Gophers Beat Buckeyes, Inch Closer to Big Ten Title
Win clinches Top-2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament
The calendar has turned to March and the stretch run is here. Everything seems to get extra tough this time of year – no matter the opponent or where you are playing. As a young team, it’s certainly plausible that you could argue the last two regular season series would be extra tough for the Maroon & Gold. But the Gophers really stuck with it after a few rough patches in the first period and took care of business on Friday night against Ohio State with a 5 – 1 win.
Goldy got off to a great start as Justin Kloos popped home a rebound from Taylor Cammarata and it was 1 – 0 early. After Connor Reilly just missed a wide open chance in front which really would have put the Buckeyes on their heels early, OSU really turned the tables. They pinned the Gophers in their zone for a few long stretches but the Gophers battled out of it. They ended up with a late power play and increased the lead to 2 – 0 at intermission when Kyle Rau scooped in a rebound from his place to the right of the net.
Taylor Cammarata got the Gophers up 3 – 0 with a great one-time shot from the circle as the 2nd period got underway. It was the 2nd power play goal of the game for the Gophers and the game was teetering. Unfortunately, Tanner Fritz was able to knock in a rebound just seconds later after a fortunate bounce got the Buckeyes a short breakaway.
But, before OSU could gain any momentum, the Gophers put the game away with two quick goals. First, Connor Reilly atoned for his pipe shot in the first period by tipping home a Justin Holl blast from the point. Then, less than 30 seconds later, Vinny Lettieri continued the freshman onslaught by whipping a turnaround type shot just over the goal line after stealing the puck in the corner to the left of the OSU net, which finished the scoring.
So – where does this leave the Gophers in terms of Big Ten play? With just three games to play, they lead Wisconsin by seven points. So they just need to win one of their next three games to outright clinch the first Big Ten Hockey title in the modern era. The 4G/4A effort by the freshmen class also ensured that the Gophers would not finish lower than the #2 slot so they will get a bye in the first round of the tournament in two weeks.
Game two of the series will be Senior Night for the Buckeyes and possibly Championship clinching night for the Gophers, which starts at 5:30 and will be televised on ESPNNEWS.
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