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Minnesota Hockey: Top highlights in Gophers sweep of Michigan on the road

The Gophers score 11 goals in the series and head to Arizona on a three-game winning streak

Matt Krohn

The No. 2-ranked Minnesota Gophers hockey team swept the No. 3-ranked Michigan Wolverines on the road at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Thursday and Friday night, on the strength of 11 goals and two strong performances from goaltender Owen Bartoszkiewicz.

The Gophers got offensive contributions from everywhere in the lineup, from the top to the bottom, against a depleted Wolverines lineup.

Bartoszkiewicz, who filled in for starter Justen Close due to illness, saved 64 of 69 shots in the series, good for a .928 save percentage and some much-needed confidence.

Here are the top three highlights from the Gophers (6-2, 10-4) important series sweep against Michigan as they head to Arizona State (7-5) on a three-game winning streak for a non-conference series:

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1. Rhett Pitlick red hot

After going scoreless in six straight games, Rhett Pitlick added three goals in the series to his season total — including a two-goal performance on Thursday night.

In Thursday night’s tilt, Pitlick got the scoring in the series started with a snipe from the left circle that beat Erik Portillo blocker side, up high with not much room to work with.

The sophomore winger scored a second goal during four-on-four hockey to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead with a wide open net on the backdoor. On Friday night, a beautifully executed zone entry and passing sequence led to a mini 2-on-0 where Matthew Knies fed the puck to Pitlick, who made no mistake by putting away the one timer.

It was Pitlick — along with a few others — who got some shifts with Knies and Jimmy Snuggerud after Logan Cooley received a one-game suspension for a hit on Thursday night.

Pitlick is up to four goals and nine points in 14 games, and the Gophers need his production to continue.

2. Freshman continue to dominate offensively

The trio of Snuggerud, Cooley and Luke Mittlestadt all added a goal each in Thursday night’s win.

Snuggerud has been scoring pretty goals all season, but sometimes those ‘greasy’ goals are just as important, especially in a tie game at the midway point of the game.

Snuggerud found the puck in front and shot it past Portillo top shelf after the Wolverines’ goaltender gave up a juicy rebound on Cooley’s shot from the slot.

It was a pair of one-timers in the third that sealed the series for the Gophers. Cooley did it first with a rocket of a one-timer from the top of the left circle on a 5-on-3 opportunity. It’s the first time he’s scored with a goalie in the net since the season opener after he ended his eight-game goal drought against Notre Dame two weeks ago with an empty net goal.

And then Mittlestadt around five minutes later and a second after the power play expired:

It was Mittlestadt’s first collegiate goal and his ninth point of the season, which is impressive for the freshman defender.

Snuggerud has the team lead in goals with nine and is over a point-per-game with 16 points in 14 games while Cooley now has four goals and 12 points in 13 games.

“We continue to build confidence inside some of our young guys,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said.

3. Jaxon and Jackson lead the way offensively among the veterans

Jaxon Nelson was involved in three goals on Friday night. After tipping the puck in front on the power play in the second period for his first of the game, the puck went off him and into the net later in the second on a delayed penalty before his one-time bomb from the right circle hit Knies in front in the third period.

Nelson’s three-point night brings him up to four goals and 13 points in 14 games. Then it was Jackson LaCombe — playing a shift as a forward — who continued his impressive season with a snipe from the left circle after going untouched in the neutral zone and entering the offensive zone with ease.

LaCombe’s four-point series (1G, 3A) has him a point shy of Snuggerud’s team-leading 16 points.

Ryan Johnson scored an empty net goal for insurance on Friday night, and Brock Faber, Mike Koster and Bryce Brodzinski had two assists each in the series.