Ann Arbor, MI – The Gophers are back on top of the Big Ten standings.
After a Thursday thriller which saw the visiting Maroon & Gold pull away in the third period, the #2 Gophers (10-4-0 Overall, 6-2-0-0 B1G) more or less controlled the game Friday against the #3 Michigan Wolverines (9-5-0, 1-3-1-1), earning a 6-3 win and a big road sweep of a good Wolverines team.
The series was marked by absences, with each team missing multiple impact players due to illness, but on Friday the Gophers were also without Logan Cooley, who took a bad 5-minute major Thursday and was suspended by the league prior to Friday’s game.
The absence meant that the Gophers skated with only 11 forwards, which allowed coach Bob Motzko to rotate different players in with the Knies-Snuggerud tandem. Minnesota scored the first goal of the game when Jackson LaCombe, a former forward who got a shift up front with Knies and Snuggerud, streaked down the left wing and beat Michigan goalie Erik Portillo with a high wrister from the low circle to put the Gophers up 1-0.
Minnesota extended the first-period lead to 2-0 when Rhett Pitlick took a Knies pass and fired a shot that beat Portillo. The Gophers got another goal early in the 2nd on the power play as Jaxon Nelson tipped a Jimmy Snuggerud shot past Portillo to make it 3-0 Minnesota.
Michigan’s Dylan Duke gave the Wolverines life halfway through the second with his third goal of the weekend, drawing the Maize and Blue within two at 3-1. However, the Gophers responded with a Jaxon Nelson goal on a delayed penalty at 17:54 to extend the lead to 4-1.
As time wound down in the 2nd, Michigan’s Rutger McGroarty shot the puck past Gopher goalie Owen Bartoszkiewicz, but the potential momentum swing goal for the Wolverines was disallowed because time had expired prior to the puck crossing the line.
The third period saw the teams trade goals, with Michigan’s Duke scoring his fourth goal of the weekend to draw within two at 4-2, Matthew Knies tipping in a Nelson shot to put Minnesota up 3 again at 5-2, Michigan’s Mackie Samoskevich scoring 24 seconds later to again give Michigan life at 5-3, and Minnesota’s Ryan Johnson scoring an empty netter late to seal the deal at 6-3.
The two wins put Minnesota on top of the Big Ten standings with 18 total points, ahead of Penn State’s 15 and Michigan State’s 13. PSU and MSU play each other this weekend, with the Nittany Lions taking Friday’s contest 4-3. The conference standings currently are tipped on their head, with projected underdogs PSU and MSU near the top and projected power teams Michigan and Notre Dame towards the bottom.
Minnesota travels to the desert to take on Arizona State next weekend before returning to Michigan to take on a surprising Spartans team. The Gophers then return home to battle the Wisconsin Badgers prior to the holiday break.