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Gophers break away for seven goals against archrival Badgers

Two early goals by Logan Cooley set the tone for a game that looked lopsided on paper and on ice. The Gophers scored early and often to build a big lead, then played defense to win decisively.

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Minnesota defenseman Ryan Chesley (left) got a leaping hug from teammate Jimmy Snuggerud, after Chesley scored the first goal of his collegiate career in the second period of a win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Matt Krohn / Gopher Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — On a night where the Minnesota Gophers wore gold and their fans were encouraged to do the same, they turned in a performance so end-to-end impressive that Olympic judges would surely have deemed gold medal worthy.

Logan Cooley, fresh off being honored by the Big Ten last week, led the way with two goals and an assist, as the Gophers scored early and often, cruising to a 7-1 win, which was their seventh in the past eight games.

Per Gophers coach Bob Motzko, the top line of Cooley, Matthew Knies and Jimmy Snuggerud set the tone in the game’s opening seconds.

“It got the student section going and got the crowd going because it was a heck of a shift,” Motzko said. “That line got two (goals) in the period, and that was the game. We took it over in the first period, but we didn’t take it over after that.”

Rookie defenseman Ryan Chesley even got in on the fun, scoring his first collegiate goal in the second period as the Gophers improved to 14-5-0 overall and a conference-leading 9-2-0. Justen Close surrendered just one goal and had 37 saves as Minnesota beat their conference archrivals for the fifth time in their past six meetings.

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“This was pretty cool, seeing that, and scoring a goal against them was awesome,” said Chesley of his first Border Battle experience.

The Badgers (7-10-0, 1-8-0) got a first-period, power-play goal from Charlie Stramel after falling behind 2-0, but would get no closer. Wisconsin starting goalie Jared Moe surrendered five goals on 16 shots before he was lifted in the second period. Kyle McClellan came on in relief and had 12 saves for the Badgers.

“Their goalie did well. We created enough offensively to be in the game, but we didn’t play well enough defensively with the puck,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “Our decisions with the puck weren’t very good. And when you play a team that has that many goal scorers and guys that make plays, you’re going to take a few, and we obviously did. That was the difference in the game.”

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Minnesota forward Aaron Huglen created traffic in front of Wisconsin goalie Jared Moe in the first period of the Gophers' 7-1 win over the Badgers on Friday, December 9, 2022 at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Mineapolis.
Matt Krohn / Gopher Sports

Perhaps the most notable negative for the Gophers came early, when captain Brock Faber was whistled for hooking less than five minutes into the game. It snapped a string of more than 218 minutes that Minnesota had played without a penalty.

“The penalties got us discombobulated. We hadn’t taken one for a while,” Motzko said. “Then the bench gets kind of thrown off. But that’s hockey.”

Defensive breakdowns by the Badgers contributed to their troubles, as Cooley late in the first period and Aaron Huglen midway through the third scored on breakaways.

Minnesota has now won the last four games in this century-old rivalry by a combined score of 24-2.

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Comforts of home possibly problematic

Motzko liked the first half of the game, as the Gophers set an early aggressive offensive tone and chased the Badgers starting goalie from the net, with a five-goal lead by the midway point. But perhaps a sign of the ceiling he sees for this team which will almost certainly head into the holiday break on pace to be the top seed for the eventual NCAA playoffs, were the flaws Motzko saw in a blowout, as Close’s save numbers crept up and up before the final horn.

“The coaches were thinking booby trap game, and then we made some plays early in the game, but it was not a 7-1 game at all,” Motzko said. “Closer had to make way too many saves tonight to keep it close. We have to tighten things up tomorrow.”

The coach noted that getting a bit loose can happen when you’re back home after playing the previous six games on the road. When you’re the visiting team, your day is spent at a hotel, focused on hockey. At home you’re more comfortable, and can be prone to lapses.

“You’re all dialed in when you’re on the road. You’re at the hotel together,” he said. “We were loose tonight. That’s what I saw. Thank goodness we got the lead, because we needed the lead.”

Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for the Gophers on Friday included defensemen Matt Staudacher and Carl Fish, and forwards John Mittlestadt and Colin Schmidt.

The first-period goal by Wisconsin was the first the Close had allowed versus the Badgers in three career starts. He shut them out twice late last season on a weekend Minnesota clinched the 2022 Big Ten title.

The Gophers conclude the unofficial first half of the season on Saturday with a 6 p.m. CT rematch versus the Badgers.

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Minnesota 7, Wisconsin 1

Minnesota 4-2-1—0

Wisconsin 1-0-0—0

First period — 1. MN, Logan Cooley 8 (Matthew Knies, Jimmy Snuggerud), 4:01. 2, MN, Jaxon Nelson 7 (Bryce Brodzinski, Jackson LaCombe), 7:23. 3. WI, Charlie Stramel 4 (Cruz Lucius, Jack Gorniak), 9:28, (PP). 4. MN, Brodzinski 9 (Ryan Johnson, Luke Mittlestadt), 1802, (PP). 5. MN, Cooley 9 (Knies), 18:31. Penalties — Brock Faber, MN (hooking), 4:44; Connor Kurth, MN (cros checking), 7:58; Anthony Kehrer, WI (interference), 17:26.

Second period — 6. MN, Rhett Pitlick 7 (Cal Thomas), 4:00. 7. MN, Ryan Chesley 1 (Cooley, Knies), 9:12. Penalties — Corson Ceulemans, WI (interference), 0:29; Cooley, MN (roughing), 14:42; Jack Gorniak, WI (roughing), 14:42.

Third period — 8. MN, Aaron Huglen 2 (unassisted), 8:48. Penalties — Carson Bantle, WI (roughing), 9:08; Pitlick, MN (hooking), 14:15.

Shots on goal — MN 15-8-8—31 WI 12-16-10—38. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (38 shots-37 saves); Jared Moe, WI (16-11); Kyle McClellan, WI (15-13). Power plays — MN 1-of-3, WI 1-of-3. Referees — Jake Rekucki, Tony Czech. Linesmen — Nicholas Bradshaw, Chad Roethlisberger. Att. — 8,961.

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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