Gophers freshman Nate Knoepke, a defenseman who has played in two games this season, left the team to join the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League.

Knoepke, a 6-3, 200-pounder from Lakeville South, is expected to join the Musketeers after a holiday break, for three games between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31.

Taking his place on the Gophers roster is defenseman Clayton Phillips, an Edina native who spent parts of the past three seasons in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Fargo Force.

"Adding Clayton to our roster bolsters our depth on the blue line. He's a dynamic player," coach Don Lucia said in a statement. "At the same time, Nate expressed a desire for more playing time, which we certainly understand. He'll have that opportunity with Sioux City, and the plan for him is to return to our program in the future."

Before playing for the Gophers, Knoepke was in the U.S. Development Program, appearing in 35 games for the USA Under-18 team during the 2016-17 season. He was part of the U18 team that won gold at last year's World Junior Championship.

The Gophers (10-9-1) are off until a home game against Army on Dec. 29.

Staff reports

Pitts picks up another Big Ten honor

Destiny Pitts, who scored 23 points and grabbed four rebounds in the Gophers women's basketball team's 112-68 victory over Cal Poly last week, was named Big Ten freshman of the week. The Detroit native made seven of 13 three-point shots, including three of five in the third quarter when Minnesota scored a season-high 33 points.

This is Pitts' third freshman of the week honor.

The Gophers (10-2) play California-Riverside on Friday at Williams Arena.