Playing a college game in Pennsylvania for the first time in his young career, Cooley dazzled to the tune of four assists and one goal, all of which came in the second period. His linemates Matthew Knies and Jimmy Snuggerud added three and two points, respectively, as the trio combined for 10 points on four goals and six assists. Less than 24 hours after the Golden Gophers (22-8-1 overall, 16-4-1 B1G) clinched their second-straight Big Ten Conference regular season championship, they showcased their offense with six goals in the game’s first 30 minutes on the way to the road win over the Nittany Lions (19-11-1 overall, 9-11-1 B1G).
The visitors put immediate pressure on PSU and a shot by Carl Fish from the point rang off the inside of the right post 36 seconds into the contest. The Nittany Lions turned momentum in their favor and forced Gophers netminder Justen Close to make important saves in front of a sold-out crowd. That allowed the offense to take control and a highlight-reel goal for Minnesota set the tone with a 1-0 lead at the 6:47 mark. Aaron Huglen intercepted the puck at the blue line and saucered a pass across the crease to Rhett Pitlick, who dropped it back to Connor Kurth in front of the open cage.
After the Gophers erased a penalty, Snuggerud doubled the advantage late in the opening period. Fish started the rush and picked up his first assist of the year as Snuggerud fired through a screen at the top of the circle giving Minnesota a 2-0 cushion through one period. The intermission did not slow down the high-flying offense as the Maroon and Gold tacked on two more goals less than three minutes into the second frame.
Matthew Knies finished off a gorgeous passing play as Cooley spun around and put a pass right on his tape for the easy finish 39 seconds after the puck was dropped for the period. Ryan Johnson made it a 4-0 contest 2:19 later as he utilized heavy traffic in the crease before sending a shot to the top corner. The Gophers made PSU pay for simultaneous penalties at the 6:41 mark, including a five-minute major, as Snuggerud buried his second of the night on the power play. Jackson LaCombe hammered a one-timer on the extended man advantage as the rout continued with Minnesota’s sixth goal before hitting the halfway point of the game. The Nittany Lions broke the shutout scoring late in the second as the margin dipped to 6-1.
Cooley found himself on a breakaway thanks to a LaCombe stretch pass during the closing minutes of the second and deftly beat the goaltender with a backhand, making it a five-point night for the Pittsburgh, Pa., native. Minnesota had no problem cruising to the final buzzer and despite a late goal by PSU, secured the road victory, 7-2. Close ended his night early after making 35 saves and allowed just one goal before Owen Bartoszkiewicz took over in net for the final 9:54 and turned away four shots.
Cooley is just the 10th player in the NCAA this season with a five-point performance and the only skater from the Big Ten Conference … His team-leading 28 assists rank third in the nation as he jumped to the team’s overall scoring lead behind 43 points … Snuggerud posted his fourth multi-goal effort of the year and is the first Gopher freshman with at least 19 goals since Kyle Okposo and Jay Barriball (2006-07) … Knies put together his fourth outing of three points this season with a goal and two assists … Fish earned his first point this year and Minnesota remains unbeaten at 8-0-0 when his name is on the scoresheet during his career … Kurth scored his sixth goal of the season and second in a five-game span … Luke Mittelstadt recorded an assist on back-to-back goals pushing his point total to 16 from the blue line … LaCombe extended his career-best goals to eight as the senior has a tally in four of his previous five series played … Minnesota’s seven goals tied the most ever in a game against PSU in the all-time series and the eighth time this year totaling six or more goals in a contest … The announced attendance of 6,369 Friday was the 11th road sellout faced by the Gophers this season.
Coach Motzko’s Comments
“I liked how we practiced all week, I liked our energy and I liked how our team was going tonight,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “Obviously, Cooley coming back to Pennsylvania, his home state, puts on a show with five points tonight. That line was great, and our power play clicked when we needed it.”
Next Up: Away at Penn State (Feb. 18)
Minnesota plays its final true road game of the season Saturday night at Penn State with coverage starting at 5:30 p.m. (CT) on the Big Ten Network and Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM/AM-1130 KTLK.