Gophers men’s Hockey sweep Spartans for second time this season

Minnesota has outscored Michigan State 25-6 in four combined games this season.


Image by CJ Bonk

The puck is dropped at the men’s hockey game against Michigan State on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.

by Matthew Kennedy

Unlike the overtime affairs with their most recent opponents, this series against No. 15 Michigan State was clockwork for the second-ranked Minnesota Gophers.

Close shuts out Sparty for a second time

On Friday, Michigan kept a tight watch on stud forward Logan Cooley. After the first faceoff, you could tell Michigan State didn’t have the same plans. Cooley won possession of the puck and lurked in the middle of Michigan State’s zone for a score nine seconds in.

“They’re having a good season too,” said head coach Bob Motzko about his opponent they have beaten handily on a consistent basis. “This is just one that went our way.”

That was how the game played out, a complete Gophers avalanche over a team they’ve consistently dominated. Everyone cashed in from the blue line down to the crease. Jimmy Snuggerud notched a goal exactly where his linemate Cooley scored his first.

Connor Kurth from the left crease, Matthew Knies tipped one in, Mike Koster banged a blue line bomb, Jackson LaCome sniped a slapshot, Huglen completed a 2-on-1 and freshman forward Garrett Pinoniemi notched his first goal as a Gopher. Eight goals to none.

“Obviously Pino scoring … all the guys love him, he’s the best and it was fun to see him get on the board,” captain Brock Faber said on Pinioniemi’s first score.

Justen Close completed his fifth shutout of the season (20 saves), which ranks fifth in the nation (second against the Spartans this year).

“It’s every game … he’s always calm no matter what,” Koster said about his goaltender. “I think he was actually really big tonight. There were a few times where we got caught, we were extended and he was able to freeze the puck … he played really good tonight.”

Snuggerud scores twice as Gophers complete season sweep

Unlike in Friday’s shellacking of the Spartans, Michigan State came out with something to prove on offense in game two on Saturday, shooting the game’s first nine shots out of ten on goal. Finally in the second period, on a Minnesota powerplay, Michigan took a 1-0 lead, which would only last for about a minute in a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the period.

Snuggerud corralled the puck and fired home his fifteenth goal of the season. But the Spartans wouldn’t back down as they perfectly executed a 3-on-1 breakaway.

“Stick to our game that we played yesterday,” said Snuggerud in the locker room message following the opening period. “They had a hot start today, and we just needed to get back to our game.”

Minnesota quickly told Sparty to sit down with five unanswered goals. Pinoniemi managed to score again, successfully following another goal review, which didn’t go the Gophers’ way earlier in the period off a Knies rebound attempt. Bryce Brodzinski would bump in a backhander to end the second and Ryan Chesley would start the third period by sending the puck bar down. Knies made his team-leading 17th goal of the season while Snuggerud shot his second score.

“It obviously helps to get that first goal away,” said Pinoniemi on his confidence after a nice weekend. “Luckily, I got one tonight too, so I hope I can continue that.”

Minnesota finished the regular season outscoring Michigan State 25-6, tallying five scores or more in each game featuring two shutouts.

“Michigan State came to play tonight,” Motzko said. “Everywhere we turned in the first period there was a green jersey between us…we played better as the game went, but we made some plays…bailed us out and you can’t always rely on that.”

Snuggerud (37) and Cooley (36) are now the highest-scoring freshman duo since Jay Barriball (43) and Kyle Okposo (40) in the 2006-07 season. The linemates will try to continue their other-worldly numbers in Madison, Wisconsin, on Feb. 10-11, taking on the bottom-placed Badgers on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. In December, Minnesota outscored Wisconsin 13-5 en route to a sweep at Mariucci.