Men’s hockey: North Dakota hands No. 1 Gophers first loss

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. >> One night after a dominating performance in their first true road game of the season, the top-ranked Minnesota Gophers found the script flipped in their disfavor, suffering their first loss of the season.

North Dakota’s defenders kept the Gophers seemingly off balance much of the night, limiting Minnesota to just one goal and winning 2-1 to earn a split of the series.

Jaxon Nelson scored the only goal for the Gophers (3-1-0), who survived an early push by the home team, but fell behind in the second period and could not fully climb out of the hole. Justen Close had 32 saves for Minnesota, several of them of the highlight-reel variety, but saw his shutout streak of more than 152 minutes snapped.

After a scoreless first period, North Dakota played a dominant 20 minutes in the middle frame, taking a 1-0 lead when Jayden Perron tipped a Garrett Pyke shot past Close. The Hawks out-shot Minnesota 9-3 in the period, and had a pair of power plays. For the game, Minnesota killed six man advantage opportunities for North Dakota.

The Hawks went up by a pair in the opening minute of the third period, as a wide-angle shot by Jake Livanavage slipped between Close’s pads. Minnesota finally broke through near the midway point of the third when Nelson tipped a long-range shot from Ryan Chesley past Hawks goalie Ludvig Persson.

With Close on the bench in the final minute, the Gophers pressed to tie, but could not find the equalizer. Persson finished with 21 saves as North Dakota improved to 3-1-0.

Extra pucks

>> On Saturday, the Gophers had a line chart identical to the groupings they had played in game one. Senior forward Nick Michel, who transferred to Minnesota from Division III St. Johns in the off-season, was the only healthy Gopher not in uniform on Saturday.

>> With North Dakota choosing to wear green on Friday and black on Saturday, the Gophers wore their home white sweaters for both games of a road series for the first time since a January 2021 series at Wisconsin.

>> North Dakota was without fifth-year defensemen Keaton Pehrson on Saturday, after the transfer from Michigan was injured late in Friday’s 4-0 loss to Minnesota.

> The Gophers open their Big Ten season with a Thursday-Friday home series versus their eastern Border Battle rival, Wisconsin. The Badgers are in their first season under Mike Hastings, who came to Madison after leading Minnesota State Mankato to its first two Frozen Four appearances in 2021 and 2022.

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