Gophers Cut Down Buckeyes 5-3

Leon Bristedt gets his scoring touch back with two goals on the night.
Leon Bristedt gets his scoring touch back with two goals on the night.
Bristedt and Sheehy each score twice to lead Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN – The good thing about an ugly win is that it counts just as much as a dominating performance.  Gopher coach Don Lucia is intimately aware of this fact:

“Sometimes you’ve gotta grind out games.  This is one of those where we had to grind it out.”

Lucia’s candid assessment of the game is about as good a summary as any, as #11 Minnesota (7-4-2 Overall, 1-0-0 B1G) grinded out a win over the #10 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2-4, 0-1-0) to pick up their first Big Ten conference win of the season in as many tries.

The Gophers struggled out of the gates, finding tough sledding getting pucks out of their own zone.  Ohio State scored first at 6:31 of the first period, and although the goal was credited to OSU’s Kevin Miller, it was really Minnesota’s Ryan Lindgren that accidentally slid the puck into the back of the Gopher net.  Though the unforced error put the Gophers in an early 1-0 hole, it seemed to settle the team into playing their game.

“At first we were struggling a little bit,” said sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy, “and we were kind of getting on each other.  We knew what we had to do – we had to step up and get back to our game, get pucks deep, and get to work.”

Minnesota got back to their game, and would score twice before the end of the period to take a lead into the locker room.  Ryan Collins notched his first goal of the season on a blistering slapshot from the middle of the circle at 15:49.  Collins joined the rush and received a Rem Pitlick drop pass, and his slapper found its way through Buckeye goalie Matt Tomkins and into the net to tie the game at 1-1.

“I thought Collins’ goal was huge,” said Lucia, “to kind of get us going again.”

Ohio State drew a late powerplay, but the Gophers were able to turn the tide when Leon Bristedt took a great feed from Vinni Lettieri and beat Tomkins five-hole to give Minnesota a late-period 2-1 lead at 19:26.

The goal was Bristedt’s first since the overtime game-winner at Clarkson on 10/28, and he felt good about breaking the dry spell: “Obviously it’s nice [to get the goals].  You have a monkey on your back and he keeps talking to you.  I’m happy I could contribute.”

Minnesota would triple its lead early in the second, as a Bristedt powerplay goal at 4:19 and a Sheehy goal at 5:10 had the Gophers flying high with a 4-1 lead.

Ohio State called timeout and brought in their backup goalie, and those things seemed to change the momentum.  Ohio State scored right after the timeout at 5:27 to cut the Gopher lead to two, and the Buckeyes scored on the powerplay at 14:15 of the second to cut the lead to one.

At that point, the next goal is crucial, and after a period and a half of good hockey it was Minnesota that got it.  Tyler Sheehy scored his second of the night at 11:37 of the third period to give the Gophers a two-goal cushion at 5-3, and that is where the score line held as the final horn sounded to bring the game to a close.

The win is the first on a Friday for the Gophers since the aforementioned 10/28 OT victory against Clarkson.  Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn has struggled on Fridays this season, but coach Lucia said he “changed up” Schierhorn’s Friday routine to try and shake him out of his Friday slump: “I told him ‘don’t skate today, just get stretched and loosen up.’  I thought he was sharp all game long, he basically let in two goals [not counting the own goal].”

Even though Minnesota showed some grit to grind out the win, Lucia stressed after the game that the team cannot expect to win ugly all the time: “We’re going to have to be better tomorrow.  That’s the bottom line for us, is the consistency factor.  We need to exit out of our own zone tomorrow, do a better job with that, and just come up the ice with better continuity.”

Tomorrow’s Gophers square off against the Buckeyes at 7PM.  Minnesota will be looking for its first home sweep of the young season, while Ohio State will try to even it up in the rubber match of the series.  The game can be seen on FSN+, streamed on BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go, and heard on myTalk 107.1FM.

Go Gophers!

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