Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Bright spots in Gophers hockey’s recent Big Ten games

Rhett Pitlick scored three goals in the series against Notre Dame while Jimmy Clark had a multi-goal performance against Michigan last weekend.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Rhett Pitlick (No. 77) waits for the puck to drop on Nov. 18, 2023. The Gophers beat Notre Dame 4-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota hockey has split their last two series in the Big Ten. The Gophers won their second game against Notre Dame this past weekend and their first against Michigan the weekend prior.

Third-year forward Rhett Pitlick and first-year forward Jimmy Clark have been top producers early on. Pitlick opened the scoring midway through the first period against the then-ranked No. 17 Fighting Irish on Friday. On Saturday, he opened the scoring again, this time around two minutes into the game.

With his three goals and four points over the weekend, Pitlick’s total goals and points for the season now sit at four and nine.

Jimmy Clark breaking out in his first year

Although he did not earn any points over the weekend, Clark made a few notable plays. In one moment on Friday, he took on three Notre Dame defenders alone and retrieved the puck on the forecheck.

Head coach Bob Motzko said the team feels they are in good hands any time Clark is on the ice.

“[Clark] plays with confidence, and we need to build that kind of depth through our lineup,” Motzko said.

Only 12 games into his collegiate career, Clark has already become a prominent name on the Gophers’ roster. He has three goals and two assists this season and shares the team lead in goals scored in Big Ten play with Pitlick.

In the Michigan series last weekend and the first game against Notre Dame, Clark was linemates with Brody Lamb and Connor Kurth. The line combined for seven points in the first game against the Wolverines.

In terms of point production, Clark had his best game of the season in the first game against Michigan. Clark had two consecutive goals in Minnesota’s 4-3 win, including the game-tying goal in the third period.

Motzko said Clark works well with any teammate he plays with.

“Jimmy Clark has been good from day one,” Motzko said.

In Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, Clark was switched onto a line with John Mittelstadt and Garrett Pinoniemi. Earlier in the season, Mittelstadt called Clark a smart and fast player.

“He’s got everything you need,” Mittelstadt said.

Gophers split the series with Notre Dame

Minnesota lost 4-2 to Notre Dame on Friday, their third regulation loss within conference play.

After opening the scoring, the Gophers conceded two consecutive goals. Jimmy Snuggerud tied the game late in the second period on the power play. Notre Dame took the lead back in the third period and scored an empty net goal to seal the game.

After Friday’s loss, Motzko said the team needed to mature and face the challenges in front of them.

“Three of our four losses — they’re related losses,” Motzko said. “We need to have a hockey team that matures.”

On Saturday, the Gophers turned their performance around with a 4-1 win. After Pitlick’s opening goal, Notre Dame followed up to tie the game.

Defender Ryan Chesley scored on a snipe to take the lead back after breaking the stick of a Notre Dame defender earlier in the shift with his shot.

Jaxon Nelson doubled the Gophers’ lead in the final five minutes of the second period. He scored again 40 seconds later, but the goal was waved off for being tipped in with a high stick.

Goaltender Justen Close made a few key saves early in the third period to keep Minnesota ahead.

Late in the game, Pitlick scored a tap-in goal for his second of the night and gave the Gophers a three-goal lead.

Nelson said he tried getting Pitlick to crash the net more often.

“He went to the net twice tonight and he scored,” Nelson said. “So, [we need to] get him to be able to do that consistently.”

“Okay doesn’t cut it”

Six games into the Big Ten season, the Gophers are 2-3-1 and sit in sixth place in the conference. At this point last year, they were 4-2-0 in conference play.

After Saturday’s game, Motzko said the team continued their trend of playing well in only one game of a series.

“We were okay last night, but okay doesn’t cut it,” Motzko said.

Captain Mike Koster, who assisted on both of Pitlick’s goals on Saturday, said their win over Notre Dame was big in such a competitive conference.

“We’ve got 12 games under our belt and now we need to start making that next step,” Koster said.

Like Motzko, Koster said the team needs to focus on playing well in both games of a series. He said finding consistency will help the team make that next step.

“We’ve got a lot of Big Ten games coming up,” Koster said. “All of them are super important in terms of the end of the year and the standings.”

The Gophers’ streak of playing ranked opponents will increase to six consecutive series next weekend when they host the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans swept the former No. 1 Wisconsin this past weekend at home and are in first place in the Big Ten.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (0)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *