The #4 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey team will start the second half of their Big Ten season this weekend with a road trip to Columbus to face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Minnesota will most likely face a much tougher task in the Buckeyes they they got from Arizona State last weekend, but Minnesota will try and keep the offensive excitement alive as they reenter conference play.
The Gophers took advantage of a wounded and COVID addled Sun Devil team last weekend to score 20 goals over the pair of games. Minnesota had not scored ten goals in a game since January of 2004 prior to last Thursday, and then they did it again the next night. It was only the third time in program history the Gophers have scored ten goals in back to back games, and only the second time in school history they had done it against the same opponent—the other being Dartmouth in 1953!
Most importantly was who jumpstarted the Gopher offense. Minnesota had been getting great play so far this season from their second teir of stars—the Scott Reedy and Sampo Ranta’s of the world—Reedy by the way recorded five assists in last Thursday’s game tying a school record. But Minnesota still had been waiting for that spark to really light the top offensive pair of Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker. Consider that spark ignited. McLaughlin was named the Big Ten’s #1 Star of the Week after scoring four goals and adding three assists in the series against the Sun Devils. Walker recorded a hat trick in Thursday’s game ad added an assist on Friday. Also returning to form was Brannon McManus who was great to start the season and then missed several games due to injury. He refound his scoring touch recoding a natural hat trick in Thursday’s win and added one on Friday to go along with a pair of assists—enough to earn him the Big Ten’s #2 Star of the Week.
Add in Jack LaFontaine’s third shutout of the season on just 13 saves on Thursday and Minnesota seems to have gotten back to looking like the team that started the season 10-0, not the one that had been 1-3 in their last four prior to the ASU series. But reality may set in this week. As someone put it earlier this week, going from ASU to Ohio State will be a bit of a shock to the system—like playing the JV and then playing the varsity. Expect the Buckeyes to bring a much tougher game.
Ohio State has struggled this season. A year after tying Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten the Buckeyes are just 5-10-1 on the season. Ohio State split a series last weekend in East Lansing against Michigan State picking up a 5-1 win and a 2-0 loss. Ohio State was hoping for better play in goal from junior Tommy Napier the Big Ten Goalie of the Year last season. He has started every game this season for the Buckeyes and has a goals against average of 2.82 and a save percentage of .917.
Ohio State has not had the offensive fire power we have seen from them in previous seasons. The Buckeyes give up an average of 3 goals per game, but are only scoring an average of 2.25 goals per game. That’s usually a problem. Travis Treloar leads the team with 15 points and six goals on the season with Quinn Preston’s five goals next in line.
Minnesota matches up well with the Buckeyes. The Gophers have the #3 scoring offense and #3 scoring defense in the nation. Ohio State is #38 on offense and #28 on defense. Minnesota has the better special teams as well converting 23.6 % of power play chances compared to Ohio State’s 22.2%, and killing off 89.5 percent of their penalties compared to 81.5 for the Buckeyes.
On paper this should be another sweep for Minnesota giving them another boost towards a Big Ten regular season title. But as well all know, games aren’t won on paper and Minnesota will need to make the necessary adjustments to make sure they are ready for the Buckeyes this weekend.
HOW TO WATCH:
#4 Minnesota Golden Gophers @ Ohio State Buckeyes
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus Ohio
When: 5PM Friday/ 4PM Saturday
TV: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports App