Gopher hockey scores 5 in third, falls in OT to Michigan in wild regular season finale

The No. 8 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team erased a three-goal deficit in the third period before falling in overtime, 6-5, to No. 16 Michigan inside 3M Arena at Mariucci Saturday night. Jaxon Nelson scored twice and had three points during the comeback bid, while Luke Mittelstadt found the back of the net with an extra attacker on the ice to force the extra session.

Trailing 4-1 in the middle of the final frame, Minnesota (20-9-5 overall, 13-7-4 B1G) fought back to pick up a point thanks to a wild period that saw a combined seven goals, five of which came from the home team. The Wolverines (17-13-3 overall, 10-11-2 B1G) scored a power-play goal in overtime, snapping the Maroon and Gold’s eight-game winning streak at home in the last game of the regular season. The Gophers claimed eight of a possible 12 points during the season series against Michigan and will enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed in next weekend’s Big Ten Conference quarterfinals.

The action started with a fast pace and went nearly three minutes before the first stoppage. A penalty on Minnesota allowed the nation’s best power-play an early chance and the Wolverines took advantage for a 1-0 lead 8:01 into the night. The Gophers drew their own 5-on-4 opportunity less than a minute after the opening goal, but the power play was erased by the visitors. Using the man advantage, the Gophers generated pressure in the offensive zone, leading to quality looks from Jimmy Snuggerud and Brody Lamb. Things quickly turned sour as Michigan scored twice in a 31-second span during the final four minutes to take a 3-0 margin into intermission.

Turning the page to the second period, the Gophers sent in freshman netminder Nathan Airey and went to an early power play utilizing speed through the neutral zone. The visitors killed off the chance and immediately went to a man advantage as Minnesota had too many players on the ice. Airey made a pair of sliding saves on the penalty kill, leading to a breakaway at the other end for Aaron Huglen. The junior did not convert, but he was slashed on the play and the teams skated four aside before the Gophers returned to another power play.

That chance was denied again, and the Wolverines went right back to the familiar penalty box for a dangerous cross check from behind, confirmed for a five-minute major and game misconduct at the 9:10 mark. With an opportunity to swing momentum, Minnesota managed only five shots on frame, none of which found the back of the net, and it remained a three-goal deficit at the end of the second period.

It took just 32 seconds into the final frame for the Gophers to energize the capacity crowd as the captain Nelson buried a shot high over the goalie’s glove from a sharp angle at the bottom of the right circle. Moments later, Lamb nearly finished off a 2-on-0 with Huglen only to see his one-timer knocked aside. In the middle of the stanza, the teams were whistled for matching minors and Michigan used the extra space to push in front, 4-1, with 12:59 remaining in regulation.

Minnesota responded 57 seconds later as Lamb tipped home a Mittelstadt shot from the point and the home side continued its attack. Nelson put away his second of the night and the crowd roared in support as the graduate student fired a shot from below the goal line that snuck under the pads of Michigan’s unsuspecting goaltender.

The roof nearly blew off the building when the Maroon and Gold pulled even, 4-4, with 5:56 to play as Huglen stayed on a puck that bounced off the end wall and banked it into the net. The Wolverines settled things and found the go-ahead tally as the clock hit 3:24.

The Gophers continued their fight and with Airey pulled for an extra attacker, Nelson found a streaking Mittelstadt in the goal crease where the sophomore buried the tying goal at the 18:21 mark. A penalty on Minnesota with 16 seconds remaining in regulation proved costly during overtime as the visitors scored for the second time on the man advantage, ending the contest 6-5.

Minnesota said thank you to its four-member senior class during a postgame ceremony, honoring Mike Koster, Nick Michel, Mason Nevers, and Carl Fish.

Nelson scored for the third-straight game with his second-consecutive, multi-goal effort and increased his career-high goal total to 14, thanks to five during the weekend … The Magnolia, Minn., native added an assist on the tying goal for the third three-point game of his career, all coming this year … Lamb put away his 12th tally this year, to go with an assist Saturday, and has goals in three of four meetings against the Wolverines … Huglen continues his torrid scoring with his 10th goal of the season, his first time reaching double figures as a Gopher, and has seven points over his last six outings … After snapping a streak of 32 games without a goal Friday night, Mittelstadt scored for the second-straight game, recording a goal in consecutive contests for the first time in his career … The sophomore also had an assist and registered his second multi-point outing this year … Behind his first multi-point performance of the season, Nevers recorded his 11th assist and 15th point, while extending his point streak to a season-long three games … Bryce Brodzinski skated in his 180th career game for the Maroon and Gold, moving into a tie for second all-time with Grant Bischoff (1987-91), and posted a helper for his 19th assist this season and fourth of the series … The fifth-year senior is one point shy of the team lead as he now has 32 points, a new career high … Koster and Cal Thomas each picked up an assist and now have 13 and nine points, respectively … Jimmy Clark finally found the scoresheet as the freshman tallied an assist to end a 13-game point drought … After scoring three times on the power play Friday, the Maroon and Gold were held 0-for-4 in the series finale … Saturday’s announced attendance of 10,564 was the fourth highest in 3M Arena at Mariucci history and the sixth sellout at home this season … Minnesota, the second-least penalized team in the NCAA, totaled double-digit penalty minutes for just the second time since early December … The Gophers celebrated their first-ever men’s hockey national championship team from 1974 for their 50th anniversary during the first intermission as 13 former players returned to campus.

Coach Motzko’s Comments
“For two periods we were disinterested in the game,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “Then we scored a goal and got life. What an incredible crowd again and at least we gave them one entertaining hockey game. We were doing things you can’t do for two periods.”

Next Up: Home vs. Penn State (Mar. 8-10)
Minnesota remains at home to begin the Big Ten Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed and will host the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions of Penn State at 3M Arena at Mariucci March 8-10. The series is going to be televised on FS2 and streaming on the Fox Sports app, while an audio broadcast will be available on the Gopher Radio Network 1130 KTLK-AM/103.5 FM. Tickets are on sale now for the best-of-three postseason series at

Courtesy: University of Minnesota Sports Information