The Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team heads out on the road for the first of two series that will determine just how much of a player they intent to be at the top of the Big Ten standings. First up is a trip to Columbus for a two-game series against the current Big Ten leaders in the Ohio State Buckeyes. Minnesota trails Ohio State by five points in the conference standings, but have two games in hand. Therefore a split at a minimum is required if the Gophers want to still have a chance at the conference title.
Minnesota comes into the weekend off of their second sweep on the season over Michigan State. The Gophers found a way to put the puck in the net missing their trio of Olympians as Sammy Walker awoke to score a pair of huge goals on Friday brining Minnesota back for the 4-1 win. Justen Close continued to play well enough to get the Gophers the wins they need as they try and run down the Buckeyes and Wolverines from behind.
Ohio State comes into the weekend after taking five of six points from Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have 42 points in the conference and sit atop the standings after being predicted to finish in last place by the coaches in the preseason. But they have been getting some huge performances from some newcomers to the lineup. Freshman forward Georgii Merkulov leads the Buckeyes with 18 goals and 31 points, while his classmate, defenseman Mason Lohrei, has a team-best 25 assists and is second with 29 points. In net the Buckeyes have been led by another fantastic freshman. Jakub Dobeš leads NCAA true freshmen with 20 wins, a .750 winning percentage, a .938 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against average. No one saw this coming.
Minnesota has played well against the Buckeyes in Columbus under Bob Motzko going 4-1-1 before this weekend. Minnesota will try to spoil the Buckeye’s senior weekend and put a ton of pressure on they as they head to Ann Arbor for their regular season finale next weekend. Since splitting in Minneapolis in November, Ohio State is 12-1-2 and have been one of the best teams in the nation. They are not missing any players at the Olympics while Minnesota is missing three. The advantage is all on Ohio State’s side. Will Minnesota have the mental toughness to find away to come out with at least three points and keep their chances at a regular season title alive? We will find out soon
Gophers in Beijing:
The US Men’s team opened play Thursday morning with a 8-0 win over China. Ben Meyers had a great game for the US scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists. Brock Faber and Mathew Knies also added an assist each. It gets a lot tougher Friday night when the US will face Canada at 10:10 PM in what should be a great hockey double header after the Gophers and Buckeyes face-off.
HOW TO WATCH:
#7/8 Minnesota Gophers at #8/7 Ohio State Buckeyes
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
When: 5:30 Friday; 5:00 Saturday
Stream: Fox Sports App
Radio: 1130 AM/103.5FM/I Heart Radio