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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers Host Ohio State in Ranked Big Ten Battle

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Can the Gophers keep their seven game unbeaten streak against the Buckeyes alive?

Brad Rempel—Gophersports.com

The Minnesota Gophers will put their seven game unbeaten streak against Ohio State on the line when the Buckeyes head to Minneapolis for a Big Ten series this weekend. Faceoff Friday is at 6:30 PM, with a 5PM puck drop on Saturday.

Minnesota heads into the weekend after an overtime loss and a win in Madison against Wisconsin last weekend. Minnesota took a 3-2 lead into the third period before giving up both the game tieing and game winning goals to Brock Caufield. The Gophers battles back Saturday for a 4-1 scoring three goals quick in the first period that saw Badger goalie Cameron Rowe get pulled. Minnesota overcame a scare of their own in that game as Jack Lafontaine got tangled up with a Badger player and the goalpost late in the first period and was holding his leg in some significant pain. He was helped off the ice and junior Justen Close came in to finish off the first period, and LaFontaine was able to come back in for the final two periods to earn the win. He appears to be 100% and will be in net for both games this weekend for the Gophers.

The Buckeyes come into the weekend off of a home sweep of Penn State. Ohio State started the season off slowly losing to Western Michigan and Bentley before finding their groove and have won six of their last seven games. Goal scoring was expected to be an issue for the Buckeyes this season as they were predicted to finish last in the Big Ten, but they have overachieved averaging 3.75 goals per game thus far. Ohio State is led in scoring by Mark Cheremeta who has three goals and 7 points on the season, and Mason Lohrei who also has 7 points on the season.

The Buckeyes appear to have another stud goalie on their roster as well. Czech freshman Jakub Dobes has impressed in his collegiate debut going 6-1 with an impressive 1.06 goals against average and a .960 save percentage which ranks him second in the nation on both categories.

Minnesota will need to get scoring from the usual sources. Blake McLaughlin leads the Gophers with 13 points on the season while his linemate Bryce Brodzinski leads the team with six goals. Both Sammy Walker and Ben Meyers enter the series averaging more than a point per game against Ohio State in their careers. Put the puck in the net.

LaFontaine is 6-1-1 all-time against the Buckeyes and he needs to show that level of success this weekend. After some intial struggles he has seemed to get back closer to his 2020-21 form, but this surprising Buckeye team can take advantage if he is not as sharp as he needs to be.

Special teams will also be key. Ohio State has yet to give up a power play goal in 8 attempts this season. Minnesota and their 26% successful power play will need to change that.

It may be early in the season, but all Big Ten points add up, and getting at minimum 4-5 this weekend is probably necessary for the Gophers to keep up with Michigan for the top of the conference race. Minnesota just needs to play like they did against Notre Dame and in Saturday’s Wisconsin game, and not so much like Friday’s and they can get the job done.

HOW TO WATCH:

#14/18 Ohio State Buckeyes @ #6/8 Minnesota Gophers

Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN

When: 6:30 PM Friday, 5 PM Saturday

TV: Bally Sports North

Stream: Bally Sports App/ BTN+ ($$)

Radio: 1130 AM/ 103.5 FM/ IHeart Radio App