The Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team (8-2, 13-5) dropped to fourth in the USHO’s poll while holding the top spot in the nation in USA Hockey’s poll ahead of their series this weekend. They responded with a sweep over Michigan State (5-4-1, 11-6-1) this weekend in their third straight week on the road before they finish the calendar year at home against Wisconsin next weekend.
The Gophers shutout the Spartans 5-0 on Friday night before winning 6-3 on Saturday night. It was two solid games for Minnesota, who held on despite the push from the Spartans in the third period on Saturday. It was an offensive clinic for the Gophers in the series with 11 different players getting a point in the weekend. And they’ve had a lot of success in Michigan this season between Michigan and Michigan State, going 4-0 and outscoring them 22-8.
— — —
1. Brock Faber had himself a weekend, scoring a goal and three helpers against the Spartans. He’s been very noticeable offensively this season despite his status as a shutdown defender, proving he’s capable of both.
On Saturday night, after Jackson LaCombe fed Faber the puck, he skated to the right circle, where he found Matthew Knies in front for a redirection, giving the Gophers a 4-0 lead. After the three point weekend, Knies is third on the Gophers in scoring with 19 points.
It’s just one example of him being active in the offensive zone and not being scared to make plays happen like some defensive defenseman who are one dimensional. Faber then scored in the third period to get the Gophers up 6-3 when he shot the puck from the right circle and it deflected off a Spartans player’s skate and into the back of the net.
The junior captain is up to three goals and 15 points in 18 games. That’s one more point than his point total from last season, and it’s just over the halfway point of the season.
2. Bryce Brodzinski scored twice in the series and the first one was a snipe on Friday night, arguably the best goal of the weekend. After Mason Nevers passed him the puck, Brodzinski skated into the left circle and sniped one past Dylan St. Cyr upstairs on his glove side.
The dish by Nevers..— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) December 3, 2022
The SNIPE by Bruce. pic.twitter.com/lmiBdZrX3T
Brodzinski scored his second goal of the series on a breakaway in the second period on Saturday night, beating St. Cyr five hole for his eighth goal of the season. Brodzinski is up to 13 points on the year.
3. The Gophers’ duo of star freshmen continue to produce. On Friday night, Cooley went to the net and Nevers found him in front and Cooley made no mistake, beating St. Cyr glove side from just above the crease.
There's no 'cooling' this kid off right now! pic.twitter.com/aifXesIfCW— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) December 2, 2022
Good things happen when you go to the net, they say — and that’s exactly right.
On Saturday night, the duo got a rare 2-on-0 break where Snuggerud found the back of the net after a great defensive breakup by Faber in the defensive zone. There was no chance for St. Cyr to save that powerful release from Snuggerud.
Cooley & Snuggerud in alone?— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) December 3, 2022
Good luck! pic.twitter.com/wAW9xMQhT7
These two also connected for a goal on Friday night when Cooley found the puck in front sitting by St. Cyr from Snuggerud’s shot from the left dot. Snuggerud is tied for the team lead in goals (11) with Knies while Cooley’s 21 points is two shy of Snuggerud’s team-leading 23 points.
4. Justen Close — just like he’s been all season — was dominant in a series highlighted by the Gophers’ scoring surge. Close recorded his sixth shutout of the season in Friday night’s win where he stopped all 25 shots.
On Saturday night, he had one of his biggest saves of the series when he barely got his pad across the crease to the left side to stop a wraparound attempt.
That’s as Close as it gets.
Close stopped 65 of 68 shots this weekend for a .956 save percentage after his 40-save performance on Saturday night.
Rhett Pitlick scored his sixth goal of the season on Friday night, and Aaron Hughlen picked up his sixth point of the season. Jaxon Nelson had a goal and an assist on Saturday night, and Luke Mittlestadt registered two assists. Mason Nevers had a four point weekend (1G, 3A) while LaCombe added three assists to his season point total.