the Nittany Lions quickly received two penalties 23 seconds apart and the Gophers found themselves on a 5-3 man advantage for 1:37 seconds.

The Gophers’ power play went back to work and once again capitalized just after Penn State’s first penalty expired. Sophomore Brock Faber circled the top of the left circle and fired a shot toward the goal. As the puck approached the front of the Nittany Lions’ goal, sophomore Mason Nevers deflected it into the back of the net to give the Gophers a 3-2 lead with 5:11 seconds remaining.
“You kind of notice a big-time moment,” Nevers said. “If they do get that kill, it’s kind of a big momentum swing. We knew we had to do our job and get a goal, and we did.”

To close out the 4-2 win for the Gophers, Walker skated in his second goal of the night off an effort from Knies to spring him to the empty net.

Notables

Knies’ two-point night (one goal, one assist) brings his point total to 14 this season, as he now has nine of those points in his last five games. He and Walker lead the team in goals with seven each. LaCombe also tallied two assists. Graduate student Jack LaFontaine made 35 saves.

Next weekend, the Gophers will travel to Grand Forks, N.D., to take on North Dakota on Friday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 27, at 6 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena.