Ohio State’s men’s ice hockey team closes out their regular season schedule this weekend in Minneapolis, where they’ll take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are currently the No. 1 ranked team in the country. This will be Ohio State’s first trip to Minneapolis since November 2021, when they split a series with the Golden Gophers.
Last time against the Golden Gophers
Not only was the last series between the teams in Minneapolis a split, but the series earlier this season that was played in October in Columbus was also a split. The Buckeyes won the first game of the two-game series 6-4. Dominic Vidoli scored the only goal of the first period. The action gained some steam in the second period with the teams combining for five goals. After Minnesota tied up the game, Ohio State responded with goals from Travis Treloar on the power play, followed by Joe Dunlap’s second goal of the year just over a minute later.
After Minnesota inched closer with a Brody Lamb goal, the Buckeyes were able to restore the two-goal lead shortly after when Stephen Halliday lit the lamp. Travis Treloar scored his second goal of the game early in the third period, which was followed five minutes later by a goal from Patrick Guzzo to extend the lead to 6-2. Minnesota would score two goals late in the third period, but didn’t have enough time to complete the comeback.
The Golden Gophers responded the next day with a 4-2 win to prevent Ohio State from completing the sweep. Jackson LaCombe opened up the scoring, while Davis Burnside evened up the score for Ohio State with a shorthanded goal less than a minute later. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, Minnesota reeled off the next three goals of the game. Burnside was able to net another shorthanded goal near the end of the game, but it was too little, too late.
A Saturday to remember
Ohio State enters this weekend’s series coming off one of the most notable wins in school history. After a 3-3 overtime draw against Michigan last Thursday in Columbus, the teams traveled up to Cleveland to play outdoors at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Wolverines won the first outdoor game the teams played in Cleveland at Progressive Field in 2012, but this time the result was in Ohio State’s favor, with the Buckeyes winning 4-2 in front of 45,523 on a beautiful February day.
After a scoreless first period on the shores of Lake Erie, the action ramped up in the second period, with the teams scoring four goals. Cole McWard opened up the scoring with his fourth goal of the season at the 14:21 mark. The Buckeyes would double their lead three minutes late when Jake Wise potted a power play goal. The Wolverines would pull one back when Gavin Brindley scored, but the two-goal would be restored less than a minute when Tyler Duke scored a shorthanded goal in the final minute of the period.
Following the second period intermission, Michigan would again close the deficit when Eric Ciccolini scored nearly midway through the third period. Much like in the second period when the Wolverines scored, Ohio State would responded quickly, this time on a power play goal from Stephen Halliday. Jake Wise was credited with his second assist of the game on the goal, and a couple days later Wise was named the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week for his performance.
While Wise was honored for his performance, another Buckeye that came up big in the game was goaltender Jakub Dobes, who made 35 saves in the win, with 19 of those stops coming in the third period. The goalie has now played in 32 of Ohio State’s 35 games this year, posting an 18-11-3-3 record with a 2.24 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage.
Not only in the first series with Minnesota this year, but also on Saturday, Ohio State used their special teams to put some goals on the board. While the Buckeyes putting up 29 power play goals in 35 games is a great number, even more impressive is what Ohio State does when they are at a disadvantage on the ice. The Buckeyes are first in the country, killing off 117 of the 130 penalties they have been called for. Ohio State has also netted 10 shorthanded goals this year, which is also the top mark in the country.
What’s at stake this weekend
Minnesota will try to keep the top spot in the country this weekend, but they don’t have much else to play for. The Golden Gophers have already clinched the Big Ten regular season title and a bye in the conference tournament. Heading into this weekend’s games, Minnesota is 23-8-1 overall with 51 points in the standings.
On the other side, Ohio State has plenty to play for. After Minnesota, the next three teams in the Big Ten standings earn home-ice advantage for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Currently the Buckeyes are tied for second with Michigan, with both teams earning 36 points through 22 games.
Michigan State has already closed out their regular season schedule, and sit in fourth place with 34 points. Not far behind the Spartans are Penn State and Notre Dame, who each have 31 points and two games left to play. Three points are earned for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, and one point is given for an overtime or shootout loss.
While Ohio State will have most of their focus on Minnesota, they’ll also have an eye towards the scoreboard this weekend. Michigan hosts Notre Dame, while Penn State hosts Wisconsin, who currently sits at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. The worst case scenario for the Buckeyes would be if they fail to secure a point this weekend, while Notre Dame and Penn State both win in regulation in both of their games this weekend.
Strangely enough, the Buckeyes would actually benefit from a good showing by the Wolverines against the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor.
Since the standings in the Big Ten are tight between Minnesota at the top, and Wisconsin at the bottom, it’s hard to predict how the conference tournament matchups are going to shake out in the first round. Unless a catastrophe happens, at least the Buckeyes should be at home to open up the Big Ten Tournament, but the standings are a little too jumbled to know who they’ll be facing.