University of Minnesota Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS – Rhett Pitlick scored twice and three other Golden Gophers had multi-point efforts leading the way to a 4-1 win for No. 6/6 Minnesota men’s hockey over No. 17/18 Notre Dame Saturday night inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The Golden Gophers (6-4-2 overall, 2-3-1 B1G) broke a 1-1 tie in the second period behind Ryan Chesley’s individual effort and eventual game winner. It was the first of three unanswered goals that secured three points in the Big Ten Conference standings, handing the Fighting Irish (7-4-2 overall, 3-1-2 B1G) their first regulation loss in league play. Bryce Brodzinski, Mike Koster and Connor Kurth all had two-assist performances for the Maroon and Gold, while goaltender Justen Close matched a season-high by making 37 saves.
The home team came out of the gates and tested the Notre Dame goaltender early, leading to the opening goal just 2:10 into the contest. For the second-straight night, Pitlick got the scoring started by being in the perfect spot in front of the net to bury an Irish turnover following Kurth’s flip into the zone. The visitors responded with their own offensive chances where Minnesota’s Close was in position to turn the shots away. A lengthy shift in the Gophers’ defensive zone proved costly with 3:22 remaining during the first frame as Notre Dame scored the equalizer, sending the teams to the locker room tied, 1-1.
Close came to the rescue beginning the second period when the fifth-year senior stopped the Irish on a pair of point-blank opportunities. A minute later, it was the Irish netminder’s turn to deny the Gophers after a flurry of chances and both teams searched for the go-ahead goal. The Maroon and Gold were able to break through midway through the stanza thanks to the first goal of the year from Chesley. The Mahtomedi, Minn., native’s initial shot snapped the stick of the Notre Dame player, which allowed him to collect the puck again and drive the net. Chesley sniped the short-side corner, giving the home side a 2-1 edge at the 8:27 mark. The sophomore nearly added another tally by joining the rush with Brodzinski only to see the pass deflect away from the crease.
Momentum stayed with the Maroon and Gold during a dominant second period and Jaxon Nelson made it a two-goal advantage at 15:20. The fifth-year senior found space at the side of the goal and finished off a cross-crease pass of Brodzinski and Mason Nevers. Nelson nearly scored again 39 seconds later, but his deflection was deemed to go in via a high stick and the Gophers lead remained 3-1 at intermission.
The Irish pushed the tempo to open the final frame and forced Close to make critical saves until the Gophers went to their first power-play of the night. Despite chances on target, Minnesota could not get one through as its 3-1 edge stayed until the clock reached under five minutes. Mike Koster forced a turnover at his own blue line and took a feed from Pitlick, starting a rush up ice. He patiently waited for an opening before firing a pass over to Pitlick and the Gophers stretched the lead to 4-1 on the junior’s fourth goal in the last three weeks. Notre Dame pulled its goalie for the final 2:27 but were shut down and Minnesota earned the series split with a three-goal victory.
Pitlick net the third multi-goal game of his career and now has multiple points in four of his past six games, increasing his total to nine across a seven-game span … Koster registered his 14th career multi-point outing, his first since the NCAA national semifinals, with two assists Saturday … Kurth tallied his second game of multiple assists this season and is now tied for the team lead in helpers at seven … Chesley put away his third-career goal and first of the year, snapping a stretch of 20 games without a goal dating back to Jan. 28, 2023 against Michigan State … It also was the second game-winning goal of his career … Brodzinski took over the Gophers’ scoring lead at 11 thanks to a pair of assists … Cal Thomas got his fifth point this year and is now one shy of his total from his freshman campaign … Nelson continues to find his way to the scoresheet, scoring his fifth goal of 2023-24 … The Magnolia, Minn., product has points in 10 of 12 games this year and became the fourth Gopher to reach double digits offensively … Nevers has tallied a point in every series since returning to the lineup four weeks ago … For the third time in his last four appearances, Close made 37 saves in goal for Minnesota.
Coach Motzko’s Comments
“We were awfully good tonight up and down our lineup; great positivity,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “Notre Dame had a little push there in the first and we buckled in. Then in the second we had our push and we continued with it.”
Next Up: Home vs. Michigan State (Nov. 24 & 26)
The Gophers close their four-game homestand Nov. 24 and 26 hosting B1G-leading Michigan State. Catch the Friday game live on FOX 9+ and streaming on B1G+ at 7 p.m. before the series finale Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. on Big Ten Network. An audio broadcast of both games will also be available for free on the Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM/AM-1130 KTLK.

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