On Minnesota's first trip to Columbus since 2006, Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Mike Reilly made an impression Friday at Value City Arena.
Reilly, a 2011 fourth round selection, assisted on the first 3 goals for his first-ever three point game, as the Gophers pulled away in the second period with a 5-1 win over conference foe Ohio State. The sophomore defenseman, who leads all Big Ten defensemen with 27 points, had scored 2 points 6 times this season without cracking the three point barrier.
Freshman Taylor Cammarata (New York Islanders) also had three points (1G-2A) and was one of four freshmen to score goals. Two others, including Mike's brother Connor, had two points in the win. All five goals had at least one Reilly contributing on the scoresheet.
Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) made 30 saves in victory; his 12th game this season allowing 1 goal or less.
Minnesota (23-4-5, 13-2-2-0 Big Ten) needed just 2:03 to take the lead when Justin Kloos scored his 11th goal of the season off of a Cammarata rebound. The Buckeyes controlled much of the play, out-shooting 13-9 as Wilcox kept the score 1-0 before Minnesota's special teams took over. The Gophers went 2-4 with the man-advantage and killed all three penalties.
Following Connor Reilly hitting the crossbar late in the first, Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) tapped home a shot OSU goalie Christian Frey was unable to keep for a 2-0 Gophers lead and the first of two power play goals.
Cammarata then made it 3-0. The freshman slapped a one-timer midway through the second period which beat Frey, who made 16 saves Friday, on the man advantage. 36 seconds later Ohio State (15-12-3, 5-8-4-3 Big Ten) forward Tanner Fritz became the only player to beat Wilcox, but the Buckeyes comeback was short-lived. Redshirt freshman Connor Reilly beat Frey for his sixth goal of the season.
Although Minnesota's fourth goal spelled the end of the night for Frey, it didn't end the scoring. Freshman Matt Tomkins (Chicago Blackhawks) entered the game in relief. However, Gopher freshman Vinni Lettieri made it 5-1 for the visitors 21 seconds into his' night.
Tomkins settled down afterwards, making the remaining 12 saves.
With the win, Minnesota, whose all-time record against the Buckeyes is a dominant 15-0-1, clinched a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament and because of it assured Don Lucia's club of no worse than a second place finish. Wisconsin, 4-2 winners Friday over Penn State, remains 7 points back with 3 games remaining. The Gophers will clinch the inaugural regular season title with a non-shootout win Saturday regardless of what the Badgers do.
A Big Ten regulation/OT win is worth 3 points, tie is worth 1 point and a shootout win is worth an extra point. There are also several other ways for Minnesota to clinch Saturday depending on Wisconsin's result.
Minnesota and Ohio State complete the two-game series tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. CT). The game at Value City airs on ESPNEWS. Clay Matvick and Sean Ritchlin have the call.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate