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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers Close Out Regular Season Against Ohio State

Minnesota Can potentially lock up the NCAA #1 seed this weekend

Brace Hemmelgarn—

The Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team ends the regular season at home this weekend by hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes. For the Gophers there isn’t a ton to play for this weekend but pride. The Gophers have locked up the Big Ten Regular Season Championship and will be off next weekend. The Gophers still rank #1 in the Pairwise ranking ahead of Quinnipiac, and potentially with one win this weekend, and nearly guaranteed with a sweep, the Gophers can lock up the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens in the conference postseason. But the Gophers may have that on lock regardless. This weekend is just a great opportunity to send the Gopher seniors out with one last loud and fired up home crowd and one last chance to hear the Battle Hymn at home.

Minnesota enters the weekend after a big sweep at then #7 Penn State. A pair of Minnesota’s top line stars in Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies combined for 11 points on the weekend including a five point second period on Friday from Cooley, and a Knies extra attacker game typing goal on Saturday before scoring the OT game winner on a great feed from Cooley. They were named the First and Second Stars of the Week by the Big Ten for their efforts.

The Buckeyes come in after a huge sweep as well. Ohio State swept Michigan with their Thursday night win clinching the Big Ten title for Minnesota. The Buckeyes and Wolverines then played outdoors at the Cleveland Browns stadium Saturday with OSU piking up another win. They enter the weekend in a tie with Michigan for second place in the conference with 36 points. They need a good showing or it is possible for the Buckeyes to trop from second all the way down to 6th and a date on the road next weekend instead of in Columbus.

These two teams split a pair of games in Columbus back in October with the Buckeyes taking the Friday opener, and Minnesota battling back on Saturday. Last season these teams also split in Minneapolis, though over the course of the history of the series Minnesota has dominated in Minneapolis. The Gophers are 21-4-1 all-time against Ohio State at Mariucci Arena,

Minnesota is the better offensive team coming in second in the nation averaging 4.06 goals per game. Ohio State ranks 13th and 3.36 goals per game. Defensively it’s nearly a tie with Minnesota allowing 2.34 goals per game and the Buckeyes 2.38. The games this weekend could hinge on the special teams play. Minnesota has one of the best power plays in the nation scoring at a rate of 25.71%. However, Ohio State leads the nation in penalty killing at a 90% rate, and they lead the country in shorthanded goals with 10. Two of those shorthanded goals game in Minnesota’s 4-2 win in Columbus, so the Gophers should be well prepared to counter that attack this weekend.

This weekend’s action will go a long way to deterring the rest of the Big Ten Playoff matchups, and have significant Pairwise implications. As we said the Gophers have the #1 seed locked up and will have a first round bye next weekend before hosting a single game semifinal on March 11th. But the 2-6 spots in the conference are still all up for grabs. Ohio State and Michigan are tied for 2nd with 36 points, Michigan State is in 4th with 34, and Penn State and Notre Dame are died for 5th with 31 points. The Spartans have completed the regular season and are locked in at 34 points, but with OSU at Minnesota, Notre Dame at Michigan and Wisconsin at Penn State, there are lots of moving parts.

The Pairwise rankings also could see some flux this weekend. Minnesota is comfortably sitting at #1 and most likely will be there no matter the results this weekend, but could potentially drop if they would get swept. As of now the Big Ten would have four teams in the NCA Tournament field with Minnesota, Michigan at #3, Ohio State at #8, and Penn State at #9. But another two Big Ten teams are right on the bubble line looking inward. Notre Dame sits at #17 while Michigan State is #18. If the Irish can get at least a split with Michigan, they have then potential to climb up on the right side of the bubble. Sparty will have to make hay in the Big Ten tournament to climb back in the race. Ohio State could move comfortably into lock status with at least one win over the Gophers, while Penn State with a loss to lowly Wisconsin could side backwards towards the bubble.

Minnesota will hold their Senior Day festivities postgame on Saturday. Minnesota will honor all their seniors including goaltender Justen Close, defenseman Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson and forward Jaxon Nelson amongst others.


#7/8 Ohio State Buckeyes @ #1 Minnesota Gophers

Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, Minnesota

When: 8 PM Friday/ 4 :30 PM Saturday

TV: ESPNU (Fri)/ Big Ten Network (Sat)

Stream: WatchESPN (Fri)/ (Sat)

Radio: 1130 AM/ 103.5 FM/ I Heart Radio App