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Badgers' weekend visit means one Moe reunion of current and former Gophers goalies

Last season, Wisconsin goalie Jared Moe and Minnesota goalie Justen Close spent 1,700 minutes on the Gophers' bench, making small talk while Jack LaFontaine occupied the crease. This season they will face each other on the ice with vital Big Ten points up for grabs.

Wisconsin goaltender Jared Moe (center) searched for a loose puck amid a crowd of Badgers and Minnesota Gophers during a game on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
Tom Lynn / Wisconsin Athletic Communications

MINNEAPOLIS — While both men are friendly and straightforward, neither Wisconsin Badgers goalie Jared Moe nor Minnesota Gophers goalie Justen Close would be considered the overly talkative type. But at one point in their college careers, they had lots of time to chat.

For much of the previous two seasons, Moe and Close were the backup goalies to Gophers every night starter Jack LaFontaine, and would take their place at the end of the bench during games, encouraging their teammates and waiting for the call, if needed. That call almost never came.

“Well, we had a lot of time to get to know each other, that’s for sure,” Close said of last season. “Lots of small talk throughout the games that year.”

While LaFontaine was winning the Mike Richter Award — given to college hockey’s top goalie — and playing more than 1,700 minutes in the Gophers’ crease, Moe got two nonconference starts and Close played 20 minutes of mop-up duty in a lopsided loss to Wisconsin. In April, Moe transferred to the Badgers program in search of a starting role, which he has found in Madison, albeit on a team that has struggled. The Badgers come to 3M Arena at Mariucci this weekend with a 6-15-1 conference mark and will finish either fifth or sixth in the seven-team Big Ten, after winning the conference a year ago.

Moe has been the goalie of record in seven of Wisconsin’s nine wins, and with a .914 saves percentage has put up decent numbers with little goal support. The 69 goals recorded by the Badgers is last in the Big Ten. Moe won a Badgers’ home game versus the Gophers in November, but is expecting a different feel with the U of M student section at his back for 40 minutes on Friday.


Notre Dame vs Minnesota
Minnesota goaltender Justen Close turned aside a Notre Dame shot in the second period of a 5-1 Gophers win over the Irish on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2022 at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Brad Rempel / University of Minnesota Athletics

“I think it's going to be a weird feeling, playing them on the road,” said Moe, a lefty who is from New Prague, Minn., and played prep hockey at Holy Family Catholic. “It's one thing to play them here. I thought that was a weird experience for me but I think this weekend's going to be a little more different for me than the one we played them here.”

Meanwhile, back in the State of Hockey, Close is 9-3-0 as a starter since taking over for the departed LaFontaine in January. The Gophers are on their biggest roll of the season, having won six in a row to climb within two points of conference-leading Michigan with two games left for each team. The Wolverines hold the tiebreaker, so Minnesota needs two wins versus Wisconsin and needs Notre Dame to beat Michigan at least once in their series this weekend to win the Big Ten outright.

The Gophers’ coach is working to make sure his team has a shorter focus and is not looking further down the road than necessary.

“We’ve got to win Friday night. No matter what scenarios happen we have … to control what we can and our whole focus is Friday night,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “We’re going to have to scoreboard watch with Michigan at Notre Dame, but there’s no sense in doing it if we don’t take care of Friday. The scoreboard watching for us only starts once we win Friday. We’ve got to take care of what we can take care of.”

The duo coached together at Hamline for six seasons and under Brad Frost with the Minnesota Gophers for a season. They take over a Pioneers program that was among Minnesota's best in 2022-23.
The New Prague native is a two-time U18 gold medalist and was a prep standout before producing 146 points in 160 games over five seasons in maroon and gold.
In an unexpected move, the two-time national champion player will not be back with the U of M after two seasons working for head coach Brad Frost and helping her alma mater to the Frozen Four.
With much of his offense returning, we expect coach Bob Motzko will add three forwards, three defensemen and a goalie to a roster that was within a few minutes of winning the NCAA title in April.
After leading the Gophers offensively in his final college season, some thought NHL success was inevitable for the Finnish forward. After battling injuries in the AHL, he is back in Europe.
Larson has international experience from his stint as an Olympic assistant coach in 2022, while Miller will be working his seventh World Juniors for Team USA, and looking for his third gold medal.
A prep state champion as a sophomore, Begley spent parts of the last two seasons in the NAHL, most recently with the Wisconsin Windigo where he was the team's top-scoring defenseman.
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.
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.

Weekend details

Friday’s game versus Wisconsin is an 8 p.m. start and will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Clay Matwick and Sean Ritchlin calling the action. The Saturday rematch is Senior Night for the Gophers. The game faces off at 7 p.m. CT and will be broadcast by Big Ten Network with Ben Holden and Fred Pletsch on the call.

On radio, the Gophers can be heard on 1130 AM / 103.5 FM in the Twin Cities with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco describing the action.

Postgame interviews with coach Motzko and Gophers players can be seen live, roughly 10 minutes after the final horn at The Rink Live’s Facebook page .


The Gophers and Badgers have been facing off in the Border Battle for a century now, having first met on ice in Madison on Jan. 20-21, 1922. The Gophers swept that series 3-0 and 3-1, and lead the all-time series versus Wisconsin with a 176-100-24 record in 300 meetings. They split a series at the Kohl Center in November, with Wisconsin prevailing 4-3 in overtime to take the opener and the Gophers salvaging a split with a 4-1 win in the finale.

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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