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Pressure, chances, frustration sum up Gophers' OT loss to Arizona State

There were long stretches of offensive dominance, and just enough mistakes to cost them as Minnesota lost a late lead, and the game, to snap a four-game winning streak.

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Minnesota forward John Mittlestadt (19) battled for the puck with Arizona State forward Benji Eckerle in the first period of a non-conference meeting between the Gophers and Sun Devils on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
Contributed / Sun Devil Athletics

TEMPE, Ariz. — Finding themselves in a kind of shootout in the wild west, the Minnesota Gophers ran out of ammunition in the end.

Robert Mastrosimone scored off a rush to the net in overtime, lifting Arizona State to a 6-5 win Saturday, Nov. 26 in a game Minnesota dominated, but made enough mistakes to fall short.

Justen Close had 18 saves for the Gophers (11-5-0 overall) who split the weekend series and saw their four-game winning streak snapped. Matthew Knies, John Mittelstadt, Rhett Pitlick, Brock Faber and Jimmy Snuggerud added goals for Minnesota.

"They were putting pressure on. We had our chances. You just can't make those kinds of mistakes in any game, let alone on the road," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "You can't do that."

Arizona State improved to 8-7-0. Their coach said the Gophers' line of Knies, Snuggerud and Cooley is the best he has seen in the seven years the Sun Devils have played Division I hockey.

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"The messaging tonight was all about puck management. If you don't manage the puck against them, their transition game is so good and so crisp and so quick that you're on your heels before you can blink," said ASU coach Greg Powers, who is now 1-7-0 lifetime vs. Minnesota. "Especially that top line. It's the best line we've played against in college hockey. They're that good."

An early goal by the Sun Devils seemed to light a fire under the Gophers offensive stars. Minnesota answered with a pair of goals roughly four minutes apart later in the first. Knies got the rally started by popping in a loose puck in the crease after Logan Cooley had done some hard work down low to get into scoring position.

Minnesota took the lead when Pitlick held a puck in the offensive zone at the blue line, then passed to Aaron Huglen, who passed back to Pitlick for a deflection that beat the Sun Devils goalie low on the glove side.

The second period got interesting and not in a good way for the Gophers. They dominated for long stretches offensively, but Arizona State emerged with a 4-4 tie thanks to a few notable defensive lapses. The Sun Devils scored twice in 81 seconds to lead 3-2, but the Gophers answered. When Arizona State took a 4-3 lead on a breakaway, the Gophers found the equalizer just 39 seconds later when Snuggerud got his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

"We should've had a lot more goals. We had a lot of grade-A chances that should've gone in the back of the net," Snuggerud said. "Obviously, we didn't capitalize, but we're going to work through this week and come back stronger."

Mittlestadt gave the Gophers the third-period lead when he scored off the rebound of a Brody Lamb shot early in the final stanza. But the Sun Devils forced overtime via a shot through traffic late that Close didn’t see.

"We got good shifts out of all of our lines in spurts, but you can't throw in the colossal turnover," Motzko said.

T.J. Semptimphelter had 25 saves in the win for Arizona State.

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Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for the Gophers on Saturday were defensemen Matt Staudacher and Carl Fish, and forwards Colin Schmidt and Garrett Pinoniemi.

Perhaps it was superstition, but the Sun Devils played Saturday’s game outfitted in special uniforms featuring shiny metallic maroon helmets, which they had previously only worn for their 3-2 win over North Dakota in Las Vegas in late October.

Arizona State's pep band was in attendance for Saturday's game. They had missed the series opener on Friday because they were two hours south in Tucson for the Territorial Cup football game, which the Sun Devils lost to their archrivals, the University of Arizona.

When the final horn sounded on the Gophers football win at Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, a cheer went up from a group of around two dozen Minnesota parents and fans who had gathered at a sports bar in downtown Tempe prior to heading to the arena.

Up next, the Gophers finish a string of six consecutive road games with a pair of contests at Michigan State on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3. Minnesota is currently 6-2-0 in Big Ten play.

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Arizona State 6, Minnesota 5, OT

Minnesota 2-2-1-0—5

Arizona State 1-3-1-1—6

First period — 1. AS, Ryan Alexander 3 (Jack Judson, Robert Mastrosimone), 8:16. 2, MN, Matthew Knies 9 (Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud), 13:01. 3. MN, Rhett Pitlick 5 (Aaron Huglen), 16:50. Penalties — None.

Second period — 4. AS, Demetrios Koumontzis 4 (Ryan O’Reilly, Tim Lovell), 6:21. 5. AS, Ty Jackson 3 (Josh Doan), 7:42. 6. MN, Brock Faber 2 (Jaxon Nelson, Mason Nevers), 8:21. 7. AS, Alexander 4 (Mastrosimone), 12:50. 8. MN, Snuggerud 10 (Knies, Cooley), 13:28. Penalties — Teddy Lagerback, AS (hooking), 16:33.

Third period — 9. MN, John Mittlestadt 2 (Brody Lamb, Charlie Strobel), 3:16. 10. AS, Dylan Jackson 4 (Matthew Kapperud), 16:51. Penalties — None.

Overtime — 11. AS, Mastrosimone 6 (Doan), 3:10. Penalties — None.

Shots on goal — MN 12-12-5-2—31 AS 8-6-8-2—24. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (24 shots-18 saves); T.J. Semptimphelter, AS (31-26). Power plays — MN 0-of-1, AS 0-of-0. Referees — Sean Fernandez, Colin Kronforst. Linesmen — Colin Besch, Mike Sarter. Att. — 5,153.

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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