Brooms and banners as Gophers charge into bye week with a sweep of Ohio State
After getting into penalty trouble and falling behind by a pair, the Gophers rallied to close the regular season on a four-game winning streak as they head into a break and await their playoff foe.
MINNEAPOLIS – For everyone who has ever said “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that matters,” the Minnesota Gophers offered a master class in that notion in their regular season finale.
Rallying from a two-goal deficit, the Gophers stormed back for a 5-2 win over Ohio State on Saturday, sweeping their weekend series with the Buckeyes and winning their fourth game in a row.
"We weathered a storm," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, after the team had honored its seniors.
Matthew Knies had a goal and an assist, adding to his resume as a candidate for the Big Ten’s most valuable player as the Gophers improved to 25-8-1 overall and finished the regular season with a 19-4-1 mark in the conference. Justen Close had 28 saves in the win.
GOODBYE ROOF pic.twitter.com/056etW8qKC— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) February 25, 2023
The Buckeyes (18-13-3, 11-11-2) got power-play goals from Cole McWard and Mason Lohrei in the loss. They also got some important help out of town, as a Wisconsin win at Penn State clinched home ice in round one of the playoffs for Ohio State.
"I thought we played pretty well tonight, for the most part," Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said, tipping his cap to the Gophers. "A team like that needs a crack in the door. We had a two-zip lead, we had a tough turnover and it's in the net ... You've got to work pretty hard. That's a pretty talented team."
Just as penalty troubles had doomed the Buckeyes on Friday in the series-opening 4-0 win by Minnesota, the Gophers had infraction issues of their own on Saturday which contributed to Ohio State’s 2-0 lead.
Our jaw.— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) February 26, 2023
It's on the floor. pic.twitter.com/AZct1kypWC
Just seconds apart, Knies and Snuggerud both committed major penalties, giving the Buckeyes an extended two-man advantage. They got the game’s first goal with 3.4 seconds left in the opening period, and another early in the second with one tick of the clock remaining on the 5-on-3 power play to lead by a pair.
Knies said he apologized to his teammates for the penalty between periods.
"It was a pretty brutal penalty by me and (Snuggerud) there. I kind of lost a lot of confidence on the bench, so it was nice that we could get back to 5-on-5, and get some control in the zone," he said. "It wasn't a good penalty. I had to apologize to the guys and work a little harder for it."
Then the Gophers stormed back, with Huglen and Knies scoring on consecutive rushes to the net, tying the game in the blink of an eye. Then Knies helped the Gophers take the lead late in the second, feeding Cooley for a “pop it over the goalie” shot.
Bryce Brodzinski and Ryan Johnson added late goals in the third, with Johnson hitting an empty net from the far end of the rink. It was the third long-range goal he has scored in his career with the Gophers.
The Gophers had no healthy scratches on Saturday. Defensemen Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Chesley, and forward Garrett Pinoniemi are all out with injuries. Defenseman Matt Staudacher is being redshirted.
As the winners of the Big Ten regular season title, the Gophers get next weekend off and await the lowest remaining seed from the first round of the conference tournament. They will host a one-game semifinal on March 11 in Minneapolis.
Minnesota 5, Ohio State 2
Ohio State 1-1-0—2
First period — 1. OS, Cole McWard 5 (Wise, Mason Lohrei), 19:57, (PP). Penalties — Jake Wise, OS (tripping), 4:10; Matthew Knies, MN (high sticking), 8:04; Joe Dunlap, OS (boarding), 11:56; Knies, MN (5-head contact), 16:07; Jimmy Snuggerud, MN (5-boarding), 16:07; Lohrei, OS (roughing after the whistle), 16:07.
Second period — 2. OS, Lohrei 3 (Stephen Halliday, Travis Treloar), 1:06, (PP). 3. MN, Aaron Huglen 5 (Rhett Pitlick), 8:13. 4. MN, Knies 21 (Snuggerud, Logan Cooley), 8:26. 5. MN, Cooley 16 (Knies, Snuggerud), 19:29. Penalties — Matt Cassidy, OS (holding), 13:32.
Third period — 6. MN, Bryce Brodzinski 15 (unassisted), 14:43. 7. MN, Ryan Johnson 4 (unassisted), 17:31, (EN). Penalties — Tyler Duke, OS (tripping), 4:33.
Shots on goal — MN 9-12-12—33; OS 12-10-8—30. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (30 shots-28 saves); Jakob Dobes, OS (33-28). Power plays — MN 0-of-4, OS 2-of-4. Referees — Jake Rekucki, Colin Kronforst. Linesmen — Samuel Shikowsky, Nicholas Bradshaw. Att. — 10,140.