Knies leads Gophers to OT win over Michigan

Matthew Knies capped a three-point night with the game-winning goal in overtime as the No. 2 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team took down No. 8/7 Michigan, 4-3, Friday night from 3M Arena at Mariucci.

With 8.8 seconds remaining in the extra session and on the power play, Knies buried his NCAA-leading fifth game winner of the season. It came on a rebound off a Logan Cooley shot, sending Minnesota (18-6-1 overall, 12-2-1 B1G) to its third-straight win over the Wolverines (13-9-1 overall, 5-8-0 B1G). Facing a one-goal deficit entering the third period, Jackson LaCombe pulled the Maroon and Gold even with 4:10 to play in regulation as the senior matched a career high with three points in the series opener.

The Gophers were on the move from the opening faceoff and pressured the Michigan zone until drawing a penalty 6:28 into the contest. The power play failed to convert, but the home side collected five of the first six shots on goal, while dictating the pace of the game. The Wolverines fought back and maintained possession only to be denied by blocked shots and the pads of goaltender Justen Close.

A five-minute major against the visitors with 48 seconds remaining in the opening period allowed Minnesota to take the lead before heading to the locker room. Jimmy Snuggerud pounced on a loose puck in the crease and put the Gophers in front, 1-0, following Knies’ drive to the net.

Bryce Brodzinski nearly made it a two-goal advantage early in the second as his shot from the top of the circle rang off the left post. John Mittelstadt nearly chipped in a shot over the Michigan netminder and a sprawling save on a Connor Kurth attempt kept it a 1-0 contest as the Gophers’ attack was relentless. The visitors found the tying goal seconds after the power play expired, putting away a rebound from the slot at the 12:00 mark of the period.

The individual effort of Knies helped the Gophers regain the lead with less than four minutes in the second. The sophomore burst around the Michigan defense, thanks to a stretch pass from Ryan Chesley, and faked the goalie before going high over the blocker. The Wolverines answered back scoring twice, 15 seconds apart, for a 3-2 edge and their first lead of the season series. All three goals came in a span of 58 seconds.

The Gophers thought they pulled even on a third-period power play, but the whistle was blown early and negated a potential goal. Mike Koster came inches from finding the back of the net as he rifled a shot off the post during the same man advantage. Cal Thomas added the third shot off the framework late in the final frame as the puck luck was not on the home side Friday night.

That changed in the blink of an eye as LaCombe hammered home a one-timer off a cross-ice feed by Koster for a 3-3 tie. It was nearly the exact spot the senior scored the tying goal a week ago at Notre Dame to force another overtime session. While not getting credit for a point on the play, it was the tenacity of Mason Nevers that generated the chance along the boards.

Tensions inside the sold-out arena rose as the action went up-and-down the ice in overtime and Brock Faber’s rush helped draw a late penalty. With the game clock dwindling down, it was Knies that delivered the winner for Minnesota to complete the come-from-behind victory, 4-3.

Close picked up his 15th win of the year as the senior turned away 31 shots. The Gophers fired 48 shots on goal, the second-highest total in a game this year and went 2-for-6 on the power play, while holding Michigan 0-for-2 on the man advantage.