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Irish defenseman and two Gophers honored with Big Ten weekly awards

The secondary was primary in the final weekend of the regular season as the Big Ten honored a goalie and two defensemen with its weekly three stars.

Minnesota goalie Justen Close gloved a puck in the third period of a 4-0 shutout win over Ohio State on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023 at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis
Craig Cotner / Gopher Puck Live

MINNEAPOLIS – “Don’t be sad,” sang the 1970s sensation Meatloaf. “‘Cause two out of three ain't bad.” That is a mantra that the Minnesota Gophers can adopt for a second consecutive week, as players in maroon and gold claimed two-thirds of the Big Ten’s three stars of the week, again.

Notre Dame junior defenseman Drew Bavaro was named the top star of the week after the Floridian’s overtime goal on Saturday in the regular season’s final game lifted the Irish to a win at Michigan and vaulted them into the conference’s final home ice slot for the playoffs. Not only did Bavaro — who transferred to Notre Dame from Bentley — score both of his team’s goals in their finale, he assisted on two Irish goals in a 3-3 tie with the Wolverines in the series opener.

Gophers defenseman Mike Koster was the offensive star on Friday in his team’s 4-0 blanking of Ohio State in their series opener. A junior from Chaska, Minn., Koster scored two goals and assisted on the team’s two other goals, and was named the conference’s second star of the week. It was the first time in Koster’s career that he has been honored by the Big Ten.

University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Koster talks to his teammates during a nonconference men's hockey game against St. Cloud State on Jan. 8, 2023, at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Jim Rosvold / The Rink Live

“I’m just out there with great players,” Koster said after his four-point night. “We were lucky enough to get a few big power plays at the right time. I’m just trying to put pucks on net and not try to make it too complicated.”

Justen Close, a senior goalie from Saskatchewan, recorded his sixth shutout of the season in that win, and did not allow a 5-on-5 goal in either game, earning third star of the week honors. He leads the Big Ten in shutouts and was honored by the conference for the fourth time this season.


“He’s just even-keeled and strong and we were real strong in front of him,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said of Close following the Friday win. “There were a handful of times when we needed him and he was right there, calm and cool.”

Starting next season, men's and women's season-ticket holders for the Minnesota Gophers will be able to return seats they cannot use and get credit for future season ticket purchases.
Todd Inkrott and new Badgers hockey coach Mike Hastings had worked together for more than a decade at MSU Mankato. He becomes the latest former Mavs staffer to follow the coach east.
The defenseman originally from southern California was a four-year regular on the U of M blue line, and a first-round pick of Buffalo in 2019.
Transfers from St. Lawrence, Princeton and UMD will help bolster the Gophers on the back end next season as they try to find a way back to the Frozen Four and repeat as WCHA tourney champs.
The Minnesota Gophers center led the team in scoring on the way to a Big Ten title and a trip to the NCAA title game, and recently announced he will return for a sophomore college hockey season.
"We are excited to bring Nick and his family to the University of Wisconsin," head coach Mike Hastings said.
The former Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner is coming off a senior campaign where he notched career highs in goals and points while playing right wing on the Gophers' second line much of the season.
When the vote to build a new Arizona Coyotes rink in Tempe failed, a big piece of their future decided that NHL hockey can wait another year, and Logan Cooley announced his return to the U of M.
After leading the Minnesota Gophers in all offensive categories as a freshman, the talented center from Pittsburgh will hold off on signing a pro contract and make another run at a NCAA title.
After coming to the U of M as a walk-on in 2019, Justen Close became the team's mainstay in goal in January 2022 and has backstopped two Big Ten titles and two Frozen Four trips.

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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