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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Gophers men’s hockey demolishes underdog Canisius in Fargo

No. 1 overall seed Minnesota won 9-2, with 6 goals in the third period. The team is now one game away from qualifying for the Frozen Four.
Image by Photo courtesy of Gopher Athletics
Logan Cooley during the Gophers’ game against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, March 18 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Ever seen an avalanche? Maybe one that’s white, but not maroon and gold.

Shades of the iconic 2006 Holy Cross first-round upset returned in Fargo for the first one and a half periods Thursday night as the top-seeded Minnesota Gophers were given everything the underdog Canisius Griffins had.

“They got on top of us early and had a couple of good goals and kept us on our heels for a while,” said Bryce Brodzinski, who scored the second hat trick of the Gophers’ season. Jimmy Snuggerud scored the first in a 4-1 early October win over Minnesota State-Mankato.

Gophers head coach Bob Motzko described this game as the closest game with a 9-2 final score he’s ever seen.

Just like the Gophers have been for most of the season, they weren’t a first-period team whatsoever Thursday. Minnesota was clearly rattled to begin the game, turning over pucks left and right in the neutral zone.

The finish of the first of some ticky-tack penalties on the Gophers pumped up Canisius’ momentum. The Griffins’ Daniel DiGrande completed a slapshot just as Gopher Connor Kurth returned to the ice from a hooking call and tied the game 1-1.

Five minutes later, Griffin Nick Bowman made an excellent move, which planted him on No. 2 of SportsCenter’s Top 10 by maneuvering the puck between Gopher Colin Schmidt’s legs and firing a wrister at the top left shelf. Schmidt made his first in-game appearance for Minnesota since the final regular season series versus Ohio State nearly one month ago.

Canisius all of a sudden had a surprising 2-1 lead in this David vs. Goliath affair. Five minutes went and gone; slowly but surely the game started to make sense for the Gophers.

It began with a superb effort by Aaron Huglen, managing to corral an open puck chased by two Griffins and slotting home the equalizer. Huglen’s line continued to vault Minnesota out of the doldrums, and Kurth swept in his seventh goal of the season to give the Gophers their first lead since the 11-minute mark of the first period.

“Early on, we were trying to do things ourselves and score goals like that,” Brodzinski said. “Guys were getting a little frustrated, but [Brock] Faber is a great leader and kinda gave it to us in the locker room a little bit to stick together and play our game.”

Motzko said the lengthy TV timeouts and longer intermissions were critical to calming the team down and settling in throughout the game. Unlike the regular season, there is more than one TV timeout in each period during the NCAA tournament.

“We stuck with it,” Motzko said. “I had to cut the bench short tonight, I haven’t done that a lot. We had to play a grind game and that’s something we’re continuing getting better at.”

After a game-changing five-minute major was called on Canisius’ Stefano Bottini for contact to the head on Jackson LaCombe, Minnesota didn’t just stick with it, they ran the Atlantic Hockey Conference Champions beneath the ice sheet at Scheels Arena.

Snuggerud was the first to add to the heavy 6-goal avalanche in the third period, which was beneficial for the Gophers’ unusually quiet top line. Logan Cooley did manage to serve up three assists in the period with Matthew Knies absent of points on the night.

Two of Cooley’s assists were to Brodzinski, who secured a hat trick in the last 10 minutes of the game. What’s even more impressive is Brodzinski nearly had 4 lamp lighters, with a goal called back before he scored 2 more to close the contest.

Mason Nevers and Brody Lamb also added to the beatdown. Lamb is on a 2-game goal-scoring streak after not scoring since late October.

“We got the lead at the end of the second, and every puck had to get deep,” Motzko said. “If they kill [the five-minute major] off, we got a hockey game till the end and Snuggy gets his mitts on one … we follow it up with another one … then it loosened up.”

Minnesota will play St. Cloud State on Saturday in the Fargo Regional Final at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Huskies blanked the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks 4-0 on Thursday afternoon while firing off 13 fewer shots on goal. If the Gophers are victorious, they will advance to their second straight Frozen Four.

“They’re a solid team,” said Aaron Huglen of the Gophers’ in-state rival, against whom they are 1-1 this season. “Coach said after the game they’re going to try to shut us down offensively so we just gotta bring it to ’em, play smart … chip away.”

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