After a lifetime of watching the Gophers-North Dakota rivalry, Jimmy Snuggerud won't ever forget the first time he played in it. Last October, in the fifth game of his freshman season, Gophers coach Bob Motzko put him on a line with Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies — a trio that produced a goal and three assists in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Fighting Hawks.

That line would go on to become one of the best in Gophers history, combining for 64 goals and 88 assists. Its magic lasted only one season, as Cooley and Knies moved on to the NHL. But Snuggerud already is creating more wizardry as a sophomore, roaring into this weekend's series at North Dakota off of a spectacular season debut.

The winger supplied both game-winning goals in last weekend's sweep of St. Thomas, earning the Big Ten's first star of the week after racking up four goals and one assist in the two games. Snuggerud instantly clicked with new linemates Oliver Moore and Brody Lamb, emphatically answering questions about how he would fare without Cooley and Knies.

His new line combined for 13 points, helping to lift the Gophers to No. 1 in this week's rankings. Motzko expects to learn more about his young team this weekend in Grand Forks, but there's one thing he already knows: he can count on Snuggerud, no matter who's skating beside him.

"He had [Knies and Cooley] for one year, and I know it was a great year," Motzko said of Snuggerud, who was the Gophers' second-leading scorer last season with 50 points. "But I don't think there are a whole lot of people worried about Jimmy.

"Will he do what he did last year? We'll see. But my goodness. He's been scoring his whole life."

Last spring, Snuggerud gave a quick answer to another question: whether he would return to the Gophers for his sophomore season. A first-round NHL draft pick in 2022, Snuggerud announced he would stay in college, rather than sign with St. Louis, only three days after the Gophers lost to Quinnipiac in the NCAA title game.

He accomplished plenty last season. Snuggerud was the Big Ten's leading scorer with 36 points in league play, and he became the first Gophers freshman since Thomas Vanek in 2002-03 to reach the 21-goal mark. He was lured back by the opportunity to play with other gifted teammates — including Moore, a freshman and fellow NHL first-round pick — and the chance to use the leadership skills he learned from Knies.

He also got some advice from his father, Dave Snuggerud. Before Dave played four seasons in the NHL, he ended his Gophers career with a crushing overtime loss to Harvard in the 1989 title game in St. Paul.

"In the offseason, [last season's NCAA defeat] was one of the biggest motivational factors every time I stepped on the ice,'' Jimmy said. "My dad tells me every day that he didn't get a chance at [an NCAA title] like I do now. I'm going to embrace every single second of this, trying to win that thing.''

Snuggerud worked to refine his skating, stickhandling and shooting in the offseason. He showed off all three in last week's sweep of St. Thomas, highlighted by Friday's overtime game-winner when he carried the puck up the left wing, powered past the defense and snapped it into the top of the net.

His next challenge is to try and repeat that performance against No. 5 North Dakota, in the hostile environment of Ralph Engelstad Arena. Snuggerud is pumped for his first game as a Gopher in Grand Forks, after experiencing the exhilaration of Knies' game-winning overtime goal in the series opener last season.

That set off a monstrous roar inside 3M Arena at Mariucci, the loudest Snuggerud has ever heard. If his season continues the way Motzko thinks it will, expect Snuggerud to be the one bringing the noise.

"He's all-in for the program, and he's a year stronger," Motzko said. "When he gets his hands on pucks, we know what's going to happen. We're sure glad he's here."