Man did Ohio State need this one. With Michigan closing to within two points in the Big Ten standings, and only three games left going into today, Ohio State needed to start closing strong to hold onto their No. 2 seed. Today they grabbed the win in a shootout over No. 10 Minnesota and held serve with Michigan, while all but taking Minnesota out of any chance at the two seed.
Sean Romeo was deservedly the first star of tonight’s game, making 34 saves on 35 shots on goal from the Gophers, not allowing a single score until 10:27 into the third period. Romeo also made an additional six saves in the shootout alone.
Mat Robson was nearly his equal in net for Minnesota, stopping 38/39 shots, but allowing two to Tanner Laczynski and Gordi Myer of all people in the shootout to give Ohio State the win and extra point in the Big Ten standings heading into the last weekend of the season, in which they will take on Wisconsin.
The first period would be scoreless in this one, but unlike Friday night, Ohio State came out and acted like the more highly ranked team. On Friday, they were blown off the puck and significantly outshot until Minnesota finally drew first blood with a first period goal. In this one, OSU actually outshot Minnesota 10-8 in the first and 14-12 in the second.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they couldn’t replicate Minnesota’s Friday success of a first period goal, but they did finally get one in in the second. Mason Jobst scored with just 34 seconds left in the second period, with Freddy Gerard’s gaining the lone assist on what would turn out to be Ohio State’s only goal in regulation.
This was all despite Ohio State only getting one powerplay opportunity in the first and Minnesota having two powerplay chances on three Ohio State penalties in the second alone, including 1:08 of 5-on-3 time. But Ohio State killed it off like they so often do with their elite penalty-killing unit. The Buckeyes came into tonight leading the nation in penalty-kill percentage, a full two percentage points ahead of No. 2, Army. Former Buckeye Tyler Nanne took a Minnesota penalty at 16:28 of the second, but OSU wasn’t able to pay that one off either.
The third wouldn’t be nearly as kind to the Buckeyes. They’d outshoot Minnesota again, 13-12, but the Gophers would score the lone goal of the frame with 9:33 left in the period. Brent Gates tied it up and that’s where the score would remain.
In overtime, shots were 3-2 Minnesota, but again, neither team would score. Romeo and Robson were engaged in a duel and it seemed like this one was going to go on all night. Because this is Big Ten play, it was allowed to and we went to the shootout.
That’s where Romeo would separate himself from Robson. He’d stop six of seven Minnesota attempts while Robson only stopped five of seven from the Buckeye.
Tanner Laczynski would lead it off for OSU and score, but on Minnesota’s first attempt, Tyler Sheehy knotted the shootout at one apiece. Then there was a dearth of scoring for awhile, much like this entire weekend series.
Ronnie Hein was stopped by Robson. Gates was stopped this time by Romeo. Sam McCormick missed. So did Brannon McManus for Minnesota. Sorry, come again, Kevin Miller. Try again when you have fewer consonants in your name, Mike Szmatula, said Sean Romeo. John Wiitala, robbed by Robson. Scott Reedy got greedy and got nothing out of it for the Gophers.
Enter Gordi Myer. He came in without a single goal on the season. Only eight assists to his record. Only 26 shots on goal.
So of course he scored the winner on Robson.
Tommy Novak would be stopped by Romeo and that’d be that. Ohio State came out with the shootout victory and the extra point. Take it and run.
The Buckeyes will look to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament next weekend as they host Wisconsin for the last weekend series of the regular season. Should be fun. Go Bucks.