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Pastujov overwhelms Gophers men’s hockey in Michigan’s commanding 6-2 victory

Junior Bryce Brodzinski scored his team-leading ninth goal this season in the loss.
Gophers forward Bryce Brodzinski moves the puck away from the Gophers goal at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado on March 27, 2021 .The Gophers defeated the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks, 7-2.

After the No. 11/12 Gophers dominated No. 3/2 Michigan Friday night, the opposite happened Saturday night. Michigan scored six unanswered goals in a commanding 6-2 victory over Minnesota, who holds a 10-8 overall record this season.

The only similarity between Friday and Saturday night was that the Gophers opened up the scoring and played well for the first 14 minutes of play. Besides that, it was a completely different game.

“Michigan responded, and we didn’t have a response,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “The game got behind us, and we chased it all night long.”

Junior Bryce Brodzinski scored his team-leading ninth goal, a career-high, after he buried the puck past Michigan’s Erik Portillo to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead 9:25 into the game, their only of the night. He made no mistake after receiving a cross-slot feed from senior Blake McLaughlin on an odd-man rush.

Minutes later, 11:31 into the first, Minnesota earned the game’s first power play, which they did not convert, and then from there, it was all Michigan.

Wolverines’ Mark Estapa scored the game-tying goal with 5:12 remaining in the first period. Then, 28 seconds later, Michael Pastujov found the back of the net to give Michigan a 2-1 lead.

Pastujov went on to add the following two goals for Michigan to earn a hat trick.

Before the period came to a close, Pastujov added his second goal of the game with 1:51 remaining, which came just 24 seconds after Michigan killed another power-play attempt from the Gophers to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 3-1.

As the second period got underway, the Gophers could not stop the bleeding as Michigan continued to dominate by adding three more goals for a second-consecutive period.

Immediately after another Gophers’ man advantage, Michigan responded with a goal as Pastujov scored his third of the night to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 4-1 just 3:54 into the period. He made a nifty play by pulling the puck between his legs to create enough space to get around senior Ben Brinkman and get a shot off.

Jay Keranen and Nolan Moyle went on to add two more goals for the Wolverines in the second period to cement their commanding victory over the Gophers, where they scored six unanswered goals.

After Keranen’s goal, graduate student Jack LaFontaine’s night in the crease ended with 6:24 remaining as junior Justen Close took over in the net for the Gophers for the rest of the game.

Before the final buzzer, senior Grant Cruikshank scored his third goal this season in the closing minutes to cut Michigan’s lead to 6-2.

Michigan outshot Minnesota 44-23, the Gophers’ power play went 0-4, and the Wolverines never took their foot off the gas pedal after scoring their first two goals in a short stretch.

McLaughlin assisted on each of the Gophers’ goals in the loss. He has four goals and a team-leading 14 assists on the season — his 18 points ties junior co-captain Ben Meyers’ total for the most points on the team.

The loss marks the first time the Gophers have lost to Michigan at Yost Ice Arena since Nov. 10, 2017.

This series concludes the first half of the Big Ten season as the Gophers have a long break before they resume play in the second half when they travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Michigan State on Friday, Jan. 7, at 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m.

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