#12 Ohio State Capitalized on Chances to Beat #5 Minnesota
Columbus, Ohio — Two of the nation’s top scoring teams runned and gunned Friday night, and the Buckeyes topped the Gophers 5-4 to get themselves back into Big Ten Conference race in front of 5,132 at Value City Arena.
#12 Ohio State (14-7-6, 5-5-1) has been on a roller coaster this season rising to eighth in the Pairwise Rankings after splitting at Minnesota, splitting with Penn State at home and then taking five points on the road at Hockey Valley before getting swept by Wisconsin and splitting with Michigan. Their offense is second in the nation in goals per game at 4.11 behind Penn State and they boast the country’s best power play unit converting at 28.2%, but they were outside the top 16 of the Pairwise entering the weekend.
“We knew we didn’t want to get into a shootout with them, and their guys made big plays for them tonight,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We had chances, and we battled back, but they earned the win in the third period.”
#5 Minnesota (17-8-2, 8-3-0) is fourth in the nation in goals per game at 3.81, got scoring from Brent Gates Jr., Rem Pitlick, Vinni Lettieri, and Justin Kloos, but out-shooting the Buckeyes 39-28 wasn’t enough to overcome some defensive lapses and an uneven first period.
Ohio State got two first period goals, one just after the rush when Matthew Weis lost his check on the backdoor for an easy goal and then a second on the rush when the Buckeye’s leading scorer Nick Schilkey toe-dragged past a Gopher defender for his team leading 21st goal of the season.
The Gophers clawed back into the game with a power play goal by Gates Jr. to start the second period, a breakaway goal by Rem Pitlick at 4:09, and a transition goal by Lettieri 10:15 for Minnesota’s only lead of the game.
Ohio State’s Kevin Miller evened it up 1:21 later scoring on the rush, skating the defense all the way into the hash marks, used a defenseman attempting to block a shot as a screen, and firing a wrist shot to tie the game 3-3. The goal was the second of the game where a Gopher defender was retreating, trying to block a shot, and giving space to the attacker. Coaches want their players blocking shots, but problems are bound to happen when skaters start trying to play goalie, stop playing defense, and don’t catch a piece of the puck.
“We’ve played a lot of one-goal games I think this whole second half almost,” said Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik on his second intermission talk. “[I told them] it’s time to go out there, get after it, and go win the game instead of keeping it close and hoping.”
The Buckeyes top ranked power play unit didn’t get an opportunity until early in the third period, but once given a chance, they made quick work. Mason Jobst won the face-off, jetted over to his off-wing spot on the power play, received a seam pass from Schilkey, and let loose a quick one-timer for his 13th of the season 3:47 into the third period.
“I was just trying to get a shot off pretty quick, right off the face off, not let them get setup and in position,” said Jobst.
Ohio State got their fifth goal on a 2-on-2 rush in transition, the Buckeyes crisscrossed leaving Tanner Lacynzski coming to the middle with a step on his defender and the freshman tallied his 8th of the season at 15:07. Kloos got Minnesota a fourth goal with the extra attacker, catching and firing a wrist shot up top from the heart of the slot to make it 5-4. Leon Bristedt took a charging penalty fore-checking off the ensuing face-off, and Ohio State was able to hold on for the win.
The loss dropped Minnesota to sixth in the Pairwise Rankings, but they remained tied atop the Big Ten standings as co-leader Wisconsin lost 6-3 to Penn State.
“This is a great win, but I think it means nothing if we don’t sweep them,” said Laczynski. “We have to come out tomorrow and provide an even better effort and it starts with the first period.”