clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Gopher Hockey vs Ohio State: Preview, How to Watch, and How to Listen

New, 1 comment

The Gophers need a sweep....badly.

Seth Ambroz--Badger Killer
Seth Ambroz--Badger Killer
gophersports.com

The Golden Gophers enter this weekend series against Ohio State in rough shape.  The Gophers are sitting in fourth place in the Big Ten and sweeping a team like the Buckeyes at home is something they must do if they want to keep any hopes alive of making the NCAA Tournament as an at large team.

Minnesota is coming off of a weekend in Madison where they took four of six possible points from the last place Badgers.  They seemed to find their offensive firepower in the second period of Friday's game where they scored four goals in 1:40 to take control of that game from the Badgers.  However, it was another slugfest on Saturday, and if not for the heroics of Badger Killer Seth Ambroz with two seconds left, it would have been an even worse result for Minnesota.

The obvious key to the Gophers this weekend and for the rest of the season is stressing the importance of solid defense and good goaltending.  Adam Wilcox has not been good the last few weeks, whether that is to him starting to wear down, a lack of seeing the puck well, or having poor technique.  The defense has not helped him out for sure, but Wilcox makes several saves in 2013-14 that he has allowed this season.  Whether or not the Gopher coaching staff will give him a rest and we will see Nick Lehr get his first collegiate start is definitely in question, but its not out of the question--something that was unthinkable in October.

In all facets, the Gophers are better than the Buckeyes.  They average nearly 0.7 more goals per game, and give up 0.8 less per game.  They still have one of the best power-plays in the nation at 26.3%.  The Gophers should sweep.  Yet confidence in them is very low.  The fans are not happy with what has happened this season amid the expectations they had--possibly unobtainable, but yet still reasonable given the returning players.  Even for as poor as the season has gone, the Gophers still have a chance to make the NCAAs as an at large team.  But it will take some significant work that must begin this weekend with a sweep.

It won't be easy with the Gophers missing their leading scorer in Connor Reilly for at least the next month thanks to a cheap hit by a Wisconsin player who will miss only one game.   To make up for his loss, the Gophers must get more scoring from the rest of the sophomores on the team.  Taylor Cammerata finally seems to be coming alive with a goal last Friday night, and Justin Kloos needs to get over being snakebitten.  He had several tap in chances the last weekend, but just couldn't seem to put the puck in the net.  If he can start converting these chances the Gophers will have a much better chance at getting the necessary sweeps to get into the tournament.

So by now you are probably asking why you think the Gophers can still get in with the necessary sweeps.  Well, according to Jim Dahl of College Hockey Ranked, its because they still have a good shot as long as they win enough games.  If the Gophers can win 8 of their 12 remaining regular season games, the Gophers have approximately a 66% chance of having their final pairwise ranking being high enough to make the NCAA's as an at large team.  Win 10 of the last 12 games?? Its almost guaranteed that the Gophers get in.  There are no losable games anymore. Anything less than 8-4 down the stretch and you need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get in. Even at that there is a 33% chance you miss out going 8-4.  Even if the Gophers drop both games to Michigan--The only Big Ten team ranked higher in the current Pairwise than Minnesota, they still have a chance.  They would most likely have to go 9-1 in the rest of the games, but with four games each against Ohio State and Penn State, and a pair at home against Michigan State...its still possible.  But the task starts this weekend.  Anything less than a sweep of the Buckeyes and the road gets much much harder.  The Gophers are 15-2-1 all time against OSU.  They better hope to make that 17-2-1 by 9:30 Saturday night.

Ohio State Buckeyes (7-13-2) (2-6) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-9-3) (3-2-3-0)

Location: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis Minnesota

Friday Gametime: 8:10 PM

TV: Big Ten Network

Live Video Stream: BTN2Go

Audio: 1500 ESPN

Live Stats: GameTracker

Saturday Gametime: 7:07 PM

TV: Fox Sports North Plus

Live Video Stream: BTN2Go

Audio: 1500 ESPN

Live Stats: GameTracker