Gophers hammer away at the net, earn series-opening win versus Notre Dame
It's notoriously hard to get to the net versus Notre Dame's defense, but on this night the Minnesota Gophers all but camped in the Irish crease, with a whopping 54 shots on goal in a lopsided win.
MINNEAPOLIS — Earlier in the week, Minnesota Gophers freshman forward Jimmy Snuggerud said he liked having Matthew Knies on his line for the talented sophomore’s size and protective ability. But Knies’ skill with the puck is a nice asset as well.
On Friday, Knies scored a shorthanded goal and set up Snuggerud for two more as the Gophers attacked the Notre Dame net relentlessly and emerged with a 4-1 win. Snuggerud got his team-leading seventh and eighth goals of the season.
“Early in the game we had a 1-0 lead and that thing was teetering, but we just kept coming. We just kept coming,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “Pretty strong effort throughout our entire lineup tonight.”
Justen Close had 24 saves and Mason Nevers opened the scoring for the Gophers, who improved to 6-3-0 overall and 2-1-0 in Big Ten play.
The Irish (4-3-2, 1-1-1) got a late goal from Justin Janicke and a valiant, if unsuccessful effort from goalie Ryan Bischel. The former Fargo Force standout had 45 saves in the loss, and weathered storm after storm in and around his crease.
“That’s two weeks in a row we’ve given up too many shots, and a large part of it is we’re not managing the puck very well. They’re going to capitalize whenever we turn pucks over and it seemed like that’s what happened for most of the game,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson. “(Bischel) played as well as he could. It certainly wasn’t on him.”
After a scoreless first period, Nevers finally broke the deadlock, converting after a pass from behind the net by Jaxon Nelson.
“It was on my tape before I could even call for it, because he’s so smart,” Nevers said of Nelson.
Knies got his sixth of the year while killing a penalty, when he blocked a shot then went in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, tucking a backhander between Bischel’s knees.
“I’ve tried that a few times in practice and it’s worked out for me pretty well, so it was kind of a no-brainer when I came down on him,” Knies said. “I kind of blinked quick and it was in the back of the net. I was happy.”
Snuggerud made it 3-0 early in the third, then scored on a 5-on-3 power play, ending Bischel’s night. Jack Williams, a freshman from St. Louis, finished the game in goal for the Irish.
Notre Dame ruined the shutout bid with 46.1 seconds to play. Nevers admitted that Close got many stick taps on his pads and a general apology for just missing the clean sheet.
Prior to their home series with North Dakota two weeks ago, Motzko put Knies on a line with Snuggerud and freshman Logan Cooley, and the three have been all but inseparable on and off the ice since then. Cooley and Snuggerud played together for Team USA last season, and Knies has found a connection with them that means offense nearly every shift.
“You see it coming. You’ve got freshman-freshman-sophomore, pretty young guys, but they’re gaining confidence,” Motzko said. “Snuggie is already feeling good. Pucks just come to him and he’s going to score. Logan is playing great in there and Knies is off to a good start.”
Off the ice, the trio can be seen sitting together at Gophers’ women’s games, hanging out on the road and seemingly becoming true friends as well as valued offense for the team. Knies lives next door to Snuggerud in a dormitory, and said he plays the role of the mature upperclassman, even though the other two are just a year younger.
“I’m happy, and it’s definitely a privilege to play with those two,” Knies said. “They’re kind of crazy. They’re like two little mice. I can’t get them to calm down or sit down by each other. They’re always roaming around. We have a pretty good bond together.”
The trio has a combined 11 points (five goals and six assists) in the Gophers past two games.
Healthy scratches from the Gophers lineup on Friday were forwards Colin Schmidt, Carl Fish and Charlie Strobel and defenseman Matt Staudacher.
Bischel stopped Snuggerud on a solo rush to the net early in the first period, but the Gophers forward was slashed on the play and awarded a penalty shot, which Bischel also stopped. It was the first Gophers penalty shot since Jack Ramsey was unsuccessful versus Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry in a 3-2 loss to the Badgers on December 2, 2017 in Minneapolis.
In the third period with the Gophers leading 3-0, Knies was slashed in the act of shooting and awarded a penalty shot. The Gophers opted instead to take a two-minute power play. Notre Dame then took another penalty, and the Gophers scored while on a two-man advantage.
The Gophers conclude the Notre Dame series at 7 p.m. Saturday at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Minnesota 4, Notre Dame 1
Notre Dame 0-0-1—1
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Jackson Pierson, ND (slashing – penalty shot), 4:51; Logan Cooley, MN (holding), 19:06.
Second period — 1. MN, Mason Nevers 4 (Jaxon Nelson, Connor Kurth), 7:30. 2. MN, Matthew Knies 6 (unassisted), 14:09, (SH). Penalties — Aaron Huglen, MN (slashing), 3:13.
Third period — 3. MN, Jimmy Snuggerud 7 (Knies, Jackson LaCombe), 5:59. 4. MN, Snuggerud 8 (Knies, Cooley), 12:50, (PP). Penalties — Nick Leivermann, ND (hooking), 6:37; Leivermann, ND (slashing), 12:05; Jake Boltmann, ND (cross checking), 12:18; John Mittelstadt, MN (cross checking), 15:41; Jesse Lansdell, ND (slashing), 17:36; Brock Faber, MN (tripping), 17:36.
Shots on goal — MN 13-17-24—54 ND 10-7-8—25. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (25 shots-24 saves); Ryan Bischel, ND (49-45); Jack Williams, ND (5-5). Power plays — MN 1-of-3, ND 0-of-3. Referees — Jake Rekucki, Kenny Anderson. Linesmen — Dan Cohen, Johnathan Morrison. Att. — 7,774.