Gophers top Notre Dame in overtime

Jimmy Snuggerud’s overtime winner sent the No. 8/7 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team to a 3-2 victory at Notre Dame from Compton Family Ice Arena Saturday evening.

After goaltender Justen Close made a save in the extra session at one end for Minnesota (19-8-5 overall, 12-6-4 B1G), Snuggerud scored at the other to defeat the Fighting Irish (15-15-2 overall, 9-11-2 B1G). The Chaska, Minn., collected an Aaron Huglen outlet pass and cut into the slot before ripping home his 19th goal of the year.

From the opening faceoff, the pace of play was quick as both teams showcased speed in the neutral zone, leading to early chances on the rush. A defensive-zone turnover by the Maroon and Gold six minutes into the game nearly proved costly, but a stick in the lane by Mike Koster deflected the puck away. The Gophers pushed their attack and generated a pair of odd-man rushes and quality looks from Aaron Huglen, Jaxon Nelson, and Axel Begley that were all turned aside before earning their first man advantage with 8:25 remaining in the period. The Irish killed off the penalty and Minnesota fired seven-straight shots to close the frame, holding the home side without a shot on goal for the final 12:46 of a scoreless draw through 20 minutes.

The Gophers remained on the offensive beginning the second stanza and capitalized less than two minutes into the period. Huglen won a faceoff and drove to the net before his shot was pushed behind the goal, where Connor Kurth picked it up and buried the wraparound chance at the 1:44 mark. Notre Dame fought back to even the score, 1-1, less than five minutes later with a player in the crease, which was deemed not to be goaltender interference after a Minnesota video challenge.

Close needed to deliver a critical save on an Irish breakaway in the middle of the period as the game’s intensity ramped up. After Notre Dame scored on a shot from distance for a 2-1 lead at the 13:22 mark, the margin was short lived as the Gophers responded on the next shift. Nelson chipped the puck past a defenseman and rifled a shot bar-down from the left circle 18 seconds later, returning the sellout crowd back to their seats, tied 2-2. The teams played even for the remainder of the period, thanks to four blocked shots by Minnesota, and went to the locker room deadlocked.

The playoff-like atmosphere carried on during the final frame and the goaltenders held off the opposition at each end of the ice. Nelson rang a shot off the crossbar seven minutes into the period, looking for the go-ahead tally after a nifty feed from behind the net by Mason Nevers. The Gophers used their aggressive forecheck to draw their second power play on the next shift and forced a tough save via a Rhett Pitlick shot from the left wing.

With 4:24 remaining in regulation, Minnesota appeared to break the tie as Brody Lamb finished off a rebound after Huglen was checked into the Notre Dame netminder. It was determined to be no goal following an official review and the game went into an extra session.

In the ninth overtime game of the year for the Gophers, it was Snuggerud that provided the heroics 78 seconds into the extra frame. Close made a glove save off a 2-on-1 from the Irish and Ryan Chesley quickly moved the puck ahead to Huglen, who made a stretch pass to a waiting Snuggerud. The sophomore took the puck at the blue line and skated to the middle of the ice, where he let go a wrister that beat the Irish goaltender for a 3-2 victory.

Close turned in a bounce-back performance and ended the night with 24 saves, including 12 during the second period, winning his 58th career game for the Maroon and Gold.