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'Our energy was low,' Motzko says after his mistake-prone No. 1 Gophers fall to Buckeyes

In their first Big Ten road test of the season, the Minnesota Gophers looked like a work in progress, falling victim to an opportunistic Ohio State team and some self-inflicted troubles.

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Minnesota forward Rhett Pitlick fought for the puck with Ohio State defenseman Dominic Vidoli in the second period between the Gophers and Buckeyes on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Contributed / Ohio State Athletics

COLUMBUS, Ohio β€” As we barrel headlong toward Halloween, perhaps the Minnesota Gophers fell victim to some evil forces conspiring against them in their series opener at Ohio State.

The top-ranked Gophers were done in by a combination of misplays and misfortune, falling 6-4 to the Buckeyes in their Big Ten opener.

"Obviously we're not real happy right now. That was not a good effort by us," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "Our energy was low and we're trying to find it and you've got a few guys pushing. It was like a trip to the dentist tonight."

Jackson LaCombe, Brody Lamb, John Mittelstadt and Bryce Brodzinski scored for the Gophers (4-3-0 overall, 0-1-0 Big Ten) and Aaron Huglen added a pair of assists. They got 21 saves from starter Justen Close, who was lifted after the fifth Ohio State goal.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Bryce Brodzinski (left) looked for the puck amid a crowd of Buckeyes during a 6-4 loss to Ohio State on Friday, October 28, 2022 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Contributed / Ohio State Athletics

The 11th-ranked Buckeyes (7-1-1, 3-0-0) took an early lead via a puck off the stick of a Gophers player and never trailed, scoring on a brief power play and taking advantage of a misplay behind the Gophers net to get some breathing room.

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Trailing 3-2 and pressing to tie, the Gophers appeared deflated when Close went behind the net to play the puck and left it for defenseman Mike Koster. But Koster caught a rut in the ice and fell, which allowed Buckeyes freshman Stephen Halliday to grab the unattended puck and pop into an empty net.

From there the floodgates opened. When the Buckeyes made it 5-2 early in the third, Close headed to the bench and was replaced by Owen Bartoszkiewicz, who finished with eight saves in relief.

Jakub Dobes, the Big Ten's top goalie last season, finished with 27 saves for the Buckeyes.

Apathetic atmosphere

A week ago the Gophers had battled long-time neighborhood rival North Dakota before two packed houses at home, in two toe-to-toe battles that went to overtime.

In sharp contrast, Friday's game was sparsely attended, with no band an not many fans inside the cavernous Value City Arena, and the Gophers clearly had trouble getting their legs and their emotions going early.

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"When you don't have your energy, you make some poor decisions and we made some real poor decisions," Motzko said. "Blind passes, turnovers, not being back above pucks and (the Buckeyes) speed got them up the rink."

The players, for their part, made no excuses for the end result.

"We came out flat today and we tried to build throughout the game," Lamb said. "Some mistakes kind of hurt us early and throughout the game. So we're just kind of having a good dinner, get some rest tonight and come back ready tomorrow."

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Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for Friday’s game for the Gophers were defensemen Matt Staudacher and forward Charlie Strobel. Due to Big Ten restrictions on how many players can travel, Carl Fish and Colin Schmidt did not come on the trip to Ohio State.

Last Saturday, North Dakota was 3-of-5 on the power play in their 5-4 overtime win over the Gophers. On Wednesday, Motzko joked that they needed to "get the duct tape" out and fix the team's penalty kill. Ohio State had just one power play in Friday's game, and needed just seven seconds to score a man-advantage goal.

The series concludes at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday afternoon.

Ohio State 6, Minnesota 4

Minnesota 0-2-2β€”4

Ohio State 1-3-2β€”6

First period β€” 1. OS, Dominic Vidoli 1 (Michael Gildon), 14:16. Penalties β€” Matt Cassidy, OS (interference), 8:25.

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Second period β€” 2. MN, Jackson LaCombe 2 (Mason Nevers, Aaron Huglen), 1:30. 3. OS, Travis Treloar 3 (Mason Lohrei, Jake Wise), 7:48, (PP). 4. OS, Joe Dunlap 2 (Cassidy, James Marooney), 9:00. 5. MN, Brody Lamb 2 (Huglen), 13:10. 6. OS, Stephen Halliday 3 (unassisted), 14:53. Penalties β€” Connor Kurth, MN (tripping), 7:41.

Third period β€” 7. OS, Treloar 4 (Tate Singleton, Tyler Duke), 2:00. 8. OS, Patrick Guzzo 4 (Dunlap), 7:12. 9. MN, Bryce Brodzinski 2 (Jaxon Nelson), 11:54. 10. MN, John Mittelstadt 1 (Luke Mittelstadt), 19:45. Penalties β€” LaCombe, MN (roughing after the whistle), 2:40; Jaedon Leslie, OS (roughing after the whistle), 2:40.

Shots on goal β€” MN 9-10-12β€”31; OS 9-15-11β€”35. Goalies β€” Justen Close, MN (26 shots-21 saves); Owen Bartoszkiewicz, MN (9-8); Jakub Dobes, OS (31-27). Power plays β€” MN 0-of-1, OS 1-of-1. Referees β€” Andrew Bruggeman, Brett DesRosiers. Linesmen β€” Nicholas Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky. Att. β€” 3,242.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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