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Hockey arch-rivals each took a win

No. 7 North Dakota and No. 1 Minnesota each won a game in overtime in the Instant Classic series.
Image by Ethan Fine
Forward Matthew Knies drives the puck toward the net during Minnesota’s game against Minnesota State, Oct. 7.

Two men’s hockey heavyweights collided in a two-game series to remember forever in Minneapolis Friday and Saturday. The seventh ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks visited their bitter enemies, the top-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Knies’ OT heroics complete comeback victory for the ages
An all-time Gopher victory took place at Mariucci Arena on Friday as game one of this two-game slugfest commenced.

To begin, the Gophers were seemingly overthinking everything. They were out hustling the Hawks, but almost to an extreme in which players were slipping on the ice. The Gophers obtained open looks at the net but couldn’t finish.

North Dakota’s Jake Schmaltz opened up the scoring column less than five minutes into the game and gave the Fighting Hawks a commanding sense of momentum. Probably no one was fueled more by North Dakota’s control than fifth-year transfer goalie Drew DeRidder, who stopped 35 out of 38 shots on goal by the Gophers.

North Dakota led in shots on goal by one and in the scoreboard by one after the first twenty minutes.

In the second period, the Gophers slowly got back to form and were finally clicking on offense but still couldn’t find the back of the net.

Minnesota, unlike in the first period, dominated puck possession. After a massive Justen Close save from North Dakota’s Riese Gaber, the Gophers were still down 1-0 but now leading in shots on goal 16-11.

Minnesota finally sprung on the scoring board, with two minutes remaining in the period. Jackson LaCombe swiftly glided his way through the right of North Dakota’s zone and hooked in his first goal of the season on the top right shelf.

“Yeah, there wasn’t much to it,” said assistant captain LaCombe. “Their forwards got a little confused when I cut across and then there was just a wide open lane down low so I took a shot and it happened to go in.”

Unfortunately, Gaber gave the Fighting Hawks the lead with 36 seconds left in the period. North Dakota led 2-1 at the end of the middle period.

The final period was a slugfest. Neither team scored a goal until there was 1:24 remaining in regulation when Mason Nevers slugged a slapshot past the pads of DeRidder, slingshotting the game into overtime.

“Don’t screw up,” is what Gophers head coach Bob Motzko told his team before 3-on-3 overtime. “I thought North Dakota played great, they played just how they wanted to play, but we weathered the storm.”

Overtime didn’t take long. Matthew Knies received a pass from captain Brock Faber in the right circle and barreled his way past North Dakota defenseman, Chris Jandric, for the game-winning goal while tripping on the ice, only 21 seconds into OT.

The final score was Minnesota 3 (with 38 shots on goal) and North Dakota 2 (with 18 shots on goal).

“I wanted to score so bad,” Knies said. “I was just happy when we won that game … this is what we wanna build here, that kind of culture and atmosphere is trending in the right direction for Gopher hockey, and it’s only going to get better.”

The Fighting Hawks and Senden strike back
If you like weird and wacky hockey games you would have loved to be inside Mariucci Arena on Saturday night.

The game had a picture perfect start for Minnesota. There were checks and plenty of body shots; Minnesota wasn’t messing around, and at the same time they were calm and collected.

At the end of the first period, the score was still deadlocked at zero, yet 4:44 of UND’s five minute major penalty on Tyler Kleven would continue into the second. The penalty was for game misconduct (contact to the head).

Knies, hero of the game less than 24 hours ago, utilized the advantage and gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

North Dakota soon returned to full strength, but Rhett Pitlick didn’t care. He dangled his way into the Fighting Hawks’ slot and wristed through Minnesota’s second goal of the contest. The Gophers were dominating on all fronts: 2-0 lead and 26-6 lead in shots on goal.

Pitlick, in celebration of his first goal of the season, decided to toss his stick into the crowd to celebrate, earning himself a 10-minute major in the penalty box.

After a TV timeout and plenty of penalties, North Dakota scored its first goal of the contest; the score was 2-1 with the Gophers still leading in shots on goal 27-8.

The Fighting Hawks scored another power play goal from Gaber’s right circle shot, and the game was tied in the blink of an eye.

Soon, captain of the Fighting Hawks, Mark Senden gave North Dakota the lead. The table totally turned and “Let’s go Sioux” bellowed throughout a near-sold out Mariucci arena from the visiting UND faithful. The Hawks led 3-2 while Minnesota still led in shots on goal 27-11.

After a huge scuffle near North Dakota’s net, Knies and Ryan Sidorski got into an old school brawl. It seemed as if Knies got the best of Sidorski, while Logan Cooley also was called for a five minute major for game misconduct (face mask).

Until the two minute warning, Minnesota wasn’t at full strength, and Cooper Moore of the Fighting Hawks took advantage of it, giving UND a two-goal lead 4-2, and Close replaced Owen Bartoszkiewicz in net for the Gophers.

“[We] wanted to give him a shot,” said Motzko about starting his backup sophomore goalie over senior Close. “We wanted to get him in there, that’s all I can tell ya.”

The Gophers rallied after the change. With 34.8 seconds left in the middle period, Nevers scored for Minnesota, making his third goal of the season and cutting the lead to 4-3.

Nobody scored through the first six minutes of the final period until leading goal scorer, freshman Jimmy Snuggerud, rebounded an errant shot by Faber and injected adrenaline back into the arena.

In another overtime period, UND’s Senden found the back of the net. The goal took to replay for goalie interference but to no avail. The final score was North Dakota 5 (with 20 shots on net) and Minnesota 4 (with 41 shots on net).

“It’ll come Monday,” uttered a fuming Motzko when asked postgame how he will address Pitlick’s goal celebration, completely changing a game where Minnesota was playing on all cylinders.

The Gophers next weekend travel to Columbus, Ohio, to start Big Ten conference play versus the Ohio State Buckeyes. Friday’s game will be televised on the Big Ten Network, starting at 5:30 p.m., while Saturday’s will be on Big Ten Plus’ subscription service, starting at 4 p.m.

“It was really fun,” said Gophers captain Ryan Johnson on the series’ atmosphere. “Our fans brought a lot of cheering, a lot of energy and you know they [North Dakota] were pretty loud too.”

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