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Logan Cooley's must-see goal propels Gophers to hard-fought win at Arizona State

Playing in what may be his professional home someday, Gophers rookie Logan Cooley put on a show, while Justen Close made an emphatic return from illness as Minnesota survived a strong challenge from the Sun Devils.

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Minnesota Gophers Brock Faber (14) and Rhett Pitlick (77) gave chase as Arizona State forward Robert Mastrosimone heads up ice with the puck in the first period of their game on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
Contributed / Sun Devil Athletics

TEMPE, Ariz. — For generations, people have taken in the dry desert air to get healthy. Perhaps that explains the performance by Minnesota Gophers goalie Justen Close on Friday.

After missing his previous two starts with an illness, Close kept an opportunistic Arizona State team at bay long enough for the Gophers offense to do its work in a 3-2 nonconference win at the new Mullett Arena.

Close had 28 saves and Logan Cooley scored an eye-popping goal in the third period as the Gophers won for the seventh time in their past eight games. Jaxon Nelson and Bryce Brodzinski added goals as Minnesota improved to 11-4-0 overall.

As pretty as Cooley's goal was, it came after Gophers coach Bob Motzko benched his three biggest offensive stars for a stretch. Perhaps it was too much Thanksgiving turkey or too much time in the desert sun, but Motzko made it clear that while taking nothing away from the Sun Devils, he was disappointed in his team.

"For two periods, that was as bad as we've played all season," Motzko said. "And it was almost throughout our entire lineup. But we make a couple plays early in the game, we hang on."

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Cooley, who was picked in the first round of the 2022 NHL draft by the Arizona Coyotes was playing his first game in what may be his office someday. With the Gophers up by a goal in the third, he popped a lacrosse-style goal over the right shoulder of Sun Devils goalie T.J. Semptimphelter to give the visitors some breathing room. Cooley said he had scored a similar goal versus Latvia in international play.

"I was behind the net and thought it would be a good time to try it. Luckily it went in," Cooley said.

Close was rock solid in the first period, stopping 11 Arizona State shots. The Sun Devils thought they had scored first but officials immediately ruled the play dead as the puck was played with a glove. Instead, it was the Gophers power play which made the first dent on the scoreboard as Nelson scored off a pretty cross-ice pass from Cooley.

After Close withstood another Sun Devils barrage, Brodzinski doubled the lead via a pass from defenseman Brock Faber which caught the Arizona State goalie leaning the wrong way.

The Sun Devils flipped the script in the second, dominating long stretches and getting the only goal when a long shot from the blue line fooled the Minnesota goalie.

After Cooley made the lead 3-1, the Sun Devils scored on a high traffic play in front of Close that was challenged for potential goalie interference to make it a one-goal game.

"He looked like Justen Close," Motzko said. "He was very strong for us."

Semptimphelter had 21 saves for the Sun Devils (7-7-0) who lost their third consecutive game.

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"We never lacked belief on our bench, even down two," Sun Devils coach Greg Powers said. "We've been there against North Dakota and I thought it was an opportunistic 2-0 lead by them."

Earlier in the season, the Sun Devils trailed North Dakota 2-0 in the first period of a game in Las Vegas and rallied to win 3-2.

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Minnesota senior goaltender Justen Close (1) tries to make a save as teammate John Mittelstadt (19), a freshman forward, battles Arizona State junior forward Lukas Sillinger (61) in front of the net Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
Contributed / Sun Devil Athletics

Extra pucks

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

Close’s second-period penalty for tripping was the first minor of his college career.

Before they return to Big Ten play next weekend with a series at Michigan State, the Gophers close out this two-game series with Arizona State on Saturday night at 8 p.m. CT.

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Minnesota 3, Arizona State 2

Minnesota 2-0-1—3

Arizona State 0-1-1—2

First period — 1. MN, Jaxon Nelson 5 (Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud), 9:16, (PP). 2, MN, Bryce Brodzinski 6 (Brock Faber, Mason Nevers), 17:30. Penalties — Josh Doan, AS (elbowing), 8:11; Snuggerud, MN (tripping), 12:24; Jack Judson, AS (boarding), 14:14.

Second period — 3. AS, Dylan Jackson 3 (Tim Lovell, Tanner Hickey), 2:53. Penalties — Justen Close (served by Brodzinski), MN (tripping), 9:48.

Third period — 4. MN, Cooley 5 (Mike Koster, Snuggerud), 1:49. 5. AS, Ryan Alexander 2 (Demetrios Koumontzis, Jacob Semik), 17:05. Penalties — None.

Shots on goal — MN 9-6-9—24 AS 11-10-9—30. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (30 shots-28 saves); T.J. Semptimphelter, AS (24-21). Power plays — MN 1-of-2, AS 0-of-2. Referees — Sean Fernandez, Colin Kronforst. Linesmen — Colin Besch, Mike Sarter. Att. — 5,109.

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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