Big Ten honors Gophers senior following a stellar performance at Notre Dame

Justen Close was busy turning aside 38 Notre Dame shots -- including a trio of breakaways -- in recording the seventh shutout of his career. He was recognized by the conference for his efforts.

Minnesota goalie Justen Close thwarted a scoring chance by Notre Dame forward Justin Janicke during the second period between the Golden Gophers and Fighting Irish on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Dani Meersman / Notre Dame Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS — A few days after he was one of 41 players on the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, given annually to college hockey’s top goalie, Minnesota Gophers puck-stopper Justen Close was one of just three players honored by the Big Ten for his body of work last weekend.

Close, who stopped 38 Notre Dame shots in a 3-0 road win on Saturday for his fourth clean sheet of the season, was honored by the conference with its second star of the week. The blanking of the Irish by Close was the seventh of his career, all of which have come in the past 12 months, after he took over the Gophers’ starting goalie duties following Jack LaFontaine’s abrupt departure for pro hockey in January 2022.

The 38-save effort included thwarting a trio of Notre Dame breakaways in the second period. He backstopped a come-from-behind 2-2 tie with the Irish in the series opener on Friday.

Known for her offensive skill and her hard-nosed play without the puck, Minnesota Gophers standout Abbey Murphy supplied just enough both, handing Ohio State its first regulation loss since October.
Visiting the University of Minnesota in January, Nathan Airey witnessed high-intensity hockey versus Michigan with a huge crowd looking on. He liked what he saw and picked the Gophers this week.
Yale, Ohio State, Minnesota hold the top three spots heading into the final month of the regular season, with five weeks to go before selection Sunday on March 5.
Eight players from the WCHA have been named to the prestigious list, including three Minnesota natives
The UMD and Swedish national team starter is one of three semifinalists from the WCHA, having been named a semifinalist in the award's inaugural two seasons.
No extra motivation is needed when Ohio State and Minnesota meet at Ridder Arena this weekend. The Buckeyes are top-ranked and have not lost in regulation since October, at the hands of the Gophers.
The collection of WCHA awards being sent to Ridder Arena this season keeps getting bigger and bigger, as a fifth-year forward and a sophomore goalie were honored by the conference.
The freshman forward leads the team and the conference offensively just 28 games into his collegiate career.
The Rink Live reporters discuss Bulldogs sweeping top-ranked Huskies, Minnesota running away with Big Ten, North Dakota sweeps Miami, recap of WCHA action
Needing things to do other than skate, eat and sleep during the holiday break, Colin Schmidt brought a popular board game to campus. In the six weeks since then, Catan has taken the Gophers by storm.
Minnesota Duluth scored two power play goals, but was denied a major power play in the second after losing a controversial challenge.
Trailing in the second period, the Minnesota Gophers got solid goaltending and woke up offensively to sweep their weekend series versus visiting Michigan State.

“Justen Close was outstanding in goal, and he had to be for us to get the win,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said following the Saturday game at Compton Family Ice Arena. “We survived tonight with a hard-fought 3-0 win, but that was because our goalie was so good.”

Now leading the Big Ten in both goals-against average (1.97) and saves percentage (.925), Close has been honored by the conference three times this season, and four times in his career.


Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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