Gopher Men’s Hockey Weekend 1 Recap


Will Sherry, Contributor

As the number 4 ranked Golden Gopher Men’s hockey team is back underway at Mariucci Arena for its 101st season with fans joining us this year, we look at the young talent, and how their chemistry will click with the veteran experience. The Golden Gopher Men’s hockey team was expected to play their opening games against the University of Alaska, with opening day at home on Saturday October 2nd, and the second game of the series the following day, Sunday October 3rd. With these games being cancelled due to Alaska having covid issues, the Gophers opened their matchup against Mercyhurst University.

The Golden Gophers season and home opener took place at 3M Arena at Mariucci at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 8th. The Gophers were led by Blake McLaughlin (one goal, two assists) and Ben Meyers (three assists), while Arizona native freshman Matthew Knies notched his first two collegiate goals. The maroon and gold started their night with a pair of first period power play goals from Bryce Brodzinski and Mason Nevers before the Lakers of Mercyhurst tied the game up in the second period. Ryan Johnson of the Gophers tucked one in late in the second period to grab the lead back before a strong third period push lead by two goals from Knies, McLaughlin and Sammy Walked twinkled the twine as well, giving the Gophs their final tallies to grab a win over Mercyhurst with a final score of 7-4. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine earned his first win of the season with a 21 save performance in his first action since winning the 2021 MIke Richter Award. After an opening night win, head coach Bob Motzko stated, “It was great to have people back in the building, and the student section was awesome, the guys were so fired up – that was a great feeling and much needed for all of college hockey.” The Gophers logged a 46-25 shot advantage while going 1-2 on the penalty kill and 2-5 on the power play.

With the second game of the series taking place on Saturday, October 9th at 5:00 pm, the Gophers completed the series sweep. For the Gophers in this game, Bryce Brodzinski tallied a pair of goals, followed by pairs of assists from Jack Perbix and Blake McLaughlin. To kick the game into gear, Mercyhurst jumped out to a two goal lead in the first period, while late in the first, Mason Nevers started the maroon and gold rally back with a power-play goal. Jaxon Nelson netted the equalizer early in the second, while shortly after the Lakers reclaimed their lead. To complete the sweep, the Gophers tallied three goals in the third period to reclaim their lead over the Saturday afternoon battle. The eventual game winner from Ben Meyers in the third was bookended by a pair of Bryce Brodzinski goals, with Brudzinski’s first of the night coming on a power play. Minnesota went 2-2 on the power play, while killing 3 out of 4 penalties. Jack LaFontaine improved to 2-0 on the year in a 16 save performance in net. Minnesota outshot Mercyhurst 42-19 on the night. After the game , head coach Bob Motzko stated, “I thought we played a much better game tonight. We had a four line attack tonight, and we wore them down. That’s what we want to do and it paid off.”

The Minnesota Golden Gophers next competition will take place on Friday, October 15th at 7:00 p.m. at 3M Arena at Mariucci. Minnesota will be taking on the number 2 ranked St. Cloud State Huskies, with the second game of the series the following day, Saturday October 16th at 5:00 p.m. in St. Cloud. 

Senior Blake McLaughlin was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week after leading the Gophers and tying for the Big Ten scoring lead with five points (one goal, four assists).

On the other hand, Minnesota boasts 18 alumni on NHL opening night rosters as the league begins play. With Gopher freshmen logging points in their opening weekend, the Minnesota hockey outlook is exciting for the remainder of the season.