Gophers top North Dakota in OT

Matthew Knies was the overtime hero as No. 1-ranked Minnesota rallied late for a 3-2, overtime victory against No. 7 North Dakota Friday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Playing in front of an over-capacity crowd of 10,418, the Golden Gophers tied the game with the goalie pulled when Mason Nevers jumped off the bench and found the back of the net from the high slot as the clock hit 1:24 remaining in regulation to force overtime. It was pure tenacity from Knies getting the game winner as the sophomore muscled his way to the net winning a one-on-one battle and while falling, slid the puck under the goalie’s pads 21 seconds into OT.

Minnesota carried the play nearly the entire night outshooting the opposition by a 38-18 margin but needed the late charge to down the Fighting Hawks. Both sides brought the physicality delivering bone-crunching hits as each tried to set the tone early. It was the visitors that struck for a 1-0 advantage using a shot redirected from the point less than five minutes into the contest. The Gophers fought back, generating quality scoring chances up and down the lineup that tested the UND goaltender during the opening frame and went into intermission trailing, 1-0.

The relentless, offensive pressure from the home side carried over into the second period as the Gophers pushed for the tying goal, only to be stopped at each chance. The Fighting Hawks thought they doubled the lead, but a paddle-down save by Justen Close kept it a one-goal deficit for Minnesota.

After holding an 8-7 edge in shots through one period, the home team stretched that margin to 22-11 putting 11-straight on frame until Jackson LaCombe buried the equalizer at the 18:37 mark. The senior skated along the blue line and cut in at the right circle before lifting a backhand to the near corner for his first goal of the season. A late power play gifted UND an opportunity and the visitors capitalized taking a 2-1 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the period.

The Gophers had to hold off a Fighting Hawks’ surge as the puck dropped on the third frame, but again found time and space in the offensive zone. Minnesota got its second power play of the night halfway through the period and Logan Cooley came inches from scoring as his one-timer rang off the post. It took until nearly the end of regulation for the home side to even the game as Mike Koster found Nevers in the slot for the tying goal.

The Maroon and Gold controlled the puck for all 21 seconds of the extra session as Cooley connected with an open Brock Faber at the blue line. The junior captain sent a cross-ice pass to Knies and the Phoenix, Ariz., product did the rest, sending the Minnesota faithful into a winning frenzy.

Close stood tall in goal providing critical saves when his team needed him and finished the night turning away 16 shots improving to 3-1 on the season.

LaCombe’s goal was the 11th of his career as he remains Minnesota’s active leader in career points with 69 … The game winning goal from Knies was the third of his Gophers career and his two-point performance was his 10th for the ‘U’ … Nevers has now scored in back-to-back outings … Friday night’s announced attendance of 10,418 ranks seventh all-time at 3M Arena at Mariucci … It was the first game this season where the Gophers did not open the scoring having taken the lead in each of the previous four contests.

Coach Motzko’s Comments
“Nevers was our best player tonight,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “Just working his tail off and we reward him putting him out there and he scores right away. I couldn’t be happier. There is an upperclassman stepping up.”

Next Up: Home vs. No. 7 North Dakota (Oct. 22)
The Gophers close the home series with the Fighting Hawks Saturday night at 7 p.m. live on Bally Sports North and the Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM/1130 KTLK.