The Golden Gophers men’s hockey team jumped back to the top of the national polls heading into another top-10 battle when they host No. 7/8 Penn State during a Big Ten Conference series Nov. 10-11 at 3M Arena at Mariucci presented by Marathon.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. both nights live on Bally Sports North networks and streaming on B1G+ with audio coverage on the Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM / AM 1130.

Thanks to its convincing home sweep of No. 12 Notre Dame, Minnesota moved to the top spot in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and DCU/ national polls. It’ll be the third week the Maroon and Gold have spent as No. 1 and are the only team in the country to be ranked no lower than No. 3 at any point this season.

For the fifth-straight series, the Maroon and Gold will face off against a team ranked No. 12 or higher after Penn State moved up to No. 7/8 in the national polls this week. The weekend series against the Nittany Lions will be the third time Minnesota has faced off with an opponent ranked inside the top 10.

The Gophers are 21-16-1 in the all-time series with Penn State dating back to the first meeting in 2014 and are 6-3-1 over the last 10 outings. Minnesota won four of five matchups a season ago, including a 3-2 win in the semifinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament in March. Justen Close was a perfect 3-0 between the pipes, while Ben Meyers led the charge offensively totaling eight points in four outings versus the Nittany Lions last year.

Justen Close recorded his second shutout of the season Nov. 5 against No. 12 Notre Dame, which moved him into a tie for 12th in Minnesota history for career shutouts with the fifth of his tenure. The senior earned Big Ten Second Star of the Week honors as he led the Gophers to a sweep of the Irish. Close has backstopped the Maroon and Gold to a three-game win streak by holding opponents to three total goals as he lowered his goals against average to 1.84 this season, ranking 11th in the nation.

Since the Gophers allowed their opponents to score five power-play goals in a stretch of eight opportunities, they have killed off nine-straight penalties during their current winning streak of three games. Conversely, Minnesota has scored on the man advantage in all three games during the stretch.

Fans watching Gopher hockey this season want to stay in their seats until the end of the period before hitting the concession stands. The Maroon and Gold have scored 12 goals in the final five minutes of periods or overtime this season, including three in the final minute of play. Matthew Knies has put away three of those tallies, while Connor Kurth, Mason Nevers and Jimmy Snuggerud have two apiece. On the flip side, Minnesota has only allowed five goals in that same span.

Minnesota won its first four games at home this season before falling in overtime Oct. 22 and have excelled on home ice inside 3M Arena at Mariucci of late winning 11 of its last 13 games dating back to January. The Maroon and Gold have outscored its opponents by a 54-22 margin in that stretch, including four shutouts.

Behind a three-point weekend in the sweep over Notre Dame, Jimmy Snuggerud took over the team lead in points with 12 as the freshman has eight goals and four assists. Matthew Knies tallied four points against the Irish to jump up and tie Jackson LaCombe for second on the team as both players have produced 11 points through 10 games for the Gophers averaging more than a point per game.

Sophomore Matthew Knies has delivered offense at opportune times this season as he has generated six goals and four assists in Maroon and Gold wins, including three game winners in the last six games. The Phoenix, Ariz., native is tied for second in the NCAA in game-winning goals and has scored a goal in five of his last six outings. He continues to average a point per game in his Gophers’ career totaling 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) during 43 contests thanks to three multi-point efforts during the 2022-23 campaign.

Thanks to his first four collegiate goals against No. 5 Minnesota State, three of which came on the same night, freshman Jimmy Snuggerud was named B1G First Star of the Week Oct. 10. He burst onto the scene Oct. 7 tallying the NCAA’s first hat trick of the year, including the game winner against the Mavericks. The Chaska, Minn., native posted his second three-point effort of the season against the Buckeyes Oct. 28 before scoring twice in a win over Notre Dame Nov. 4. He now has recorded points in seven of his previous eight games and is tied for fifth in the NCAA totaling eight goals.

Behind a four-point opening weekend, Minnesota freshman Logan Cooley earned Big Ten First Star of the Week honors Oct. 4. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native shined in his collegiate debut versus Lindenwood scoring twice with an assist on the game-winning goal during a three-point effort. He ranks fourth on the team behind nine points in 10 games, registering at least one point in seven of 10 games played, including each of his last three. Cooley’s recorded all nine of his points in Minnesota victories and has excelled on home ice where he’s put up all but one of his points.

Fourteen of Minnesota’s 26 rostered players have heard their name called in the NHL Entry Draft, six of which are part of this year’s freshmen class. The Gophers have had the most all-time draft selections (227) by any NCAA men’s hockey program after adding four in July 2022. At least one Gopher has been drafted in 48 of the last 49 NHL Entry Drafts dating back to 1974, with 2001 being the only exception. Only Harvard has more draft picks (15) on its NCAA roster for the 2022-23 season.

(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)

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