October 1st, 2022: Freshman Logan Cooley notches two goals and one assist in the 4-o win over Lindenwood to open the season.
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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – First impressions are usually key when you start a new job, Logan Cooley’s first collegiate game definitely impressed the eyes of many. His two goal and one assist performance helped the Gophers start the year on a high note with a 4-0 win over Lindenwood.
Many thought, like myself, Matthew Knies would start the season playing with Cooley and Freshman Jimmy Snuggerud based on their world junior ties. But it was Knies’ Tri-City teammate Rhett Pitlick who starts the year with Cooley and Snuggerud. The Montreal Canadians prospect did not disappoint. Pitlick notched two assists and four shots in front of the 6,867 fans who showed up for the home opener.
“I kept Snuggerud and Cooley away from each other for a week and a half and the minute you put them back together there’s a spotlight on them,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “We slid Pitlick in there one day, they had a little chemistry, and away they went.”
The team of 11 new freshmen put out nine to start the season. As expected the first seven minutes were spent figuring out what college hockey is all about. But for the third overall pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2021, college hockey only took eight minutes to figure out, even though he says it isn’t as easy as it looks.
— Dylan Loucks (@DylanLoucks4) October 2, 2022
Cooley found Knies on the game’s first power play, Knies swapped places with Cooley down low and bumped a pass to Jaxon Nelson. The senior associate captain made no mistake and ripped the one-timer over the right pad of Lindenwood’s Trent Burnham.
Period two started with a couple of good looks for Aaron Huglen and Bryce Brodzinski but Burnham, who stopped 30 of 34, stood tall. A couple of minutes later freshman defender Ryan Chesley found Pitlick streaking up the left side. Pitlick blew past Lions’ defender Caleb Price and sent a behind-the-back pass to Cooley, who showed off his shot.
The first shot was stopped by a sprawling Trent Burnham but the collapsed Lions’ defenders in front couldn’t clear the rebound and Cooley picked up his first career NCAA goal.
#Gopher fans… meet Logan Cooley 🤝
(that pass from Pitter tho) pic.twitter.com/5FcnWr4SLN
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) October 2, 2022
Lions’ Center Max Neill took a tripping penalty two minutes after the Gophers’ second goal which sent Minnesota back to the power play. The Gophers were already one-for-two on the power play and eventually were two-for-three with the power-play goal from Matthew Knies. They finished two-for-five on the night.
Jackson LaCombe found Knies in the neutral zone who sent it over to Nelson along the boards. Nelson streaked down the right side, feathered a pass over the six-foot-six Jack Anderson’s sliding leg, and landed on Knies’ stick for the re-direct. Knies picked up his second point of the night and finished with one goal and one assist. Nelson finished the night with one goal and one assist as well.
“I like some of the things we did, it’s a starting point,” Motzko said about the power play that cashed in on two of their five opportunities. “Some guys need to see some film, but overall I like our power play. We kept three units going.”
Senior goaltender Justen Close stopped all seven shots he saw in the second period and turned aside all 16 total shots from Lindenwood. Close’s 16-save shutout is his fourth career shutout, four of which have come in his last eight games played for the Gophers. He has turned away 159 shots of the 171 shots he has faced in that span and has gone 5-2-0 with a .929 save percentage.
“He looked good in there and was very calm,” Motzko said. “He controlled a few loose pucks that were around and really calmed things down.”
Nelson added: “He’s a really good goalie, last year we leaned on him a bit later in the year and he showed up. He was a good backbone for us tonight, he always has been.”
Despite his impressive performance, Sophomore Owen Bartoskiewicz will start game two of the two-game set against the newly division one, Lindenwood Lions.
Later in the third, a heavy forecheck caught four Lindenwood players pressuring the Gophers’ breakout. Cooley read Pitlick’s one-on-one well and stormed past a back-checking David Garnon. Pitlick found Cooley once again going between the legs of Caleb Price, Cooley’s quick fake to the left was just enough for Burnham to bite and the Pittsburgh native slipped it in between the left pad and post.
“You saw the pass that he made, he’s super skilled, and a really dynamic player,” Cooley said about his line-mate Rhett Pitlick. “He makes passes like that all the time in practice so I wasn’t too surprised.”
Cooley finished the night with two goals, one assist, three shots, and a .96 xGF. Pitlick finished with two assists, four shots, and a 1.25 xGF. Knies finished the night with one goal, one assist, five shots, three hits, and a 1.57 xGF.
Gophers hope to close out the opening weekend on a positive note with another game against the Lions on Sunday, October 2nd before they host the team that has ended their season in back-to-back years, Minnesota State, on Friday, October 7th