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Matthew Knies beats the clock, OT shot lifts Gophers over Michigan

A power-play goal in the final seconds of overtime was the difference-maker as the Minnesota Gophers came from behind for a critical Big Ten win over Michigan on Friday.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Colin Schmidt (16) and Michigan forward Mackie Samoskevich (11) work out their differences during the first period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS — According to Miro Knies, it is sunny and close to 70 every day in January in Arizona, where they live and raised son Matthew, before seeing him off to the Minnesota Gophers.

Knowing his warm-weather parents would come to visit in January, Matthew bought them winter boots and jackets for Christmas. He also gave them a nice on-ice "Welcome to the State of Hockey" present on Friday.

Knies scored his second goal of the game on a power play late in overtime to break a deadlock and lift the Gophers to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Friday.

Jackson LaCombe had a goal and two assists, scoring late in regulation as the Gophers led twice, then rallied to force the extra session.

"I had no idea how much time was left," Knies said of his game-winner, which came with 8.8 seconds left in the extra session. "I kind of lost track of time when we were in their zone so much. Luckily it went in before the buzzer."

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Justen Close had 31 saves for the Gophers (18-6-1 overall, 12-2-1 Big Ten).

"It was a great hockey game, and I felt we deserved to win. We made a couple mistakes to get down and we came back," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "I thought we had a terrific third period and the right guys got the puck. But I thought we did enough to deserve to win that game."

Michigan (13-9-1, 5-8-0) got goals from Eric Ciccolini, Adam Fantilli and Gavin Brindley along with 44 saves from Erik Portillo.

"Great atmosphere. This is what college hockey's all about, this is what the Big Ten's all about," Wolverines coach Brandon Naurato said. "Really proud of our guys for how they worked. We just keep fighting adversity every game, so proud of how fought for it. Bad bounce at the end and they score on one of their six power plays."

There was intensity right from the opening puck drop, with both teams making pushes in the opening 19 minutes. Things changed dramatically when Michigan center Mark Estapa was whistled and ejected for making contact to the head of Gophers defenseman Mike Koster.

It took the Gophers just a dozen seconds of the power play to take the lead, when Snuggerud popped in a high shot after a pass across the top of the crease from Knies.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Logan Cooley (92) keeps the puck away from Michigan forward Jackson Hallum (21) during the first period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

With more than four additional minutes of man advantage to open the second period, the Gophers had chances to double their lead — most notably when Bryce Brodzinski clanked the post behind Portillo with a wrist shot.

Instead it was the Wolverines pulling even later in the second when Ciccolini popped in the rebound after an initial long-range shot by Ethan Edwards ricocheted hard off Close’s leg pad.

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Then things got goofy for 58 seconds, with Knies giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead via a highlight reel rush to the net. Michigan responded with goals 15 seconds apart to take its first lead into the second intermission.

On a power play early in the third, the Gophers appeared to tie the game when Knies swatted in a loose puck that Portillo had failed to cover, but officials blew the play dead prematurely.

The Michigan lead stood until LaCombe’s blast from the blue line with 4:20 left in regulation solved Portillo. The Gophers defenseman said that when he puts the puck on net, he likes his odds.

"I think a few times there throughout the game I missed the net on some of those one-timers and obviously when it gets on net it's got a pretty good chance," said LaCombe.

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Minnesota Gophers goaltender Justen Close (1) keeps the puck aways as Michigan defenseman Seamus Casey (26) looks for a shot during the first period of their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Barely-charted territory in OT

Of all the situations that happen in the course of a hockey game, a 4-on-3 power play is one of the rarest. But when former St. Thomas Academy standout Jackson Hallum hooked Gophers captain Brock Faber in the waning minutes of overtime on Friday, Hallum went to the penalty box, and the Gophers got a unique man-advantage.

Motzko admitted that practicing what to do when your team out-numbers the opponent 4-3 is rare. Very rare. He called a timeout with his team headed to the power play.

"We practiced it right there at the timeout," he said, with a grin. "You just don't see it too often, but we probably should put a little bit more emphasis on that because it does come up once in a while."

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Michigan goaltender Erik Portillo (1) takes the deflection from Minnesota Gophers forward Matthew Knies (89) in the chest during the third period of a their game at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
John Autey / Pioneer Press

The timeout also allowed Motzko to rest his top line of Knies, Snuggerud and Logan Cooley, and put them on the ice with LaCombe on defense, and unspoken instructions not to come back to the bench without a goal.

Knies said the last time he remembered a 4-on-3 goal came last season versus Michigan at home, when former Gopher star Ben Meyers beat the Wolverines in the extra session.

Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for the Gophers on Friday included defenseman Matt Staudacher and forwards Charlie Strobel and Garrett Pinoniemi. Defenseman Luke Mittlestadt sat out due to an injury suffered in a 3-0 win at Notre Dame on Jan. 14.

Defenseman Carl Fish and forward Colin Schmidt both made their season debuts for Minnesota.

It was the second Friday in a row that a shot from the blue line by LaCombe tied the game.

The Gophers and Wolverines conclude their two-game Big Ten series and their season series with a 7 p.m. CT first faceoff at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Saturday evening.

Minnesota 4, Michigan 3, OT

Minnesota 1-1-1-1—4

Michigan 0-3-0-0—3

First period — 1. MN, Jimmy Snuggerud 13 (Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley), 19:24, (PP). Penalties — Dylan Duke, MI (tripping), 6:22; Mark Estapa, MI (5 & game misconduct – contact to the head), 19:12.

Second period — 2. MI, Eric Ciccolini 3 (Ethan Edwards), 12:00. 3. MN, Knies 14 (Ryan Chesley, Jackson LaCombe), 16:14. 4. MI, Adam Fantilli 12 (Gavin Brindley), 16:57. 5. MI, Brindley 3 (Fantilli), 17:12. Penalties — LaCombe, MN (holding), 9:46; Knies, MN (hooking), 18:27.

Third period — 6. MN, LaCombe 6 (Mike Koster, Snuggerud), 15:40. Penalties — Jay Keranen, MI (slashing), 1:03; Edwards, MI (boarding), 6:17.

Overtime — 7. MN, Knies 15 (Mike Koster, Snuggerud), 15:40. Penalties — Jackson Hallum, MI (hooking), 3:23.

Shots on goal — MN 15-13-18-2—48; MI 11-13-6-4—34. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (34 shots-31 saves); Erik Portillo, MI (48-44). Power plays — MN 2-of-6, MI 0-of-2. Referees — Barry Pochmara, Jake Rekucki. Linesmen — Nicholas Bradshaw, Samuel Shikowsky. Att. — 10,300.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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