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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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 jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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