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Minnesota travels south to face Arizona State on November 25-26

MINNEAPOLIS – For the first time in the program’s history, Minnesota will travel to Arizona State for a men’s ice hockey game as it faces Arizona State, a team receiving votes in the national polls, for a non-conference series May 25-26 November inside the brand new Mullett Arena.

Tune in live on Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM/AM 1130 from 8pm CT for coverage of both games, while video streaming coverage is available for free via Pac-12 Insider.

After finishing at No. 3 in Michigan last week, Minnesota stayed at No. 2 in the national polls from both USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and DCU/USCHO.com, the place where it started the season. The Maroon and Gold spent three weeks at No. 1 and are the only team in the country not to be ranked lower than No. 3 at any point this season, while Denver maintained the top spot in their bye week.

When Maroon and Gold took on No. 3 Michigan last week, it marked the sixth straight series Minnesota had battled a team that ranked top 12 in the national polls and handled that challenge with an 8-4 record . The series against the Wolverines was also the fourth time the Gophers had faced an opponent ranked 10th or better. Since the USCHO polls were introduced 22 years ago, this has been the Gophers’ toughest game schedule to date, as they played 12 of their first 14 games against top-ranked teams.

The Gophers are a perfect 6-0-0 against Arizona State going back to the first meeting in 2019 and all matchups will be at home. The ‘U beat the Sun Devils 40-10 in the all-time series and will play in Arizona State for the first time in program history. The two teams played four games within three weeks at the 3M Arena in Mariucci in January 2021, with the Gophers winning each game by an aggregate score of 30-7. Jackson LaCombe has the most points of any active Minnesota player against ASU by providing five assists in two career outings.

Minnesota has won six of its last seven games to take top spot in the Big Ten Conference rankings after conquering No. 3 Michigan last week. The Gophers have averaged nearly four goals per game offensively, outperforming their opponents by a 27-13 lead at this stretch. Eleven different players provided the goals while 15 guys scored at least one point. The surge has resulted in the nation’s fifth-best points margin (+1.43) and moved the offense to sixth place in the NCAA (3.86 goals per game).

Thanks to his four-point streak and his first NCAA goal in Michigan, Luke Mittelstadt was named B1G’s First Star of the Week on November 22nd. The freshman had a career day on Nov. 17 when he assisted on the first two goals before adding the first goal of his collegiate career in the third period. He followed up with another assist on 18 November, again scoring the first goal of the night.

With Just close unable to play due to illness, goalkeeper Owen Bartoszkiewicz performed and played an important role in the Gophers’ fight against the Wolverines. The Northville, Mich. native, who is now 3-0-0 this season, earned the first B1G starts of his career and halted the two wins. The goaltender made 64 saves over the sweep with a .928 save percentage, including a career-high 35 saves in the series finale on November 18.

Veterans take responsibility
The senior division’s combined offense helped Minnesota win their Michigan game as they combined for 11 points over the two games. Jackson LaCombe had a goal and three assists for four points while Bryce Brodzinski and Jaxon Nelson Everyone had three points. The trio are all in the top 4 B1G scorers in conference play as they have found the offensive touch in the last month. Ryan Johnson scored an empty net goal in Ann Arbor that rounded out the seniors’ goal.

The Gophers will welcome four freshmen to the 2023-24 roster as Beckett Hendrickson (USNTDP), Oliver Moore (USNTDP), Sam Rinzel (Waterloo Black Hawks) and Max Rud (Sioux Falls Stampede) recently signed national letters of intent. All four incoming freshmen are originally from hockey state and played prep hockey there as Maroon and Gold continue to attract local talent.

During its recent streak of quality play, winning six out of seven games, Minnesota used its special teams to achieve that achievement. The Gophers have seven power play goals in their last seven games and have a 23 percent conversion rate. Five different players have scored with man-advantage in that time, while the penalty thwarted 20 of the opponent’s previous 22 chances when losing a man.

second grader Matthew Knies returns to his home state and plays for family and friends at ASU this weekend for the first time of his collegiate career. The Phoenix, Arizona native has been attacking at good times this season, recording all but one of his points (seven goals and six assists) in Maroon and Gold wins. He is tied for second in the NCAA with three game-winning goals and has hit the net in eight of 14 games played. He continues to average a point per game in his Gophers’ career from 47 total points (23 goals, 24 assists) in 47 competitions thanks to two three-point attempts during the 2022-23 season.

Minnesota made its 22nd trip to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2021-22 and first since 2014 after twice beating 2020-21 national champion Massachusetts and leaders Western Michigan at the NCAA Northeast Regional. The win over the Broncos was the 58th NCAA tournament win in program history, the highest in college hockey history. An eight-game winning streak to wrap up the regular season a year ago earned the Gophers their fifth Big Ten regular-season crown in the league’s nine-year history and their 28th overall conference regular-season championship in Minnesota’s 101-year history College Hockeys.

Nicknamed the State of Hockey, Minnesota is known for its strong history of players skating on local ice sheets and backyard ponds. This has fed a rich pipeline of talent to colleges across the country, most notably the University of Minnesota. The Gophers roster includes a collection of 26 student-athletes, 20 of whom were born and raised within state lines. Even more impressive is the fact that 16 of the Minnesotans on the team are from within 40 miles of campus.

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