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UMN men’s hockey sweeps No. 7 Penn State in tale of 2 games

Minnesota extenuates its grip on the Big Ten and college hockey landscape with a sweep in Happy Valley.
Image by Ethan Fine
Forward Logan Cooley looks to pass the puck during the Gophers’ game against Penn State, Nov. 11.

The Gophers entered this weekend at Pegula Ice Arena already clinching the Big Ten Regular Season Championship.

All they could hope to do this weekend was amplify their national clout going into the NCAA Tournament. They succeeded with flying colors, blowing out the Nittany Lions on Friday and coming back in overtime on Saturday.

Five-goal second period blasts Gophers to victory

The homecoming to the state of Pennsylvania was picture-perfect for forward Logan Cooley. In the second period, the star freshman achieved 5 points off of a goal and four assists. No other player in the Big Ten has scored five points in a game, let alone a period.

“I think it was a solid effort by our whole team,” Cooley said. “Obviously, last weekend we didn’t like the way we backchecked, so this was a nice bounce back game.”

The start of the game played Penn State’s way, with the team leading in shots on goal five-to-two before Gophers forward Connor Kurth received a pass dead in the center slot for a score. At the conclusion of the first period, Jimmy Snuggerud added to the lead off a Carl Fish rush and Matthew Knies assist to put Minnesota at a two-goal advantage heading into the first intermission.

“Starting the game, I got a little bit of nerves — [I] hadn’t been playing as much as I’d like — but after the first few shifts, I settled right in and felt good,” Fish said, who is going to see more playing time with defenseman Brock Faber and Ryan Chesley nursing upper body injuries. “Luckily, Knies made a nice play on the blue line and it happened to go in.”

The game continued to go Minnesota’s way in the second period. Cooley made an acrobatic 360 on the left side of the crease and found Knies on the other side, 36 seconds in, bringing the score to 3-0 for the Gophers. Two minutes later, Ryan Johnson tacked on his first goal in a month, fitting in the puck from the left circle in front of a crowded net.

Penalties soon started to accrue for the Nittany Lions, including a critical five-minute major. That major penalty was the catalyst for Snuggerud to find the back of the net for a second time and Jackson LaCombe to score his eighth goal of the season as a defenseman. Halfway through the game, the score was 6-0 for Minnesota.

“I like how we practiced all week, I liked our energy,” said head coach Bob Motzko. “You can’t let Penn State get going, they’re dangerous. They want to spread the rink around and we’ve gotta stay in layers, and our defensemen did a terrific job of that tonight.”

Before the second period’s conclusion, Cooley was able to net a backhanded breakaway to give Minnesota a total of 7 goals.

Penn State managed to get on the scoreboard twice. The first goal was on Justen Close in the second and another in the third period on Owen Bartoszkiewicz who took over for Close halfway through the final frame. Close finished with 35 saves and Bartoszkiewicz pushed four shots aside in his late effort.

Minnesota won 7-2.

Knies nets two clutch goals as Minnesota comes back late

Penn State had a short memory Saturday, as they played more ruggedly defensively and were more opportunistic on offense, scoring with under 30 seconds into the contest and fending off the Gophers successfully for the rest of the opening period.

Rhett Pitlick and the rest of the Gophers woke up in the second period with Pitlick collecting the puck from the blue line and skating it home to tie the game one a piece. The Gophers nearly took the lead with Garrett Pinoniemi’s second goal of the season but it was waved off due to incidental goalie contact.

“I’m glad my linemate Connor Kurth chipped that to me and perfectly lined it up on my stick,” Pitlick said.

The final period featured stellar play from each side’s goaltending units, with both teams shooting a combined 26 shots on net. No shot cashed in until Danny Dzhaniyev received a great pass from behind the net right in front of Close and gave Penn State a 2-1 lead with two minutes remaining.

Enter Knies. The sophomore from Phoenix is no stranger to late game noise this season as he has had six game-winning goals. This time was different because he didn’t just win the game, he also tied it with 40 seconds remaining. Snuggerud maneuvered behind the net and near the left boards and somehow passed it between a flurry of skaters to an open Knies on the right crease for a one-time goal.

In 3-on-3 overtime, Knies one-timed a shot again from the right circle off of a play by Cooley, spinning around a Penn State defender and faking out goalie Liam Souliere, dishing it to his teammate for the win.

“It was a full 60 minutes from our whole group,” Knies said. “The resiliency in the last minute to find the back of the net…Snuggy made a really nice pass there for me…a really good showing for all of us.”

Knies now leads the country with seven game-winning goals and Minnesota will finish its regular season slate with a two-game series back at 3M Arena at Mariucci against No. 10 Ohio State. Friday’s game will start at 8 p.m. on ESPNU and Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. matinee will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

“Overall, I liked how our team played all week long, man-to-man, shift-to-shift,” Motzko said. In anticipation of this week’s series, Motzko said he sees the Buckeye squad is playing “awfully well.”

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