When the buzzer to end regulation sounded Sunday with the Gophers tied with St. Cloud State, Logan Cooley internally winced.
"Obviously, I didn't want to go to overtime," the Gophers freshman center said. "I couldn't even feel my legs anymore."
Turns out playing five games in seven days through four cities in two countries will take it out of even the spryest of 18-year-olds. And yet even with his energy nearly depleted from also competing in the world junior championships, Cooley still managed to score the game-winner with 18 seconds to spare in the five minutes of three-on-three hockey.
That lifted the Gophers to a 2-1 victory over the Huskies on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 10,192 at 3M Arena at Mariucci. It's a wonder Cooley managed to stay upright on his skates as his team cleared the bench to mob him at the glass after the goal.
The No. 3 Gophers (16-6) avoided a series sweep after falling 3-0 — thanks to two empty-net goals in the final minute — to the No. 4 Huskies (15-5) at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud on Saturday night. Both games were tight, with Sunday's breakthrough not coming until about three minutes into the third period.
Cooley was integral to that goal as well, with linemate Matthew Knies deflecting his power-play shot to make it 1-0. But the Huskies tied the score about five minutes later, seizing a three-on-one advantage with Brendan Bushy streaking out of the penalty box after serving his time for slashing.
Both coach Bob Motzko and Cooley credited defenseman Brock Faber with engineering the overtime winner, as his defensive play created the opportunity for Cooley to finish. Both team's defenses were strong, something the low shot counts displayed. Gophers goaltender Justen Close saved 21 of St. Cloud State's 22 shots while Huskies goalie Jaxon Castor stopped 28 of 30.
The Gophers also killed three power plays and blocked 23 shots.
"I love how our boys battled and competed and put their bodies on the line to block shots," Close said. "Nobody panicked. And we know we've got the guys who can kill it."
Motzko, who coached St. Cloud State for 13 seasons before joining the Gophers in 2018, came out of this series most impressed with his team's ability to overcome adversity.
First was a bout of suspected food poisoning after a team meal that sickened eight players, including keeping two from Sunday's game. Next was the four players — Jimmy Snuggerud, Ryan Chesley, Luke Mittelstadt and Cooley — who returned from Canada only Friday after helping the United States win the bronze medal at the world juniors. But they all suited up to play in this series, with Cooley saying he didn't want to miss the atmosphere of an in-state rivalry.
"They're beat up, but they're young," Motzko said. "It's going to hit them tonight because they get a little adrenaline [to get through the weekend]. Right now, we have to watch our time in January with those guys."
Motzko said he's sure the quartet will push through until the team has a bye in the first week of February, during which he plans to "lock [Cooley's] equipment in the equipment room."
Cooley doesn't plan on fighting his coach on that decision.
"I might hibernate these next few days," the forward said. "I'll sleep much better with the win."