January 14th, 2023: Justen Close stops 38 shots tonight for his fourth shutout of the year and seventh of his career and Ryan Johnson continues his impressive play.
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The way Ryan Johnson has been playing for the Gophers has been outstanding. Johnson is a senior defender who is known for being obsessed with working on his game. He can be seen staying after practices alone working on his game or before practice just shooting pucks.
He works on his skating the most and it shows. If you looked up elusive in the dictionary I’m convinced Johnson’s name would come up. These past four games against St. Cloud and Notre Dame have shown Johnson’s effectiveness.
Yesterday, Johnson had nine controlled exits on 11 attempts, two zone entries on three attempts, three shots, two blocks, and a .664 expected goals value. His start to the second half has seen him post an 90 percent controlled zone exit rate, which is the highest of all Gopher defenders.
Tonight Johnson got the Gophers on the board early with his rocket from the point. Brody Lamb caught a pass from Ryan Chesley and sent one to the point for Johnson. The senior defender unloaded on one and had his shot deflected by Tyler Carpenter in front.
“He was excellent tonight,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said on Johnson. “He is an automatic breakout machine. That’s his specialty. He can defend and get you up the rink. We are really working with him on his shot and taking a little windup and he took one tonight and it worked.”
Hey, we'll take it 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/I7Yv59KnJW
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 14, 2023
Earlier in the first period Hunter Strand blasted Luke Mittelstadt head-first into the boards and received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Mittelstadt did not return to the game and was ruled out with an upper-body injury. He is “ok” and was just kept out of the game for precautionary reasons.
The Gophers didn’t score on the five-minute penalty but drew two more minor penalties with minutes left in the first. They started the second period with one minute and 26 seconds of five-on-three power play time.
From the Gophers zone, Jimmy Snuggerud chipped a puck out for Logan Cooley, the freshman forward walked into the zone waited, and spun around to look for a pass. With nothing there, Cooley walked into the slot and ripped one past Ryan Bischel to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead.
About a minute later Bryce Brodzinski went to the box for slashing. Notre Dame without a shot on the power play watched Matthew Knies walk past one attacker in the defensive zone then walked past two more before diving and poking one past Bischel for the eventual last goal of the game.
HUMAN HIGHLIGHT REEL@SportsCenter x @Matthew_Knies #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/xaTp5qMt9l
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 15, 2023
That was Knies’ 13th goal of the year and his fifth goal in the last ten games and his tenth point in that span. He now has 25 points on the year and leads the Gophers in goals.
The Gophers continued to shut things down the rest of the game and watched Justen Close stop everything that was thrown at him. The senior goaltender is now 14-6-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He is now eighth in the country in goals-against average and third in save percentage with a minimum of 900 minutes played.
The Gophers will return home for the next four games before going on the road to play Wisconsin. They will host Michigan on the 20th and 21st and then host Michigan State on the 27th and 28th. They will have a week off before going to Wisconsin and will use that time to let the guys rest.