The Ohio State-less football game going on in Indianapolis wasn’t the only Saturday night matchup of ranked Big Ten teams. There was also Ohio State hockey’s absolute beatdown of Minnesota in the latter’s home arena by a score of 8-3.
Ohio State’s hockey team got revenge for the 5-3 sound defeat on Friday to the nation’s No. 11/9 Gophers with the smothering of Minnesota on Saturday. The No. 10/11 Buckeyes improved to 9-2-4 on the season while Minnesota fell to 7-5-2. Both teams are 1-1 in Big Ten conference play since they’ve only played each other.
Make no mistake, Ohio State has a great record now at the halfway point of the season, but came into this series with questions. They had some lackluster performances against opponents like Robert Morris they should dominate and hadn’t faced a true national power since the upset of Denver way back in the beginning of October.
Compounding those questions were the ones in goal. Christian Frey has been alternating between hurt and mediocre this entire season going into Saturday and Matt Tomkins has played well this year but never been consistent or even average in terms of save percentage over his career in extended stretches.
Friday night did not answer these questions in positive manners for the Buckeyes. Tomkins was bombarded and didn’t stop a shot in the second period. The team was smothered in the third period despite staying close. They just couldn’t generate any chances despite being behind. They didn’t deserve to win.
Things are looking much rosier after Saturday’s destruction.
Christian Frey only allowed three goals despite facing 34 shots against a more talented team. They outshot Minnesota for a majority of the game before they blew it open and went into more of a natural shell to prevent a humongous comeback. And the goal scoring juggernaut we know and love returned on top of that.
Mason Jobst, who’d be tied for the Bucks’ lead in points on the night with four, scored the first goal for the Buckeyes just 33 seconds into the game. His fourth had Luke Stork as the lone helper. He came into the game shooting just 6.7% but with four points, now is over a point per game with 16 points in 15 games.
Tommy Parran scored his third of the year at 9:32 to give Ohio State the two goal advantage, but Minnesota was not going to go down easily, at least at the start. Within 1:33, starting at 11:20, Tyler Sheehy and Ryan Lindgren both scored for the Gophers to tie the game at two apiece.
And that’d be the score going into the intermission. Shots were 12-7 Minnesota, but with the Gophers falling behind early and having to play more aggressively than anticipated, it wasn’t a death knell for Ohio State. You could easily see a game like Friday’s unfolding, though.
Nick Schilkey and Jobst decided they didn’t want to go down that path again, however, Schilkey scored his 13th of the year at 2:06 of the second and Jobst followed that up at 2:20 to give Ohio State the two goal lead back once again with his fifth of the year.
And just 4:47 after that, Tanner Laczynski scored his sixth of the season to make it 5-2 Ohio State. Josh Healey made it 6-2 just 1:44 later with his second of the season and the boat race was on. That 6-2 score would hold up going into the second intermission as Frey stopped all seven Minnesota shots put on net.
David Gust kept the beating on just 4:57 into the third as he scored his tenth of the year to make it 7-2. That score would hold for a relatively long time until Sasha Larocque scored his first of the year 13:08 to make it 8-2. Minnesota would add another goal in garbage time from Sheehy to make it 8-3 and that final score would hold.
Frey was solid. The offense showed it can break out against better teams than the Niagaras and UConns of the college hockey world. Jobst found the back of the net again. Laczynski continued his super freshman season as his point total is now up to 22 on the season as he had a goal and three assists. Schilkey had a goal and an assist and now has 19 points in 15 games. Gust is now in double digits scoring. The defense scored three times.
There’s not much you could have possibly asked for coming into this weekend series. The Buckeyes showed they’re no fluke against the biggest traditional titan the Big Ten has to offer. They hopefully rediscovered their old solid goalie in Frey. They’re getting scoring from everywhere you could ask. The NCAA tournament is not out of the realm of possibility for this team.
The Bucks will take much of the rest of this month off before reconvening against Miami in Columbus on New Year’s Eve. It will hopefully be a pretty nice pregame for the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Day. I hope I didn’t just jinx this whole thing.