Huskies top Gophers in home-and-home opener

The No. 1/3 Minnesota men’s hockey team suffered a 3-0 loss in a top-four matchup at No. 4 St. Cloud State Saturday night from the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

The Golden Gophers put pressure on the Huskies all game, but could not break through and the home side scored two empty-net goals during the final minute of play in the first game of a home-and-home series.

Two minutes into the contest, the visitors almost struck first as Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud worked a give-and-go at the offensive blueline after a Matthew Knies breakout pass. Snuggerud broke behind the defense and his backhand was stopped on a sprawling save by the SCSU goaltender. The Huskies had a surge following that play, only to be denied by the Gophers’ Justen Close on a pair of point-blank chances.

Minnesota held off the SCSU attack and delivered a penalty kill in the middle of the first frame as both teams were unable to find the back of the net in a scoreless period. That appeared to change at the 2:47 mark of the second stanza as Jaxon Nelson tipped in a shot from the point, but after video review, was deemed to be a high stick and the goal was waved off the board to the delight of the sellout crowd.

Momentum stayed with the Maroon and Gold as it carried the action early in the middle period until a broken play behind the net led to a Huskies goal 9:09 into the frame. The home side went on the power play shortly following the goal that the Gophers successfully killed. Seconds after the visitors returned to full strength, Snuggerud rang an odd-angle shot off the crossbar as the deficit remained, 1-0. Bryce Brodzinski nearly pulled Minnesota even from inside the crease as Ryan Johnson found his fellow senior on a wraparound late in the second.

Both teams were whistled for minor infractions in the final minute of the second and the Gophers dominated possession during 4-on-4 play on the fresh ice sheet at the start of the third. A man advantage allowed Minnesota to put pucks on goal, looking for the equalizer and SCSU held off the visitors. A late push by the Gophers was silenced and the Huskies capitalized with an empty net, scoring twice in the last 49 seconds for the 3-0 result.

Close remained poised in goal all night, allowing the Gophers the chance to keep the game tight and the senior finished with 19 saves.