Gophers’ Logan Cooley caps off a five-point night in the 7-2 win over Penn State. 

February 17th, 2023: Down their captain, Brock Faber, and Freshman defender Ryan Chesley, Logan Cooley stepped up and recorded a goal and four assists in the 7-2 win over Penn State. 

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Last weekend against Wisconsin the Gophers lost their captain, Brock Faber, to a shoulder injury in the second period. They also lost Ryan Chesley to an upper-body injury. Chesley is expected to be back for playoffs but Faber is considered week-to-week.

Coming into this series with the number seven ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, the Gophers were without two key defensemen. But they didn’t let that hurt them as they blew out Penn State 7-2.

Faber and Chesley were the only two right-shot defenders on the team. So without Chesley and Faber, junior defender Carl Fish stepped into the lineup. The Gophers have a senior defender in Matt Staudacher but have decided to red-shirt him so he will remain out.

Without the two defenders, the Gophers got two goals and seven points from their six defensemen. Jackson LaCombe had a goal and two assists, Ryan Johnson had one goal, Luke Mittelstadt had two assists, and Carl Fish had one assist. Mike Koster didn’t record a point but led all Gopher defenders in shots with four and was a plus-one.

Logan Cooley, on the other hand, notched five points in the win which all came in the second period. One year ago today Cooley announced his commitment to play for the Gophers after de-committing from Notre Dame and now tonight he recorded one goal and four assists in his hometown.

Connor Kurth got the Gophers on the board in the first period on a beautiful tic-tac-toe-type goal. LaCombe chipped the puck high into the air for Aaron Huglen at the blue line and the sophomore forward walked into the zone. Huglen then sauced a puck onto the blade of Rhett Pitlick who then dropped on back for Kurth. The freshman forward had a wide open net to shoot at and did not miss.

Not long after, the Gophers’ top line got involved. As Fish chipped one onto the stick of Matthew Knies. With Snuggerud in the slot, Knies fed one to the freshman and Snuggerud ripped home his first of two goals on the evening.

Cooley’s first point of five was a beauty. Just 30 seconds into period two, LaCombe sent a cross-ice pass to Cooley in front. Cooley spun around and set one right on the stick of Knies for an easy tap-in goal. Cooley picked up assist number 25 on the year on the play.

Only two minutes later, Ryan Johnson joined the fun. Knies chipped a puck free to Cooley along the boards and the freshman center skated it to the high slot before dropping a pass off to Johnson. The Buffalo Sabres prospect then walked in and ripped a shot past Liam Souliere which was the last shot he faced of the night.

The game quickly got out of hand when Penn State was assessed a five-minute major penalty for pulling Cooley’s facemask in a scrum after the whistle. On the play, Penn State also got a two-minute minor for tripping which put the Gophers on a two-minute five-on-three power play.

Cooley corralled the puck on the right side before sending a cross-crease pass to Jimmy Snuggerud. The Big Ten leading goalscorer then sent a one-touch pass to Luke Mittelstadt who let a shot go. The shot ricochet off a Penn State defender and landed on the stick of Snuggerud who ripped home his second of the night and 19th of the year making it 5-0.

With under two minutes left on the five-minute power play, LaCombe unloaded on one from the point beating Noah Grannan, who allowed three goals on 16 shots he faced after Souliere got pulled. Cooley won the face-off back to Luke Mittelstadt who set up LaCombe for the one-timer from the point. It was LaCombe’s eighth goal of the year and 30th point.

Five minutes later, Christian Sarlo notched his seventh goal of the year from Tyler Paquette and Jimmy Dowd Jr. That was Paquette’s eighth assist of the year and 14th point, Sarlo’s 16th point of the year, and Dowd’s 11th assist and 15th point. Justen Close finished the second period, then was taken out after making 35 saves on 36 shots.

Close is now first in the Big Ten in goals against average with 2.06 and second in save percentage with a .925. Close has allowed 56 goals this year in 28 games. The closest to Close in GAA is Souliere who has allowed 11 more goals than Close. The senior goalie ranks sixth in goals against average in the NCAA with a minimum of 1,000 minutes played and seventh in save percentage.

With under three minutes left in the second period, LaCombe sent a stretch pass up the gut springing Cooley in on a breakaway. With a little move to his forehand, Cooley slid the puck five-hole past Grannan making it 7-1.

Logan Cooley used to be committed to Notre Dame, he committed to the Fighting Irish when he was 14 years old. But playing in the World Juniors with Faber, Knies, Chesley, Snuggerud, and Lucius the native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania decided to switch his commitment and call those five his teammates.

Chaz Lucius ended up leaving the Gophers for his sophomore season to sign with the Winnipeg Jets and Cruz Lucius switched his commitment to Wisconsin after committing to the Gophers when he was 14.

But in his hometown, Cooley put up five points exactly one year after making one of the best decisions he’s made in coming to play for the Gophers.

Penn State eventually got another goal in the second period but it was far too late as the Gophers ended up beating the Nittany Lions on a rather convincing, 7-2 win without their captain Brock Faber and their leading hit-getter and gritty shutdown defender in Ryan Chesley.

They will look to complete the sweep tomorrow night against Penn State back at 5:30 pm central time.

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