Whether it’s the lethal top line trio of Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud, or the likes of Brock Faber and Jackson LaCombe on the backend, the University of Minnesota Gophers’ hockey team features high end talent everywhere in the lineup.
At times this season, though, that hasn’t been enough for them to prevail. There’s been numerous occasions this season where it’s been the Maroon and Gold’s depth that has come through. If you needed more evidence of it, the Gophers’s 6-2 Frozen Four Semifinal win over Boston University inside Amalie Arena proved as another strong example.
The Gophers’ defensive depth came up big once again. Mike Koster tied the game at the 4:51 mark of the first period when his shot from the left circle beat Terriers’ goaltender Drew Commesso glove side for his 29th point of the season. It happened after the Gophers dominated the first period but saw Boston University’s Sam Stevens open the scoring. Then Luke Mittelstadt — the unlikely hero — provided the Gophers a huge momentum boost when he scored twice en route to the Gophers ending Boston University’s nine-game win streak and 21-0 record this season when scoring first.
After scoring glove side on the power play from the left dot to help the Gophers claim a 3-2 lead, Mittelstadt decided scoring once from that spot wasn’t enough as his slapper beat Commesso glove side for a second time in a matter of 109 seconds to lift the Gophers up two goals.
MITTELSTADT MASTERCLASS pic.twitter.com/VeXfA29Gpd— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) April 6, 2023
“It’s the deepest D-core as I’ve ever had or ever will have,” Motzko said in February. “It won’t come around again.”
After their depth helped them establish the lead, Logan Cooley added two empty net goals in the 6-2 win. And even though the Gophers’ top line didn’t get on the scoresheet aside from Cooley’s two markers with the net empty, the trio generated numerous high quality scoring chances and had nine combined shots. Cooley is up to 22 goals and 60 points on the year.
The final score is a bit misleading as the game was a lot closer than it should have been. That was mostly due to the Gophers’ lack of puck luck as Snuggerud’s post in the opening two minutes of the game was a prelude to the puck finding ways not to cross the goal line — or when it did, legally.
The Gophers hit the post/crossbar multiple times in the game. Minnesota saw a goal overturned at the end of the first period when the Terriers successfully challenged for goalie interference. Then there was another play that went under review in the second period when the puck looked like it went over the goal line for the Gophers, but there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
“They’re an opportunistic team,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said on the broadcast during the first period.
Goalies — Justen Close (30/32, .938), Drew Commesso (28/32, .875)
Shots — Gophers (34), Terriers (31)
Faceoffs — Terriers (58%), Gophers (42%)
PP — Gophers (3-for-7), Terriers (1-for-3)
The highlight of the game
With the game squared at one apiece, Aaron Huglen — the Gophers’ glue guy — executed a highlight-reel no look between the legs pass to Rhett Pitlick, who saw the puck perfectly hit his tape before tapping it past the goal line. Pitlick and Huglen enter the NCAA Championship with 25 and 17 points on the year, respectively.
1st Star — Luke Mittelstadt (2-1-3)
2nd Star — Aaron Huglen (0-2-0)
3rd Star — Logan Cooley (2-1-3)
Aaron Huglen said Rhett Pitlick sent him a video after lunch today of Sidney Crosby in similar play (behind back, through legs pass on PP). “I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s give it a shot.’” Told Pitlick if not open, go back door. “It worked out perfectly,” Pitlick said. @GopherHockey https://t.co/Tt5yxGmKJd— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithNHL) April 7, 2023
The Gophers, who are in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2014, are set to play Saturday night against the winner of Michigan and Quinnipiac. So as Dave.mn requested in the comments of the preview — prepare those viewing parties.