Gophers Head Into Break On A Roll After Their Latest Sweep Over Wisconsin

December 10th, 2022:Gophers have now won eight of their last nine games and roll into break with a 15-5-0 record and a 10-2-0 record in the Big Ten.

–> Follow @Dylanloucks4 on Twitter

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – Six goals in five minutes and 50 seconds. That was the story tonight for the Gophers. The Badgers opened the game with physicality, speed, and aggressiveness. They also opened with a two-goal lead just 14 minutes into the game. That was until the Gophers rattled off three goals in 2 minutes and 30 seconds and six goals in under six minutes. 

The Gophers got the game’s first power play after Owen Lindmark went to the box for hooking. That power play was short-lived, as Matthew Knies and Logan Cooley each took a penalty on the same play. Knies got blasted by Jack Horbach as he was entering the zone and moments later Knies rubbed him off in the corner but got his stick wrapped around his waist. After the play was blown dead, Cooley came over to Horbach and gave him a shove. 

This sent the Badgers to a four-on-three power play. Moments later Mathieu De St. Phalle sent one to Corson Ceulemans in the high slot. The Sophomore defender ripped home the game’s first goal. 

Roughly three minutes later, Brock Caufield put the Badgers up 2-0 from Mike Vorlicky and Sam Strange. It was a very rough start for the Gophers and almost a kick-the-trash-can moment. That was until Charlie Stramel and Brock Faber got into a push-and-shove fight late in the third. 

Faber was boxing out Stramel in front of Close and after the whistle blew a small push-and-shove fight broke out. With Faber’s hand on Stramel’s jersey, the Minnesota native head-butted Faber and was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. 

The major penalty seemed to shift the game. After about three high-danger chances, Rhett Pitlick banged home Cal Thomas’ sweet set-up feed in front. Aaron Huglen walked in the zone putting a move on a couple of Badger defenders and drove hard to the net. Thomas picked up the rebound and circled in for a chance of his own. His shot ripped off the post but Thomas regained the puck and with Pitlick on the back door, it was an easy feed for Thomas. 

Just 30 seconds later Jimmy Snuggerud extended his seven-game point streak with his 12th goal of the year. Jaxon Nelson and Jackson LaCombe got the assists on the play. LaCombe, with the Anaheim Ducks General Manager Pat Verbeek in the stands, had himself a fantastic game. 

It’s the small things that LaCombe has been doing recently that have really stood out. The board battles, exiting the zone, having a good stick in lanes, directing pucks, stopping zone entries, and stepping up and leading by example for the young defenders. 

LaCombe’s game has jolted Cal Thomas in the last couple of days. The Gophers’ d-core has been the best in the nation for quite some time and there isn’t really any team close. They have three shutdown defenders on their team that will likely jump into the NHL after Minnesota’s season ends. They have Mike Koster who is likely two years away from playing professional hockey. Then they have three freshmen defenders in Ryan Chesley, Luke Mittelstadt, and Thomas. Chesley was the 37th overall pick by the Washinton Capitals last season. 

But the way Thomas has been playing recently has boosted this Gophers’ team. Thomas recorded two assists tonight and nearly had a goal of his own after hitting the post with a shot in the first period. He notched three total points on the weekend after getting his first career point in yesterday’s 7-1 win. 

“You see the rest of the d-core collecting points and Cal is a hack of a player,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said on the freshman defender. “Now, one weekend before break you go in feeling awfully good about your game. Cal had a very good first half and he is still just scratching the surface in what he’s going to become and we are excited. It was a great weekend for him.”

Yet another Gopher defender who has been on a roll recently, gave the Gophers the lead with a hair under one second to go. Mittelstadt has also taken a huge jump recently. He’s become more reliable in the defensive zone, more comfortable in all zones, and has notched four points in his last three games. 

Still, on the power play, the Gophers opened the second period with yet another power-play goal. Mason Nevers got his second goal in the last six games and his seventh point after tipping in Koster’s shot from the point. Brodzinski picked up the secondary assist on the goal. 

Under three minutes later, the Gophers’ depth players joined the fun with a goal of their own. John Mittelstadt worked his butt off behind the net fighting for the puck and later squirted one free to Charlie Strobel, the freshman forward sent one to the point for Thomas who fired a slap pass down low. Kurth from behind the goal line banked it off the back of Kyle McClellan and ended his night. 

26 seconds later Cooley wanted in on the action after the PA Announcer announced free Culver’s Custard. With the fans already jumping up and down, Cooley ripped home his tenth goal of the year from a tic-tac-toe play from Matthew Knies and Jimmy Snuggerud. 

Snuggerud now has four goals and 13 points in his last eight games. Knies has three goals and eight points in his last five games and four goals and 11 points in his last seven games. Cooley now has seven goals and 15 points in his last seven games. 

Giving up third-period goals

The Gophers like to make it interesting by letting the opposition get a couple of goals in the third period which is something no coach can be happy about. Liam Malmquist picked up his first of the year after Cruz Lucius set him up and shortly later Anthony Kehrer got his first of the year as Lucius once again recorded the assist. 

“I have to come up with something different to say, I just want a non-eventful third period and we just can’t seem to find one,” Motzko said.

The Gophers improved to 15-5-0 on the year and 10-2-0 in the Big Ten after sweeping Michigan, Michigan State, and now Wisconsin. They have collected wins in eight of their last nine games and enter the break as one of the hottest teams in the NCAA.

“We’re ready for break,” Motzko said. “We had a tremendous first half for us, we grew immensely from the start to this point and we are halfway up the mountain,” Motzko said. “We got the tough half to go but we’re on solid ground right now.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *