South Bend, IN – As Mat Robson goes, so too go the Gophers.
The Junior goalkeeper was on his game yet again, making 42 saves on 43 shots to backstop Minnesota (8-8-4 Overall, 5-3-3 B1G) to a win over #9 Notre Dame (12-7-1, 5-5-0). Tommy Novak and Blake McLaughlin scored their first goals of the season to lead Minnesota on the offensive side of the puck and get the Gophers back to a .500 record on the season for the first time since early November.
After a scoreless first, the Gophers got on the board halfway through the second when Tommy Novak drifted to the slot and took a one-time slapper on a pass from Brannon McManus behind the net. The shot beat Notre Dame’s Cale Morris at 12:04 of the first. Sampo Ranta assisted on the goal, the first of his three assists on the night.
Notre Dame likes to play a defense-first game, but they have enough firepower to overpower nearly anyone. The Irish put up 26 shots in the first two periods and 17 more in the third, but it was the Gophers’ offensive explosion that put the game out of reach in the third. Goals from McLaughlin (Burke, 5:35), McManus (Ranta, 9:15), and Walker (McLaughlin, Ranta, 15:57) turned a nailbiter entering the third into a resounding four-goal lead. Eden Prairie’s Nick Leivermann scored his first collegiate goal at 16:50 to pull the Irish back within three, but Rem Pitlick added a late unassisted empty netter to put the final score at 5-1 for the good guys.
The win is the second in as many tries for Minnesota against a ranked opponent – the Gophers beat #9 Penn State 4-1 last Saturday – and perhaps their most impressive two-game stretch since the tie and win over Minnesota-Duluth to open the season. Even more impressive was that the Gophers scored five goals without earning a single powerplay opportunity throughout the game. The first four Minnesota goals were five-on-five while the empty netter was shorthanded.
With the victory, the Gophers moved up into a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings with 18 total points, just two points behind leader Ohio State. The team is still on the outside looking in for the PairWise Rankings, currently sitting in 22nd place. Wins can only help Minnesota keep climbing the rankings, and they face off against this Notre Dame team looking for their first series sweep of the season on Saturday. In fact, the Gophers have not won more than two games in a row all season – we’ll see if the team can break that record Saturday.
The series concludes at 6PM central time Saturday evening. The game is not on TV, but can be streamed on the NBC Sports App / website, or heard on the radio on 1130AM in the Twin Cities.