Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota continues to march toward a Big Ten title.
In a “Big Time Atmosphere” at home, the Minnesota Gophers didn’t disappoint. Needing a 3rd period comeback, the Gophers (15-4-3-2-1 Overall, 11-2-1-1 B1G) responded, outshooting the Michigan Wolverines (11-7-2-2-1, 4-6-1-2) 18-6 in the final frame and finding a late Jackson LaCombe goal to force overtime. There, Matthew Knies scored with 8.8 seconds left in the extra session to make the Gophers 4-3 winners.
In front of a sellout crowd, the teams started slowly before the Gophers finally broke the ice late in the first period. Jimmy Snuggerud scored on a five-minute major powerplay in the last minute of the first period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead heading into the second.
The middle period was a back-and-forth affair, with Michigan’s Eric Ciccolini tying the game at 12:00 just after a Gopher penalty had expired. Matthew Knies scored to put Minnesota back up 2-1 at 16:14, before two costly Gopher mistakes resulted in two Wolverine goals just 15 seconds apart to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead at 3-2 heading into the third.
Minnesota pressed hard in the third to tie the game, outshooting Michigan 18-6 in the final 20 minutes. The Gophers put the puck in the net on a powerplay midway through the period, but the ref’s quick whistle negated the would-be tying goal.
The Maroon and Gold kept pressing, and finally broke through at 15:40 on a LaCombe one-time slapper from the right point. A similar play to last Friday’s tying goal against Notre Dame, Mike Koster fed LaCombe across the point, and LaCombe’s slapshot beat Michigan goalie Eric Portillo on the near post to tie the game 3-3 and send it to overtime.
In the three-on-three OT session, the teams played exciting up-and-down hockey before a Brock Faber rush led to a late powerplay chance. On the four-on-three PP, Matthew Knies came up clutch again, scoring at the side of the net with 8.8 seconds left to lead the Gophers to a 4-3 victory.
The win earned Minnesota two points in the Big Ten, and with Ohio State and Penn State losing Friday night it pushed the Gophers’ lead to a massive 12 points with only nine games remaining in the Big Ten schedule. Combined with a Quinnipiac loss Friday, the Gophers extended their lead on the #1 spot in the Pairwise rankings, and this writer would expect a near-unanimous number #1 ranking in the weekly polls come Monday.
Knies’ two goals give him 15 on the year, which leads the Big Ten.
The Gophers and Wolverines battle in the rubber match Saturday evening at 7PM, with the game seen and streamed on BTN and heard on AM1130 / FM103.5.