Fresh faces for Gophers men’s hockey

Logan Cooley leads a talented new pack of players on the Gophers.

The doors of the 3M Arena at Mariucci are plastered with notices announcing changes to access on Saturday, March 21.

Kamaan Richards

The doors of the 3M Arena at Mariucci are plastered with notices announcing changes to access on Saturday, March 21.

by Matthew Kennedy

The Minnesota men’s hockey team is looking to rebound after its second straight postseason loss to the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks. The Gophers have some key freshman additions to a team that has lost top players such as Ben Meyers, Sammy Walker and the Lucius brothers either to graduation or the NHL.

Forwards

Charlie Strobel – Strobel hails from Hill Murray High School where in the 2020 MN State Hockey Tournament, Strobel netted two goals as Hill Murray defeated Eden Prairie in the Class AA Championship game 4-1. Strobel chose the Gophers over rival University of Wisconsin where his father and uncle both played.

Logan Cooley – Cooley is the star of this year’s freshman class. Some people have projected him as one of North America’s top two skaters and is being compared to Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.

“This is an elite recruit for the Gophers,” Draft Analyst Chris Peters from HockeySense, who predicted Cooley could be the first overall pick in the draft, said. “There’s not a deep enough blue to express what a blue chip recruit this is.”

Connor Kurth – Kurth last played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL and played high school hockey for Gentry Academy where he totaled a whopping 70 points during 2019-20 and allocated 81 points in his most recent season playing for the Saints.

John Mittelstadt – Sibling to Casey Mittelstadt, he last played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. During his final season with the Eden Prairie Eagles in 2019-20, he was team captain and finished second on the team in points (49) and first on the team in assists (32).

Garrett Pinoniemi – As team captain for Holy Family Catholic Fire in 2018-19, Pinoniemi scored 66 points in 24 games. He last played for the Sioux Stampede and totaled 37 points in his most productive season in 2020-21.

Jimmy Snuggerud – Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Snuggerud is a third-generation Gopher.

“I’ve always loved Minnesota, the location is awesome … I really like the facilities and the athletes village is crazy, so I think it was a great decision,” Snuggerud told the RinkLive in 2021.

In 2021-22, Snuggerud notched 63 total points playing for the U.S. National U18 team. He is originally from Chaska, Minn.

Brody Lamb – Before playing USHL hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers, Lamb had one of the best high school careers in Dodge County history. In his final year playing for the Wildcats, he allotted 52 goals and totaled over 87 points. Lamb was named First Team All-State and the Associated Press High School Player of the Year in Minnesota that season, leading his team to a Class-A Minnesota State second place finish.

Defenseman

Ryan Chesley – Influenced by his grandfather, who attended his Shattuck-St. Mary’s games in Maroon and Gold, Chesley chose the Gophers over North Dakota. He has an incredible physical presence with a good one-timer shot and range of scoring abilities from the point. This makes him one of the top USA hockey defensemen.

Cal Thomas – After skating in two state tournaments for the Maple Grove Crimson and playing a hefty amount of games for the Sioux Falls Stampede and the Chicago Steel, Cal Thomas is a welcome addition to the Gophers D-unit.

“As a kid from Minnesota, you grow up watching the Gophers and you want to be a Gopher, so it’s a dream come true to become one,” Thomas told the RinkLive in October 2021. “They’re fun to watch, they’re a great team, they play at a fast pace that’s exciting and they have probably the best ‘D’ corps in the nation right now.”

Luke Mittelstadt – Brother of Casey and John, Luke most recently played with the Madison Capitols of the USHL. He scored 55 total points last season with 19 goals. At Eden Prairie, he chalked up 28 total points in each of his first two years playing, and in his final season, he took it up a notch and put up 35 total points with 9 goals. He was also an Eagles team captain with his brother John in 2019-20.

Goalies

Zach Wiese – Wiese is the first Rochester Grizzly to become a division one hockey player. The Rochester Grizzlies play in the North American 3 Hockey League. Wiese is originally from Owatonna, Minnesota, where he was a captain in 2019-20. In 2021-22 playing for Rochester, Wiese had a .927 save percentage and a clean 1.70 goals against average. His win-loss total was 20-2-2.

“It’s crazy; I never thought this [committing to Minnesota] would happen to me,” Wiese told the Rochester Post Bulletin in June after making the announcement official. “It’s been a roller coaster. When [the possibility] was brought to my attention, it was like ‘yeah, sure, it would be cool.’ But you’re thinking it’s probably not going to happen.”