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Rinkytown blog: Matthew Knies, Brock Faber returning as Gophers' 2022-23 roster starts to take shape

Two-thirds of the Minnesota Gophers' "Olympic trio" will be back in Minneapolis next season. Also, blue line in flux with Brinkman headed to a B1G rival, and the nonconference schedule is slowly being revealed.

Minnesota forward Matthew Knies (89) moved the puck ahead of a slow-down attempt by Minnesota State Mankato defender Akito Hirose (2) during the Mavericks' 5-1 won over the Gophers in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday, April 7, 2022 at TD Garden in Boston.
Brad Rempel / University of Minnesota Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS – In just one season of college hockey, Minnesota Gophers fans have learned a few things about Matthew Knies: He is sizable, physically. He has a nose for the net. He doesn’t care much for Minnesota winters. And he’s up for at least one more of them.

Knies scored the only Gophers goal on April 7 in Boston when they fell 5-1 to Minnesota State Mankato in the Frozen Four semifinals. After that game, the freshman from Arizona was asked about his whirlwind first college season, which included trips to World Juniors and to the Olympics, a Big Ten regular season title and the program’s first Frozen Four trip in eight years. In that moment, it was a great deal to absorb.

“Honestly I haven't really wrapped my head around it. This one stings right now. This is what's stuck in my head,” Knies said, at a podium on ice level at TD Garden. “But, I think it will settle in later in the future that this was the best year of my life. Honestly, this was the most fun group I've been a part of. I'm damn proud to be a part of this team.”

Exactly one week later, Knies decided that being a part of this team — the maroon and gold one that was selling out 3M Arena at Mariucci by the end of his freshman year — is worth giving another try. Despite an opportunity to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs and start his professional career now, Knies announced he will return to the U of M for his sophomore season.

Team USA's Brock Faber (14) warms up before the men's ice hockey preliminary round
Team USA's Brock Faber (14) warms up before the men's ice hockey preliminary round against Canada at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Faber, a Minnesota Gophers defenseman, was acquired by the Minnesota Wild in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings.
George Walker IV / USA Today Sports

That news, coupled with the announced return of defenseman Brock Faber earlier in the week, means that two-thirds of the Gophers “Olympic trio” will be back in Minneapolis as the team defends its conference crown and seeks a return to the Frozen Four, which begins on April 6, 2023 in Tampa. The third member of the trio, forward Ben Meyers , signed a free agent pact with the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and is expected to make his NHL debut soon.


Faber, who is a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, was reportedly offered a spot on the LA blue line and a chance to make his NHL debut at home in a Sunday, April 10 game versus the Wild in St. Paul, but offered his future employer a polite no thank you.

Minnesota Gophers defenseman Ben Brinkman battled Michigan State's Adam Goodsir for a loose puck on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Brinkman was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars. Courtesy of Rey Del Rio / MSU Athletics

Brinkman transfers, blue line unsettled

Like the Gophers, Notre Dame has had a productive pipeline from Edina in recent years. That is a trend that will continue next season, after former Gophers defenseman Ben Brinkman told The Rink Live he is headed to northern Indiana for his extra season of college eligibility. Brinkman, who will be a super senior for the Irish next season, was a regular on the Gophers blue line for four years previously.

Never a big point producer – Brinkman has two career goals – he was instead renowned by the Gophers coaches for his steady shut-down defensive play and a physical presence along the boards when needed. His addition to the Notre Dame roster means a reunion with Jake Boltmann, an Irish defenseman who played alongside Brinkman at Edina. Boltmann, who will be a sophomore at Notre Dame, was originally committed to the Gophers but joined the Irish roster in the middle of the 2020-21 season instead.

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Brinkman, who was drafted by the Dallas Stars, has gone to development camp with the NHL team in the past. He is one of four Gophers who entered the transfer portal this week, along with defenseman Matt Denman, forward Grant Cruikshank (who is headed to St. Cloud State), forward Jonny Sorenson and forward Jack Perbix, who entered the portal on Friday morning, April 15.

The Gophers are waiting to hear if defensemen Ryan Johnson (a first round pick of the Buffalo Sabres) and Jackson LaCombe (a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks) will return. They have two defensemen – Ryan Chesley and Luke Mittelstadt – signed to national letters of intent for next season.

NCAA Men's Hockey 2021: Minnesota v North Dakota NOV 27
Defenseman Brock Faber (14) guarded the space in front of goalie Jack LaFontaine during a game between the Minnesota Gophers and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks on Nov. 27, 2021 at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.
Russell Hons / University of Minnesota Athletics

Schedule being revealed, slowly

While the NCHC put its 2022-23 conference schedule out this week, the Big Ten is notoriously more patient with these things, and if history is a guide, we won’t likely see the full Gophers schedule until sometime in the late summer. But from other teams’ schedules, we can piece together a little of who you will see facing off versus the U of M next fall and winter.


The Gophers split a pair at North Dakota last November, meaning that it’s the Fighting Hawks’ turn to come to Minneapolis this season. Per a The Rink Live story from Brad Schlossman , look for that green team and their army of fans inside 3M Arena at Mariucci over the weekend of Oct. 21-22.

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.
The Minnesota Gophers center led the team in scoring on the way to a Big Ten title and a trip to the NCAA title game, and recently announced he will return for a sophomore college hockey season.
Fargo native Trent Wiemken has gone 8-1-1 in the Robertson Cup playoffs as the mainstay goalie for the Austin Bruins playoffs while working with former Minnesota Gophers goalie Nick Lehr's coaching.
The former Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner is coming off a senior campaign where he notched career highs in goals and points while playing right wing on the Gophers' second line much of the season.
When the vote to build a new Arizona Coyotes rink in Tempe failed, a big piece of their future decided that NHL hockey can wait another year, and Logan Cooley announced his return to the U of M.

Other nonconference series we expect are with Minnesota Duluth (the only team that swept the Gophers last season), St. Cloud State (they split a home-and-home last season), a home series with Colorado College (the Gophers opened the 2019-20 season with a split at CC) and a road series at Arizona State, which was part of the arrangement to give the Sun Devils a slate of games during the messy 2020-21 season.

One idea that has been floated starting next season is to do away with the home-and-home series versus Minnesota Duluth and instead play two games versus the Bulldogs either at home or on the road. This has been a request from many Gophers fans who would prefer two games in Duluth so they are better able to make a weekend trip to the Twin Ports and North Shore out of the hockey series. Bulldogs fans looking to spend two nights of hockey and two days of shopping and sightseeing in the Twin Cities have expressed similar wishes.

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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