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Gophers men’s hockey sweeps No. 3 Michigan on road

Gopher goalie and Michigan native Owen Bartoszkiewicz saved 64 total shots during this series.
Image by Ethan Fine
Forward Mason Nevers celebrates a goal during the Gophers’ game against Penn State, Friday, Nov. 11. The Gophers won, 3-1.

The No. 2 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers swept the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena on Thursday and Friday, elevating themselves to 6-2 in Big Ten play.

Rhett Pitlick v. Dylan Duke and Gophers’ freshmen takeover

Thursday’s game started with a goal-scoring contest. Six minutes into action, the Gophers outshot the Wolverines 4-0 and, thanks to Rhett Pitlick finding the back of the net from the left faceoff dot, they were up 1-0 on the scoreboard. Pitlick wasn’t done, and his second goal would come at the 7:17 mark of the second period off a perfect pass coming across the crease from Mike Koster.

Michigan’s Dylan Duke matched both of those goals. He tied the game 1-1 off a powerplay goal right before the first intermission and answered Pitlick’s second with another power play goal three minutes after.

Luckily for the Gophers, the 2-2 tie would not last long. Leading scorer, freshman Jimmy Snuggerud, took over, scoring his ninth goal of the season and putting Minnesota back in the lead.

Coming out of the second intermission, Michigan took its time returning to the ice, resulting in a bench minor penalty for delay of game.

Fellow Gophers freshman Logan Cooley took advantage of the two-man advantage and sliced a one-timer from the top of the circle, which boosted the Gophers’ lead to 4-2 less than a minute into the final period. Five minutes later, another freshman, Luke Mittelstadt, scored the first goal of his collegiate career.

Minnesota ultimately took down the Wolverines 5-2 with Bartoszkiewicz stopping 29 shots in the process.

“We did a lot of good things tonight,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “But again, for as good as we were at times, we let them off the mat … [we] started the game well and ended it well, with a little craziness in the middle.”

The Knies and Nelson duo dominates

Forward Cooley was called for a cross-checking major in Thursday’s game, and he was handed a one-game suspension, ruling him out of Friday’s game. The Gophers’ talented Snuggerud-Cooley-Matthew Knies line would need to have some tweaks. But there weren’t many problems without the freshman phenom.

After the Gophers got out of early troubles in the penalty box, Jackson LaCombe slapped through his first goal of the series to give Minnesota the first lead of the game.

Pitlick continued to find success in the scoring column, putting the game at 2-0 with 7:17 to go in the opening period. This season, Minnesota has found slow offensive starts in the first period, but in this series, they had no problem, even in hostile territory.

The second period was even more of a Minnesota onslaught. Bryce Brodzinski nabbed the puck behind the Wolverines net and sauced it to Snuggerud who slid it to Jaxon Nelson, tipping it into the back of the net for a commanding 3-0 lead.

Nine minutes later, Michigan’s Duke striked again, finding the back of the Gophers’ net as energy was revitalized in the home crowd. Knies’ shot deflected off the back of Nelson into the net as the second-ranked team in the nation would enter the last intermission up 4-1, silencing the Michigan crowd

Duke opened the third period with a pivotal goal, his fourth goal of the series.

Minnesota and Michigan proceeded to trade a pair of goals with Knies tipping in a Nelson shot and finally a different Wolverine, Mackie Samoskevich, scored 24 seconds after. Gopher Ryan Johnson capped off the contest with an empty netter as Minnesota dominated and routed the third-ranked Wolverines on the road. Bartoszkiewicz halted a career-high 35 shots.

In the end, the Gophers won 6-3.

“I can’t say enough about how guys stepped up tonight,” Motzko said. “Our special teams were strong, a lot of contributions, and now we can rest up for a few days and get ready to go on the road again.”

Up next, the Gophers will play out west at Arizona State. The two games played on Friday and Saturday will both be televised on the PAC-12 Network and start at 8 p.m.

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