Gophers Beat The Number 12 Ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-1

November 4th, 2022: Jimmy Snuggerud and Matthew Knies continue to shine for the Gophers. Jackson LaCombe and Mason Nevers continue their steady pace in the 4-1 win over Notre Dame. 

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – Notre Dame and Minnesota games are usually close games, or at least closer than Friday night’s four-goal ambush. The Fighting Irish play a defensive game, they want to trap you in the neutral zone but tonight the Gophers correctly executed their game plan and outplayed the number 12-ranked Notre Dame. 

The plan was to get pucks deep and go to work. Expose the opposition’s game plan and try to make them play up to the Gophers’ game. That’s exactly how the Gophers got their two even-strength goals tonight. Outside of the power play and the shorthanded goal by Knies, the Gophers were generating their chances off the attack.

That’s also exactly what the Gophers newly constructed fourth line did tonight.

The newly constructed line of John Mittelstadt, Bryce Brodzinksi, and Garrett Pinoniemi had two great chances in the first period on Ryan Bischel but the six-foot-one senior goaltender stood tall. They recorded seven shots as a line and all of the shots came off board battles, going to work, and getting to the dirty areas. 

“Early in the game they had some chances,” Bob Motzko said on the Mittelstadt, Brodzinski, and Pinoniemi line. “All four of our lines were making some stuff happen tonight. We need that and we need to be that kind of a team.”

The so called fourth line was responsible in all ends. They just get the puck deep and get to work. As good as Charlie Strobel has been it’s hard to keep Mittelstadt out of the lineup sometimes. But Strobel will likely get in tomorrow as they continue the rotation. 

The game’s first goal came in the second period by Mason Nevers. The junior forward now has four goals and six points on the year. Connor Kurth battled along the boards and cycled one down low for Jaxon Nelson. Battling with Drew Bavaro, Nelson sauced one to the slot to Nevers from behind the goal and Nevers ripped one glove side. 

The senior forward now has six assists and seven points in nine games this year for the Gophers. Nelson’s six-foot-four frame already gives him a leg up on the opposition but this year his hands and skill have completely impressed all. He is currently on pace to shatter his career high in points. He is three assists shy of his career high with ten and is riding a four-game point streak all with assists.

“There is going to be a lot of NHL teams looking at him and being excited about what he can bring to the table,” Nevers said about his linemate, Jaxon Nelson. “He’s a whole 200-foot player who makes skilled plays as well, and is an unbelievable linemate.”

About six minutes later Matthew Knies notched his fourth goal in his last five games and sixth of the season. Bursting out of a cannon on the penalty kill, Knies came streaking in on Bischel and slipped one five-hole after the head fake. 

“I have tried that a few times in practice and it worked out for me pretty well,” Knies said on his breakaway goal. “It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”

Knies was tied for the team lead with six goals after his shorthanded breakaway goal but watched that lead shrink after setting up his linemate, Jimmy Snuggerud for two goals.

“He’s one heck of a shooter so it’s going to be hard to compete with that guy, especially with his wrist shot and one-timer,” Knies said about chasing down his linemate Jimmy Snuggerud for the team lead in goals. “But I’m going to put some pressure on him for sure.”

Just about at the 14-minute mark in the third period, LaCombe dumped the puck into the Irish zone which forced them to go to work. Knies outmuscled both Ryan Helliwell and Jake Boltmann and slipped a pass through his legs to Snuggerud in the slot. That was Knies’ first of two gorgeous passes to Snuggerud.

About six minutes later Knies caught a pass up the gut for a breakaway and got his stick slashed right out of his hands. Motzko elected for the power play rather than the penalty shot, which makes sense with about six minutes left in a 3-0 game.

About 13 seconds later, Boltmann went to the box for cross-checking and sparked a five-on-three power play for the Gophers. LaCombe dropped one off to Logan Cooley on the faceoff dot and Cooley walked in to take a shot.

Cooley’s shot was blocked by Ben Brinkman, the four-year former Gopher who got his first shift of the night eight minutes into the game, Knies picked up the loose puck and spun one around for Snuggerud. The freshman made no mistake and rocketed one past Ryan Bischel, ending his night.

Bischel made 45 saves on the 49 shots he faced and was replaced by freshman goaltender, Jack Williams.

With about 46 seconds left in the game Notre Dame’s Justin Janicke, who played youth hockey growing up with Brock Faber, notched his third goal of the season from Zach Plucinski and Nick Leivermann. Justen Close who was great all night finished with 24 saves on 25 shots.

“He always is solid,” Nevers said on senior goaltender Justen Close. “He was dynamite. Just calm, cool, and collected. He’s just got it.”

The Gophers are set for another tilt tomorrow night against Notre Dame looking for a repeat performance. Minnesota improves to a 6-3-0 start and 2-1-0 in the Big Ten.

“What I liked most is we played exactly like we practiced this week,” Motzko said. “We have gone through two very emotional weekends with Minnesota State and North Dakota. That next week the air was out of our balloon. We were a mess all week long. We wanted to come home and get to business.”

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