‘It’s Going To Make Us Better’: Gophers Fall To Michigan 4-3 In Big Ten Championship

March 19th, 2022: Gophers allow four unanswered goals in the 4-3 Big Ten Championship loss. 

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – In a game that had a lot of hype going into it, the Gophers scored the first goal just 32 seconds in. 10,077 fans were up and roaring when Jaxon Nelson scored on the first shot. Unfortunately, the announced ‘largest crowd at 3M Arena at Mariucci’ had to wait until the one-minute mark in the third period to stand up again. 

“Incredible atmosphere. We got the first one and the building lit on fire,” Gophers’ head coach Bob Motzko said. “But then we made a couple of mistakes. Pucks going off our sticks and turning the puck over, which you just can’t do against Michigan.”

Just under a minute later Brendan Brisson picked up his 19th of the year off Matty Beniers’ 22nd assist. Luke Hughes picked up the secondary assist on the play. Minnesota came out firing after Brisson’s goal but after Mackie Samoskevich scored Michigan’s second goal, the Wolverines quickly took over the game. In the later stages of the first period, Samoskevich notched his tenth of the year making it a 2-1 game after the first period.

Any defenseman knows bad breaks happen, this unfortunately was the result of Samoskevich’s goal. Boston Bruins prospect Johnny Beecher found Samoskevich flying up the right side before the Flordia Panther’s prospect Samoskevich, sent the puck in front of Gophers’ goaltender Justen Close. The attempted pass went off Mike Koster’s skate and found the back of the net.

Early in the second period, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect and Freshman forward Dylan Duke finished a 2-on-1 chance off Samoskevich’s great feed. Thomas Bordeleau picked up the secondary assist. Close finished with 27 saves on 31 shots and Erik Portillo finished with 25 saves on 28 shots.

A flurry of penalties by the Gophers gave Michigan’s power play multiple chances. Mel Pearson’s Michigan Wolverines connected once on four attempts. Six minutes and 26 seconds into the second period, Gophers’ Tristan Broz headed to the box for boarding. Broz had the Michigan defender lined up but at the very last second the Wolverine turned towards the boards to protect the puck and Broz blasted him.

Broz’s boarding call gave Michigan and their top guns another chance on the man advantage, this time they made the Gophers pay. With the 2021 first overall pick and 6-foot-5 inch Buffalo Sabres prospect Owen Power in front of Close, Brendan Brisson took the spot on the blueline with the 1-3-1 power play formation. Brisson caught a feed from Bordeleau and threw one over to Johnson who unloaded on the one-timer but Brock Faber dove out and took it off his leg. Faber slow to his feet got up and remained in front of Close. Moments after Johnson’s first rip, Bordeleau spun around and found Brisson again who eventually found the 2021 fifth overall pick, Kent Johnson for the tic-tac-goal. 3-1 Wolverines.

Two second-period goals for Michigan loomed over the Gophers as the Wolverines carried a three-goal lead into the third period. The Gophers tried to find their game early in the third period but Michigan remained strong shutting down multiple rush chances.

The Gophers got their chance though after Nolan Moyle went to the box for hooking with about 2:30 left in the game. Under a minute later, Jacob Truscott went to the box for holding and the Gophers headed to a 6-on-3 power play with Justen Close on the bench for the extra attacker.

Controlling the zone, Jackson LaCombe who now has ten points in his last five games found Matthew Knies down low. Knies got the Gophers within two goals with 57 seconds left on the clock. With five seconds remaining Ben Meyers picked up his 12th point in his last six games as he set up Knies down low again. Knies picked up his 11th and 12th goal of the year but the comeback came up short.

“I’ll give our guys credit though, we haven’t lost in a long time and we needed that,” Motzko said. “We needed a game like that to get the cobwebs off. It’s going to make us better.”

The Gophers will get to hang another banner in Mariucci but they wanted to hang two. Going back-to-back in any sport is very hard to do, but it’s even harder in college hockey since guys have college eligibility restrictions and some even have NHL rights. But the focus shifts towards the NCAA tournament where the Gophers will look to win their sixth NCAA title with the hope of Chaz Lucius possibly returning from his injury.

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