Gophers men’s hockey splits series against North Dakota

The Gophers have scored at least one power-play goal in each of their last five games.

Defenseman Jackson Lacombe fights for the puck at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Oct. 18 2019. The Gophers defeated Niagara 3-2.

Liam Armstrong

Defenseman Jackson Lacombe fights for the puck at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Oct. 18 2019. The Gophers defeated Niagara 3-2.

by Michael Lyne , Sports Reporter

The No. 11/12 Gophers men’s hockey team split their series against No. 6/5 North Dakota on the road this past weekend as they now sit with a 9-7 record, winning a Friday game for just the third time this season as Saturday’s loss marked the 300th all-time game between the two teams.

The series against the Fighting Hawks saw the return of senior forward Grant Cruikshank, where he played in his 100th collegiate game Saturday after missing the last six games due to injury.

Gophers take Friday’s game 5-1

The Gophers have struggled on Friday nights so far this season. However, an offensive explosion from their juniors and 21 saves from graduate student Jack LaFontaine fueled them to victory.

Junior Bryce Brodzinski led the way with two goals. He scored the opening goal on a power play, firing home the loose puck after senior Blake McLaughlin tried to stuff the puck into the net multiple times. Later, he closed out the Gophers’ dominating night with a breakaway goal.

In the second period, juniors Jack Perbix and Ryan Johnson each scored their second goals this season to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead heading into the third period.

North Dakota’s Riese Gaber scored their lone goal 3:41 seconds into the third period. Then, freshman Chaz Lucius scored an empty-net goal with 4:21 seconds remaining to extend the Gophers’ lead to 4-1 before Brodzinski’s late tally.

Brodzinki’s two-goal night puts him at a team-high eights goal on the season, tying his career-high in just 15 games, while McLaughlin assisted on both, putting him at a team-high 12 assists.

Freshman Matthew Knies extended his point streak to six games with an assist on Lucius’ goal as he now has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) this season.

Gophers drop Saturday’s contest 3-2

Saturday night was a much different game for the Gophers as North Dakota outshot them 26-13, their lowest shot total in a game this season.

The Fighting Hawks scored three unanswered goals (one from Gavin Hain and two from Mark Senden) before the Gophers found the back of the net, tallying one goal in each period, which included one on the man advantage in the second period.

After a second period where North Dakota outshot the Gophers 11-2, Minnesota’s solid third period was not enough to mount a comeback.

Junior Ben Meyers stopped the bleeding for the Gophers as he scored a power-play goal, assisted by junior Jackson LaCombe and Lucius, 7:35 seconds into the final period of play.

Continuing to battle back, Lucius scored his third goal of the season, from senior Sammy Walker and Meyers, with 3:30 seconds remaining in the game, to cut North Dakota’s lead to 3-2, but they could not find the equalizer before the final horn sounded.

Lucius recorded his first-career multi-point game, LaFontaine made 23 saves in the loss, while Meyers’ three-point weekend, and current four-game point streak, put him at a team-high 16 points (five goals, 11 assists).

What’s up next

The Gophers will wrap up the first half of Big Ten play this weekend on Friday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 4, at 6:00 p.m., when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on No. 4/3 Michigan.