MINNEAPOLIS — The last time the Minnesota Gophers started a season 10-0-0, nobody mentioned it on the Internet or even on color television. Those mediums didn’t exist on Jan. 20, 1940.
As the Gophers celebrate their 100th season of hockey, they are putting together a campaign reminiscent of 1939-40, when they went 18-0-0 and claimed the AAU national title. There is a long way to go, of course, but via a come-from-behind 6-4 win over Arizona State on Monday, and a sweep of their non-conference series, the Gophers have double-digit consecutive wins to start a season for the first time since pre-World War II.
In typical fashion for a season that has been so marred by uncertainty and disruption, nothing came easily for the Gophers on this night, and the road to 10 was far from perfect. But their biggest offensive output of the season, coupled with a workmanlike night in goal by sophomore Jared Moe, will have Minnesota still atop the national polls next weekend when the Gophers re-start the Big Ten schedule with a trip to face arch-rival Wisconsin.
“We did a lot of good things out there tonight,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “We got a lead, we came ready to play tonight and had a good feel about us.”
The Sun Devils (4-8-2) erased an early Gophers lead and pulled ahead in the second period only to have Minnesota rally for the second straight game.
Moe, making his first start in 11 months, had 20 saves in the win, while Blake McLaughlin, the top-line winger who had been held without a goal in the Gophers’ first nine games, scored twice.
After sprinting to an early lead on first period goals by Bryce Brodzinski and Jonny Sorenson, and thoroughly dominating the first period, the Gophers found themselves trailing for the second time in the series and just the second time this season.
“It’s obviously frustrating when we take a lead like that and see the way we can play when we want to play the right way,” Sun Devils coach Greg Powers said after his team fell to 0-4-0 all time versus the Gophers.
The Sun Devils were wide awake in the middle period, scoring on a power play, on a 2-on-1 rush to the net, and taking a 3-2 lead when star forward Johnny Walker — who missed 10 games in Phase 1 of the season with an injury — scored a highlight reel goal. Walker caught a loose puck behind the net on the blade of his stick and popped a lacrosse-style goal behind Moe, reminiscent of the one Michigan’s Mike Legg scored versus Gophers goalie Steve DeBus in the 1996 NCAA playoffs.
“That’s not really something you see ever, practice or games. You see it on SportsCenter on highlights,” Moe said. “To have it happen to me, it’s a mental challenge, for sure...I had to let it go and focus on the next shot.”
The Gophers deficit was short-lived, as Sampo Ranta blasted a rising shot past Sun Devils starter Cole Brady to produce a 3-3 deadlock. After Powers lifted Brady in favor of Evan DeBrouwer, Blake McLaughlin scored his first of the year, tipping a Sam Rossini shot in front of the net to give the Gophers a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
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Brannon McManus made it 5-3 in the third before McLaughlin and ASU’s Jarrod Gourley traded goals late.
“It feels pretty good, but more importantly we got the win and closed out that ASU series,” said McLaughlin, who had 13 career goals coming into his junior season. “I think I was just not moving my feet, not finding time and space, not playing hard and getting to the front of the net like I should be. I finally did it tonight and it paid off.”
It was Moe’s first start since a 4-2 home loss to Michigan State on Feb. 8 last season. The New Prague, Minn., product went 7-5-1 as a freshman, but gave way to Jack LaFontaine late in the 2019-20 season. LaFontaine had started 18 consecutive games for the Gophers prior to getting a breather on Monday night. After the final horn, LaFontaine retrieved the game puck and handed it to Moe, with congratulations.
“He made a couple monster saves for us. We got a little loose and he didn’t have a chance on those first three,” Motzko said of Moe, complimenting the Sun Devils’ offense. “They’ve got over 100 goals returning on that team and they’re going to do that all season in our league.”
Brady had 12 saves for Arizona State, while DeBrouwer had 14 in his relief stint.
See Jess Myers' video wrap-up here.
Arizona State 0-3-1—4
First period — 1. MIN, Bryce Brodzinski 3 (Mike Koster, Cullen Munson), 9:50. 2. MIN, Jonny Sorenson 3 (Brannon McManus, Koster), 16:12. Penalties — None.
Second period — 3. ASU, Sean Dhooghe 2 (Chris Grando), 3:25, (pp). 4. ASU, P.J. Marrocco 1 (Benji Eckerle), 9:40. 5. ASU, Johnny Walker 1 (James Sanchez, Grando), 11:13. 6. MIN, Sampo Ranta 7 (Mason Nevers, Jared Moe), 12:44. 7. MIN, Blake McLaughlin 1 (Brodzinski, Sam Rossini), 16:25. Penalties — Sammy Walker, MIN (tripping), 1:47; Walker, MIN (holding), 19:05.
Third period — 8. MIN, McManus 2 (Matt Staudacher, Walker), 12:25. 9. MIN, McLaughlin 2 (Rossini), 17:32. 10. ASU, Jarrod Gourley 1 (Michael Mancinelli, Jax Murray), 18:44. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MIN 12-7-13—32; ASU 6-12-6—24. Goalies — Jared Moe, MIN (24 shots-20 saves); Cole Brady, ASU (15-12), Evan DeBrouwer, ASU (17-14). Power plays — MIN 0-of-0, ASU 1-of-2. Referees — Kenneth Anderson, David Marcotte. Linesmen — Samuel Shikowsky, Nicholas Bradshaw. Att. — NA.