Gophers beat Robert Morris 4-1 to complete weekend sweep

Mason Nevers and Mike Koster each scored their first goal of the season Saturday and the No. 12/11 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team secured a series sweep over Robert Morris, winning 4-1 inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Minnesota (12-6-4 overall) won its third-straight game in the non-conference finale versus the Colonials (6-18-3 overall), getting multi-point efforts from Connor Kurth and Oliver Moore. In total, nine different players recorded a point for the Maroon and Gold, while goaltender Justen Close made 16 saves in the victory.

After the Gophers tested the RMU netminder early, Jimmy Clark drew a power play three minutes into the action and the home side’s chance was erased. A pass by Moore from behind the net to an open Jimmy Snuggerud nearly got the scoring started in the middle of the frame but the Colonials’ goaltender was able to hold the puck under his pad. The next shift, Bryce Brodzinski picked off an errant pass and found Nevers, who buried his chance for a 1-0 edge at the 9:37 mark. The lead remained one at the end of the first period and the teams were assessed matching minors before exiting the ice.

Skating 4-on-4 to begin the second stanza, Minnesota took the initiative and generated offensive zone time until the penalties expired. RMU found space in the neutral zone and pressured Close’s net, where the graduate student made a pair of clutch saves to maintain the advantage. He added a breakaway save via a shorthanded chance from the visitors before Mike Koster controlled the play at the other end and rushed the net. The senior flipped the puck high over the blocker for a power-play tally 4:53 into the period and the Maroon and Gold doubled the margin to 2-0.

Over the next three minutes, the Gophers thought they scored twice, both times off the stick of Aaron Huglen, only to have each waved off by the officials. The second time, a bench challenge proved successful as the goalie interference call was overturned, giving the home side a three-goal cushion. Kurth set up the play with a perfect, cross-ice feed to the junior, who slipped a shot between the pads 11 seconds past the game’s midpoint. The Colonials got on the scoreboard in the final five minutes of the frame, scoring on a 3-on-1 break that began when a Minnesota shot went wide of the net, allowing a quick breakout and the odd-man rush.

Both teams generated chances to begin the third period and skated without a whistle for nearly seven minutes. The Gophers kept on the attack and stretched their advantage to 4-1 at the 8:23 mark thanks to a snipe from Snuggerud. Moore started the play by forcing an RMU turnover and pushed a pass to Rhett Pitlick, who threaded a saucer pass between two Colonials and on the tape of Snuggerud at the right circle. The sophomore wired a shot off the left post and in for his 17th goal of the year.

Minnesota held off the visitors the rest of the evening, securing its second sweep this season and first since opening weekend against St. Thomas (Oct. 13-14).