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Pitlick scores twice as Gophers dominate depleted Michigan lineup

On a night where both teams were missing key players due to illness, sophomore Rhett Pitlick scored twice and rookies did the rest of the heavy lifting as the Minnesota Gophers never trailed in a key road win at Michigan.

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Before a packed house at historic Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, MIchigan, the second-ranked Minnesota Gophers notched an important road win over the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
Jess Myers / The Rink Live

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On a night dominated by trouble off the ice, the Minnesota Gophers did enough good things on the rink to earn an important road win.

Youth led the way, as sophomore Rhett Pitlick scored twice and a trio of freshmen added goals in a 5-2 win Thursday versus a Michigan team that was playing with a lineup depleted due to illness.

"We did a lot of good things tonight, but for as good as we were at times, we let them off the mat," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, referencing the 13 minutes in penalties his team took, which allowed the Michigan power play to get them back in the game for a time.

Rookie goalie Owen Bartoszkiewicz, making his first start in a Big Ten game, stopped 29 pucks as the second-ranked Gophers improved to 9-4-0 overall and 5-2-0 in the conference. The Gophers were playing without center Aaron Huglen and starting goalie Justen Close. Jimmy Snuggerud, Logan Cooley and Luke Mittlestadt added goals for the Gophers to start a string of six consecutive road games on the right note.

"We started the game well and ended it well, with a little craziness in the middle," Motzko said.

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Dylan Duke scored twice for the Wolverines (9-4-0, 2-3-0) who had six regulars missing from their lineup due to illness. Their interim head coach admitted that it was hard to concentrate on the game at times.

"It's been an extremely emotional week. We didn't talk about hockey too much this week," Wolverines coach Brandon Naurato said. "It's been nothing but worrying about our teammates and their mental health and physical health."

Determined to dictate the pace of play right from the start, the Gophers recorded the first seven shots on goal, and the first goal of the game. Pitlick, who hadn’t scored since getting his first of the season versus North Dakota last month, beat Wolverines goalie Erik Portillo with a low-angle wrist shot for an early Gophers lead.

When the Gophers ran into trouble, it was with a player in the penalty box, as Michigan’s Duke scored on the power play in the first and second periods – the second goal coming while Gophers freshman Logan Cooley served a five-minute major penalty for cross checking. In between, Pitlick got his second of the game with the teams skating four-on-four, and Snuggerud slipped a puck past Portillo with an assist from Cooley not long after the latter had gotten out of the penalty box.

Already down a man, the Wolverines were called for a protocol violation, giving Minnesota a 5-on-3 power play. Cooley needed less than a minute to double the Gophers lead. Mittlestadt unleashed a blast from the blue line later for his first collegiate goal.

Portillo finished with 36 saves for Michigan.

Succinctly-scripted homecoming

Growing up in the Detroit suburbs, less than 25 miles from the Michigan campus, Bartoszkiewicz had played at Yost as a youth, getting in a few U15 games on the Wolverines home ice. But he'd never been the enemy, with a student section in full throat, jeering his every move.

"It wasn't too bad," said a smiling Bartoszkiewicz after his spot-on play helped quiet the Michigan fans. "It's always nice to play in front of a big crowd."

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Close missed practice all week due to illness, but was on the team plane to Michigan on Wednesday in hopes that he could play. When, on Thursday morning, it became clear that Close would be unavailalbe, Motzko informed Bartoszkiewicz that he would get the nod, which was enough time to let a few friends and family from the area know they would see a familiar name at Yost in maroon and gold on Thursday evening.

"I know a couple guys who were texting me, 'Are you playing, are you playing?' It's a lot of fun and nice to be back here," he said. "I know a lot of my family is here and I'll talk to them soon."

Bartoszkiewicz has now started three games, beating Lindenwood at home, leaving a start versus North Dakota in the second period, and winning at Michigan. It is worth noting that of the 11 goals he has given up, seven of them have come with the opponent on the power play.

"He responded in a big way. It was in there, and we knew it," Motzko said of the solid game from his goalie. "We hung him out to dry in that (second) start he had. He's been battling hard and with Closer down right now, we have no issue to go with him. He responded great."

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Extra pucks

Due to Big Ten rules limiting the size of a team’s traveling party, Gophers forwards Carl Fish and Colin Schmidt stayed in Minneapolis.

Both coaches challenged plays for potential major penalties in the second period. Both were reviewed, and both were found to not be major penalties, meaning neither team had a timeout to use for the second half of the game.

The Gophers conclude this series at Michigan with a 5 p.m. CT start on Friday at Yost Ice Arena. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

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In addition to his first collegiate goal, Mittlestadt had two assists, and two penalties, in the game. The second penalty, for holding, came on a play where Middlestadt kept both hands on his stick and was whistled anyway. Motzko, who had an animated conversation with the officials before the start of the second period, joked afterward that Mittlestadt didn't take a penalty in the game but got called for two.

Minnesota 5, Michigan 2

Minnesota 1-2-2—5

Michigan 1-1-0—2

First period — 1. MN, Rhett Pitlick 2 (Luke Mittelstadt, Jackson LaCombe), 5:41. 2, MI, Dylan Duke 6 (Rutger McGroarty, Seamus Casey), 16:39, (PP). Penalties — L. Mittelstadt, MN (interference), 10:51; L. Mittelstadt, MN (holding), 15:38.

Second period — 3. MN, Pitlick 3 (Mike Koster, L. Mittelstadt), 7:17, (4-on-4). 4. MI, Duke 7 (Luke Hughes, Casey), 10:39, (PP). 5. MN, Jimmy Snuggerud 9 (Logan Cooley, Brock Faber), 11:59. Penalties — Philippe Lapointe, MI (tripping), 5:25; Cooley, MN (5-cross checking), 6:35; Connor Kurth, MN (tripping), 15:16; Jackson Hallum, MI (tripping), 19:01.

Third period — 6. MN, Cooley 4 (Bryce Brodzinski, LaCombe), 0:38. 7. MN, L. Mittelstadt 1 (Koster, Snuggerud), 5:39. Penalties — Bench (served by Tyler Shea), MI (delay of game), 0:00; Jaxon Nelson, MN (hooking), 3:20; Hallum, MI (hooking), 3:37; Mark Estapa, MI (slashing), 14:04.

Shots on goal — MN 13-17-11—41 MI 8-12-11—31. Goalies — Owen Bartoszkiewicz, MN (31 shots-29 saves); Erik Portillo, MI (41-36). Power plays — MN 1-of-5, MI 2-of-6. Referees — Joseph Carusone, Brett Sheva. Linesmen — Bill Hancock, Jake Davis. Att. — 5,800.

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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