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Jacob Truscott's OT goal finally puts away slow-starting Gophers

The Minnesota Gophers rallied twice in their Saturday game with Michigan, but could not find overtime magic for the second night in a row, settling for a split of their weekend Big Ten series.

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Minnesota Gophers goaltender Justen Close (1) faces down a point blank shot from Michigan forward Gavin Brindley (4) during the overtime period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. The Gophers beat Michigan, 4-3 in overtime. On Saturday, Michigan won in overtime 5-4.
John Autey / Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — With one of the biggest crowds in the 30-year history of their rink on hand, the Minnesota Gophers gave a sellout audience plenty to roar about on Saturday. But in the end, the Michigan Wolverines had a silencer.

Jacob Truscott’s second goal of the game in overtime salvaged a split of their weekend series for the Wolverines. They saw a pair of leads slip away, but solved Gophers goalie Justen Close via their only shot of the extra session to win 5-4.

Bryce Brodzinski had a pair of goals for the Gophers, and Close did much work to keep the game from getting out of reach, finishing with 30 saves but the Gophers (18-7-1 overall, 12-3-1 Big Ten) lost their first conference game in more than two months.

"Michigan deserved to win. I give our guys credit for battling back," said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. "And I haven't said this too often, but we were flat at the start of the game tonight. we hadn't really seen that."

Adam Fantilli also scored a pair of goals for the Wolverines (14-9-1, 6-8-0) who saw their early lead disappear, then rallied to quiet the sellout crowd. Erik Portillo had 26 saves for Michigan in the win — their first over the Gophers this season.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Logan Cooley (92) fights off Michigan forward Rutger McGroarty (2) as he skates uyp ice with the puck during the third period of a their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / Pioneer Press

"Proud of our guys for dealing with some adversity and fighting back and sticking to the plan. It was great," said Michigan coach Brandon Naurato. "Great for (Truscott). He's got a lot of offense in him and he's starting to show it a lot more ... Happy for him."

The Wolverines sprinted out to a 2-0 lead and dominated the early stretches of the game, forcing Close to be sharp from the puck drop to prevent the game getting lopsided. The Gophers finally answered near the midway point of the period when Mason Nevers fed Brodzinski from behind the net. The goal snapped a streak of five consecutive games that Brodzinski had been held without a point.

Goals by Aaron Huglen and Nevers gave Minnesota its first lead in the middle frame, but it was short-lived, as Fantilli — a gold medal winner with Team Canada at the World Juniors earlier this month — knotted the score at 3-3.

Truscott got his first of the game and just his third of the season later to re-establish a Wolverines lead.

The Gophers killed a major penalty early in the third after Jimmy Snuggerud was ejected for contact to the head, and had three quality chances to tie the game while shorthanded but were thwarted by Portillo.

On the tying goal that forced overtime, Gophers defenseman Jackson LaCombe appeared to have iced the puck, only to see speedy freshman Logan Cooley win a race to end end line, then feed it to Brodzinski who was crashing the net.

"That's two smart players knowing each other. Cooley had a lot of speed and Jackson give him a pass on his tape. He didn't want to slow him down, so (LaCombe) just kind of iced the puck and Cools beat it out," Brodzinski said. "I just found some ice in the middle and he's such a smart player, he knows what play to make ... It left me wide open."

Even in giving up five goals, the Gophers had nothing but praise for their goalie.

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"We caught a break in the first period," Motzko said. "We could've been down 6-1 instead of 2-1, and Closer held us in."

The Gophers’ last Big Ten loss had come on Nov. 10, 2022 when they fell 4-2 to Penn State in Minneapolis.

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Brodzinzki heating up at the right time

The Gophers have eight games left in their regular season schedule, but clearly have designs on playing late into March and ideally April as they seek a return to the Frozen Four.

If that is going to happen, their coach knows that contributions from Brodzinski, the former Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner from Blaine, Minnesota, will be vital. So even in a losing effort, to see him score for the first time gave Motzko a smile.

"If there's a bright spot right now out of tonight, it's Huglen and Brodzinski to get them going again," Motzko said. "Brodzy is a streaky scorer, but when it starts, it doesn't stop. You're going to see him continue to do that."

Brodzinski said even during the long drought, he didn't lose faith or resort to superstition.

"It felt good to get that goal and kind of get off the schneid there a little bit," he said. "Noting has really changed, it's just trying to stick to the basics. I kind of struggled early on earlier in the year. My whole thing is to stick with it and things will hopefully come, and today they did."

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Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for the Gophers on Saturday included defenseman Matt Staudacher and forwards Charlie Strobel and Garrett Pinoniemi. Defenseman Luke Mittlestadt sat out due to an injury for the second consecutive game.

By getting two of the three conference points up for grabs in Friday’s game, the Gophers officially won the season series with the Wolverines, and brought the Mariucci/Renfrew Trophy back to the State of Hockey. The traveling trophy, named for two of the programs’ most legendary coaches – John Mariucci from Minnesota and Al Renfrew from Michigan – is awarded to the winner of the season series each year. The Wolverines captured the trophy past season but brought it back to Minnesota and handed it over to spend the summer in Minneapolis.

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Minnesota Gophers forward John Mittelstadt (19) is wrestled off the puck by Michigan defenseman Jacob Truscott (15) during the second period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / Pioneer Press

Saturday’s game was the fifth sellout of the 2022-23 season, which is the most sold-out games the Gophers have had since the 2015-16 campaign. The combined weekend attendance of 20,755 was the largest in 3M Arena at Mariucci history.

The Gophers remain at home next weekend for a two-game Big Ten series versus Michigan State. They face the Spartans at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Jan. 27, and at 4 p.m. the next day, which is also Hockey Day Minnesota.

Michigan 5, Minnesota 4, OT

Minnesota 1-2-1-0—4

Michigan 2-2-0-1—5

First period — 1. MI, Ethan Edwards 3 (unassisted), 1:36. 2. MI, Adam Fantilli 13 (Gavin Brindley, Luke Hughes), 7:45. 3. MN, Bryce Brodzinski 10 (Mason Nevers, Jaxon Nelson), 8:55. Penalties — Ryan Johnson, MN (tripping), 3:48; Erik Portillo (served by Dylan Duke), MI (slashing), 9:56.

Second period — 4. MN, Aaron Huglen 3 (unassisted), 1:53, (PP). 5. MN, Mason Nevers 9 (Brock Faber, Cal Thomas), 3:21. 6. MI, Fantilli 14 (Jackson Hallum, Hughes), 4:10. 7. MI, Jacob Truscott 3 (TJ Hughes, Samoskevich), 17:14. Penalties — Eric Ciccolini, MI (high sticking), 1:38; Nolan Moyle, MI (holding the stick), 6:14; Edwards, MI (tripping), 7:30; Logan Cooley, MN (high sticking), 13:47; Jimmy Snuggerud, MN (5 & game misconduct – contact to the head), 19:55.

Third period — 8. MN, Brodzinski 11 (Cooley, Jackson LaCombe), 17:18. Penalties — L. Hughes, MI (tripping), 4:52; Ryan Chesley, MN (interference), 14:30.

Overtime — 9. MI, Truscott 4 (L. Hughes, Brindley), 0:49. Penalties — None.

Shots on goal — MN 7-10-13-0—30; MI 11-11-12-1—35. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (35 shots-30 saves); Erik Portillo, MI (30-26). Power plays — MN 1-of-5, MI 0-of-4. Referees — Barry Pochmara, Jake Rekucki. Linesmen — Nicholas Bradshaw, Samuel Shikowsky. Att. — 10,455.

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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