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Freshman Friday, again: Gophers rally to win 3-2 at Ohio State

With three key players skating for Team USA at the Olympics, the Minnesota Gophers got a trio of goals from rookies on Friday to win their third game in a row, overcoming an early deficit at Ohio State to take down the Big Ten-leading Buckeyes.

Ohio State goalie Jakub Dobes sprawled, and failed, to make a save on a first period goal by Gophers forward Tristan Broz (right) in the first period of a 3-2 Minnesota win on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Ric Kruszynski / Ohio State Athletics

COLUMBUS, Ohio – “Freshman Friday” is not officially on the Minnesota Gophers’ promotional calendar, but at this rate it will be added to the fan incentives soon.

For the second consecutive series opener, rookies led the way for the Gophers, who overcame an early deficit to win their third game in a row, beating Ohio State 3-2 on Friday at Value City Arena.

First-year players Chaz Lucius, Tristan Broz and Aaron Huglen had goals for Minnesota (18-11-0 overall, 13-6-0 Big Ten) which moved within a game of both Ohio State and Michigan, who currently share the conference lead. Gophers goalie Justen Close improved to 6-3-0 as a starter with a career high 32 saves in the win.


“It was just a strong, steady game for us,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “Obviously you go on the road and get a lead, it’s a whole lot better than the other way.”

The Buckeyes (21-8-2, 13-6-2) got an early goal from defenseman Cole McWard, a late goal from Joe Dunlap and 28 saves from rookie goalie Jakub Dobes, but saw their seven-game unbeaten streak snapped.

“One-goal game…it’s playoff hockey,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “You feel like you’re playing a decent game and you’re up one-zip and you make two mistakes against a really good hockey team. The next thing you know, you’re down 2-1 after one. We just tried to claw our way back.”

Minnesota defenseman Mike Koster battled with Ohio State forward Tate Singleton for a puck along the boards during the Gophers' 3-2 win over the Buckeyes on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Ric Kruszynski / Ohio State Athletics

Trailing by a goal late in the first period and apparently tired of the Dobes show, the Gophers turned the tables on Ohio State’s star goalie. First they jumped on a turnover in front of the Buckeyes net, with Huglen, Rhett Pitlick and Lucius sharing the puck back and forth before Lucius slipped a low shot between the goalie’s pads. It was the ninth goal of the season for Lucius, which tied him with Matthew Knies – currently skating for Team USA in China – for the team lead among rookies.


Just 79 seconds later, the Gophers finished a pretty 2-on-1 rush to the net with Sammy Walker completing a long cross-ice pass to Broz, who popped a shot into the upper-right corner of the net. It was the third goal in the past five games for Broz, who was the top forward for the Fargo Force last season.

“We’re all getting to that point where we’re starting to play hockey and to feel like ourselves out there,” Broz said of his freshman class. “I think that’s showing that we’re all playing our individual games and making things happen, having a lot of fun.”

Minnesota Gophers fowards Sammy Walker (9) and Tristan Broz (10) celebrated a first period goal which gave their team team the lead in an eventual 3-2 win over Ohio State on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Ric Kruszynski / Ohio State Athletics

Huglen provided a little bit of breathing room late in the second period, pushing another low shot past the Buckeyes goalie for a two-goal advantage when the freshman – who also starred for the Fargo Force last season – refused to be moved from the front of the net.

“It is uncanny how strong he is,” Motzko said of Huglen, who was a star at Roseau as a prep. “Maybe that’s that northern blood that you guys come from. He is one strong dude on the puck and wins almost all of his battles in tight areas. Size is not a factor for him.”

Minnesota center Grant Cruikshank (21) won a faceoff from Ohio State's Jaedon Leslie during the Gophers' 3-2 win over the Buckeyes on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Ric Kruszynski / Ohio State Athletics

In last Friday's 4-2 home win over Michigan State, the Gophers got goals from Pitlick, Huglen and Broz.

The Buckeyes got a breakaway goal in the opening minute of the third to pull back within one, but did not get even, as Close had 10 saves in the final period.


“Closer has been lights out for us and continues to be,” said Walker. “He was amazing tonight and we’re super confident with him back there.”

With the Buckeyes pressing to tie, play continued for nine minutes without a whistle in the third period, which didn't allow Rohlik an opportunity to draw up a play until a puck left the rink with 69 seconds on the clock. The Buckeyes pulled Dobes and got two good looks at the net but could not solve Close again.

The series concludes on Saturday with a 5 p.m. first faceoff.

Minnesota 3, Ohio State 2

Minnesota 2-1-0—3

Ohio State 1-0-1—2


First period — 1. OS, Cole McWard 3 (Kamil Sadlocha, Georgii Merkulov), 6:43. 2. MN, Chaz Lucius 9 (Rhett Pitlick, Aaron Huglen), 17:19. 3. MN, Tristan Broz 4 (Sammy Walker, Bryce Brodzinski), 18:38. Penalties — Bench (served by Michael Gildon), OS (too many men), 3:30.

Second period — 4. MN, Huglen 5 (Pitlick, Lucius), 15:14. Penalties — Jack Perbix, MN (tripping), 3:07; Patrick Guzzo, OS (slashing), 5:32; Gustaf Westlund, OS (hooking), 17:51.

Third period — 5. OS, Joe Dunlap 7 (Ryan O’Connell), 0:32. 6. MN, Tristan Broz 3 (Grant Cruikshank, Fish), 8:45. Penalties — Ben Brinkman, MN (interference), 9:23.

Shots on goal — MN 16-10-5—31; OS 11-12-11—34. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (34 shots-32 saves); Jakub Dobes, OS (31-28). Power plays — MN 0-of-3, OS 0-of-2. Referees — Jonathan Sitarski, Tony Czech. Linesmen — Nick Huff, Justin Cornell. Att. — 6,008.

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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