Gophers’ Late Period Heroics Propels Minnesota Over North Dakota 3-2 In Overtime

October 21th, 2022: Mason Nevers’ late third-period goal with the goalie pulled sent Minnesota to overtime against North Dakota. Matthew Knies continues “to be Knies” and notches his third goal of the year just 21 seconds in. 

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – In a packed 3M Arena at Mariucci, the Gophers got more third-period magic by Junior forward Mason Nevers. Coming from behind twice in the game the Gophers open this huge two-game rivalry against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks with a 3-2 overtime win. 

Back-and-forth hockey, you could call Friday’s game against the bitter rival Hawks, with fast and physical hockey in the first period. With so many chances for each side, Jake Schmaltz, cousin of Nick Schmaltz who had 16 goals and 72 points in 75 career games with UND from 2014-2016, opened the scoring.

At the 15:36 mark, Judd Caulfied knocked Gophers forward Charlie Strobel off the puck which allowed Ty Farmer to get a shot from the point on net. Schmaltz, the sophomore forward, on the doorstep tipped in his second goal of the season and tenth in his career giving the Fighting Hawks an early 1-0 lead.

Schmaltz’s goal was the only first-period goal, which saw his Fighting Hawks team head into the second up a goal. But with under two minutes left in the second period, Jackson LaCombe tied it for the Gophers. LaCombe caught the pass from Ryan Johnson and walked the blue line, assessing his options LaCombe walked in on the right side and ripped a backhand under the right pad of Drew DeRidder tying the game at 1-1.

“There wasn’t much to it,” Gophers senior associate captain said on his goal that tied it 1-1. “Johnson made a real good play from down low. I think their forwards got a little confused when I cut across but with a wide open lane down low I took a shot and it happened to go in.”

DeRidder, a fifth-year senior and transfer student from Michigan State University, stopped 35 shots out of the 38 he faced. Coming into the game, DeRidder carried a 1-6-0 record with a 3.94 GAA and a .885 save percentage against the Gophers. Despite being nabbed with the loss, DeRidder stood on his head bailing out the Hawks left and right.

“He’s a good goalie, awfully good tonight,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said on DeRidder. “But we have to do a better job getting traffic in front of him. It’s always someone’s turn to be in front of the goalie and we’re just not there yet as a group.”

LaCombe’s game-tying goal sent shock waves into the packed house at 3M Arena at Mariucci, about 70 percent of the 10,418 stood on their feet and roared, jolting some excitement back into the Gophers. That 10,418 happened to be the seventh largest in Gophers’ history at their home barn. But eight seconds later Jaxon Nelson took a hooking call giving UND their first power play of the game.

UND’s power play has cashed in on 31 percent of their power play chances coming into the game. So an obvious game plan would be not to let the Fighting Hawks get the man advantage. UND’s star-powering power play got their first look of the game and did not make a mistake. Riese Gaber notched his fourth goal of the year and third power-play goal beating Justen Close.

Close stopped 16 out of 18 tonight notching his third win of the year and 17th in his career. Close wasn’t tested much but when he was he stood tall, despite his five-foot-ten-inch frame. Even in more big pressure situations, Close continues to prove that last year was no fluke.

Gaber’s goal sent the Fighting Hawks into the third period up 2-1 but down in shots 23-14. Minnesota had more shots in the second period than the Hawks had in the first two periods but still saw themselves down a goal. The Gophers did not let up heading into the third, pounding away at DeRidder but saw nothing to show for it. 14 third-period shots for the Gophers and DeRidder stood tall to all but one shot.

With about one minute and 30 seconds left in the game, Motzko called for Close. Nevers hopped over the boards and skated hard to the slot. Jimmy Snuggerud, battling on the boards, threw the puck to Mike Koster, Nevers wide open in the slot received the pass from Koster and made no mistake. With 1:24 left on the clock, Nevers beat DeRidder over the pad and under the glove. Snuggerud, just like Motzko talked about, was parked in front of DeRidder. The building exploded, but that wasn’t the loudest it was.

Nevers’ goal sent Minnesota to overtime for the first time this season. Two teams with star power offense squared off in a three-on-three format. Knies, Logan Cooley, and Brock Faber started on the ice for the Gophers and eventually cashed in on the game-winning goal.

Cooley dug one out and fed it to the point for Faber, with patience, Faber sent one over to Knies on the right side. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect put a quick head fake on UND’s Chris Jandric and drew him down low. Knies, and his big power forward frame, drove hard to the net beating DeRidder five-hole.

“I wanted to score so bad, I had those chances all game long. I’m just happy it went in and we won that game,” Knies said on scoring his third goal of the year and 18th of his career. “It feels good to be in our home barn, especially with this big of a rivalry. To get that goal was definitely special.”

Still, some business to finish tomorrow if the Gophers want to complete the sweep over the No. 7 ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The Gophers now have a 142-134-16 record against the Hawks and a 76-53-8 record at home. Same time Saturday, 7:00 pm from 3M Arena at Mariucci.

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