New sticks provide scoring boost for Pitlick and the Gophers

January 19th, 2023: Rhett Pitlick’s three-goal and four-point game helps push Gophers past Buckeyes 5-2. 

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Gophers’ Rhett Pitlick fires a shot in a game against Ohio State on 1/19/24. Photo By: Brad Rempel.

Minneapolis, Minn – Sometimes a new stick can be a nice way to change your play or provide a different feel when you might be in a slump. In this case, a new all-white stick provided a challenge for both Rhett Pitlick and Aaron Huglen and so far it’s working. Tremendously that is. 

“You know, I like the light white and I think it challenges me to look up more because it might be harder to see with the puck,” Pitlick said on making the switch to an all-white stick. “I feel maybe it might make me better because I need to trust my feelings. But those are just some thoughts.”

Tonight, Pitlick’s new light white stick helped him score three goals and pick up an assist in the Gophers’ 5-2 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. After tonight, Pitlick now has 14 goals and 27 points in 23 games for the Gophers and recently has been clicking with his linemates Oliver Moore and Jimmy Snuggerud.

Since Moore and Snuggerud came back from the 2024 IIHF World Juniors Championship, where they picked up a Gold Medal, the trio have combined for 13 goals in five games. Snuggerud has seven goals and nine points, Pitlick has five goals and nine points, and Moore has one goal and eight points.

“I feel they got better. The first game back I was like holy smokes,” Pitlick said on Moore and Snuggerud. “It’s like they’ve been training so hard. They’re back and they’re ready to go, it’s unbelievable. So, really good improvements from them.”

Gophers head coach Bob Motzko seems to agree with Pitlick.

“All our guys came back and have been playing great. Our team is just different,” Motzko said. “We’re on a different level but we now have to get traction.”

Pitlick and Moore work so well together with how fast they are and Snuggerud is the finishing touch to a line with two playmakers on it. The sophomore forward is now second in the NCAA in goals with 18 but now has his linemate, Pitlick, sneaking up behind him.

“Yeah, they both bring such an amazing dynamic to the team,” Pitlick said. “I love playing with Oliver with his speed. And then Jimmy of course his shot. I think just the three of us really bounce together really well and every day I feel we’re improving so it’s really fun.”

Goal scorers usually find themselves in the right place at the right time and that’s exactly what Pitlick did tonight and was rewarded with his first career three-goal game.

“I mean, it was just kind of a divine flow,” Pitlick said. “Sometimes that happens and tonight that happened to be so. I got some lucky bounces right to me and I praise God for that. I’m very thankful.”

Huglen also has the all-white CCM stick and recently has found his scoring touch. The Junior forward has two goals and two assists in his last six games for the Gophers and picked up a very nice assist on one of Pitlick’s goals tonight.

“Hey you never know,” Huglen said on what the difference is with a new stick for himself and Pitlick. “Just a really cool stick.”

Gophers’ Aaron Huglen celebrates a goal in a game against Ohio State on 1/19/24. Photo By: Brad Rempel.

The 6-foot forward picked up a power play assist in the third period to extend the Gophers lead to 4-1 after he weaved in between a few Buckeyes’ defenders before passing one to Pitlick who was left all alone in the slot.

“Yeah, I mean once I beat that first guy, I had a lot of time,” Huglen said on his pretty assist. “I just was looking at my options and Pitt was wide open.”

After a bit of a slow start in the first opening minutes of the game, the Gophers were able to get on the board after Moore passed one to Pitlick in the slot for his first of three goals. Connor Kurth picked up his fifth of the season about four minutes later after another great pass by Moore and away went the Gophers.

Until the second period.

Ohio State came out flying in the second period and pretty much controlled most of the period but the Gophers were able to hold onto their 3-1 lead into the third period and eventually duplicated their good first period with a strong third period.

Like the Gophers have done many times this season, a great first game usually leads to a bit of a sloppy second game so Motzko said he wants to see how this team will respond.

“We were great in the first period and I liked us in the third period,” Motzko said. “But we’ve been in this position all year long and it’s how we respond tomorrow.”

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