Bryce Brodzinski scored a third-period hat trick as the overall top seed Golden Gophers men’s hockey team poured on the offense to erase a one-goal deficit and overpowered No. 4 Canisius in a 9-2 victory during the 2023 NCAA Fargo Regional inside Scheels Arena.
Minnesota (27-9-1 overall) scored six times in the final frame and showcased its impressive freshman class as the youngsters provided 10 points versus the Golden Griffins (20-19-3 overall) in just the second-ever meeting between the two teams. The Gophers tied a program record scoring nine goals in an NCAA Tournament game, first time since a 2003 West Regional win over Mercyhurst, thanks to four power-play markers.
Brodzinski recorded the first four-point performance of his career, while Logan Cooley tacked on three assists, moving to second in the nation with 55 total points. Jimmy Snuggerud was one of seven goal scorers and joined Cooley as the first set of freshmen in program history to reach the 50-point milestone.
The Gophers got points from 14 different players, including seven with multiple points, thanks to a goal and an assist from Connor Kurth and Brody Lamb for the first multi-point games of their collegiate careers. Minnesota needed to come up with a rally in the second half of the contest after Canisius took a 2-1 lead 3:23 into the second period. Aaron Huglen and Kurth scored during the second period to give Minnesota a 3-2 cushion before the No. 1 seed put away two on a five-minute power play early in the third, advancing to Saturday’s NCAA Regional Final.
The high-octane Maroon and Gold nearly scored on the opening shift as Brodzinski showed he was on his game early and tested the Canisius goaltender 28 seconds into the action. Minnesota found itself on an early man advantage, but needed a left pad save from Justen Close to stay even until Luke Mittelstadt slipped home a power-play tally from a sharp angle along the goal line 6:08 into the frame.
Less than three minutes later and seconds after a penalty to Minnesota expired, the Golden Griffins got the equalizer on a one-timer from the left circle. The Gophers delivered another penalty kill late in the period and the teams went to the locker room deadlocked, 1-1. Canisius capitalized on a defensive-zone turnover with a shot off the left post for a 2-1 edge three minutes into the second period. Playing in the same arena as his USHL days, it was the quick release of Huglen that pulled Minnesota even at the 8:15 mark when he ripped a shot high over the blocker, making it 2-2 and igniting the majority Maroon and Gold crowd. Close took control of the game for the Gophers as he delivered critical saves to fend off the attacking Griffins.
The defensive stand helped spur Minnesota as Kurth finished a Mike Koster centering feed to give the top seed a one-goal cushion before intermission. Rhett Pitlick won a puck battle along the wall and found Koster below the circle as the Gophers took a 3-2 lead after two periods. Twenty-seven seconds into the final stanza, Canisius was issued a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to the head. Snuggerud wasted no time finding the back of the net as the freshman buried his 21st of the year on a rebound and his classmate Lamb added a dagger 1:25 later, pushing the margin to 5-2 on the extended man advantage.
The final 10 minutes belonged to the “N64” line of Mason Nevers, Jaxon Nelson and Brodzinski as the trio combined to score the next four goals in the 9-2 win. Brodzinski displayed his sniper mentality completing his hat trick, while Nevers skated in his 100th career outing and added a power-play goal.
Close ended the night allowing two goals on 20 shots but came through when his teammates needed him the most to limit the Golden Griffins.
Gopher senior defenseman Jackson LaCombe of Eden Prairie spoke with MNN sports director Mike Grimm after the game:
Brodzinski’s career-high four points helped the Blaine, Minn., native set a new career best with his 29th point this season … Luke Mittelstadt tallied his third goal of the year and first since Dec. 10 against Wisconsin, a span of 14 games … Huglen buried his third goal over his last four outings to tie his career best getting his seventh of the campaign … Cooley and Snuggerud each extended season-long point streaks to 14 and 11 games, respectively … Cooley’s three points pushed him into a tie for fifth in team history for freshman points with his 55th, tying Darby Hendrickson (1991-92) … Lamb has goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his young career … Brock Faber, Koster and Pitlick each finished the night with two assists … Jackson LaCombe’s third-period assist was his 25th of the year and the 97th point of his career, tying current graduate manager Paul Martin (2000-03) for 15th in team history in points by a defenseman … The Gophers scored a season-best four goals on the man advantage going 4-for-5 Thursday … Minnesota now owns a 21-0-0 record when holding a lead through two periods … The announced attendance of 5,061 was an official sellout at Scheels Arena and the 22nd of the year for the Gophers, including 10 different venues, counting their exhibition.
Next Up: NCAA Regional Finals (Mar. 25)
The Gophers continue their postseason push and face in-state foe St. Cloud State in the NCAA Regional Finals Saturday evening. Puck drop from Scheels Arena is slated for 5:30 p.m. live on ESPNU with a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four on the line.
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)
(photo credit: Kelly Hagensen, Gopher Sports)