Minnesota made a point of emphasis this week to come out against the Buckeyes on Friday afternoon with a strong opening ten minutes. The Gophers had played from behind constantly lately. Being on the road against an Ohio State team which swept Penn State at home lately made it more important.
Although that went to plan with a great start offensively in the first period, it took Minnesota and the team's seniors until the second to pull away in a 4-2 win against the Buckeyes in Columbus to snap OSU's three game home winning streak.
Twice the Gophers scored in the first period. Twice Ohio State came back on the ensuing shift to tie the game.
Minnesota out-shot the Buckeyes 8-3 in the first 11 minutes, controlling play without a goal. Justin Kloos and the Gophers took a 1-0 lead for the first time in five games, however, the scoring advantage did not last long. The play began when Brady Skjei, who hit the post minutes earlier, went around the net, tried to find Taylor Cammarata. The puck from Cammarata and through the crease and to Kloos, who buried it for his 11th goal of the season.
But the lead lasted all of 12 seconds. Ohio State defenseman Craig Dalrymple's shot from the point went off Minnesota defenseman Ryan Collins and into the net for his first goal of the season
It happened again with just under three minutes remaining in the first period. Gopher senior forward Travis Boyd set up Sam Warning on a cross-ice one-timer before Anthony Greco did the same with Buckeyes forward Tyler Lundey 19 seconds after the goal.
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The third time taking the lead was the charm for Minnesota 6:10 into the second period, though.
Gophers captain Kyle Rau collected his 16th goal of the season right in front of Ohio State goaltender Christian Frey when he deflected a Leon Bristedt pass from the half-wall into the net.
Seth Ambroz, a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick playing in the hometown of the NHL team, made it 4-2 with 4:24 remaining in the second. Skating backwards on the back door, Ambroz tapped in a pass from Collins for his 10th goal of the season. Between Collins and Mike Reilly, who got the other assist, all 3 Blue Jackets picks got in on the play.
Greco, who leads OSU with 14 goals, had a couple chances all alone in the third period for Ohio State that Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox was able stop. Buckeyes head coach Steve Rohlik pulled Frey with 3:31 remaining for a last gasp. Despite the Ohio State offense spending 90 seconds in the Gopher zone, OSU could not get the third goal.
In addition to getting off to a fast start Minnesota had support from older players Three of the team's four goals were scored by seniors, continuing a streak over the last 11 games where the upperclassmen have combined for over 60% of the team's goals. Wilcox made 24 saves while his OSU counterpart Frey came 22 short of the 50 the creative Buckeyes students had on their shirts ("50 saves of Frey").
(There was a 50 milestone as Cammarata picked up his 50th career point with an assist on the first goal)
Eleven different players got a point for the Gophers.
With the win, head coach Don Lucia passes Doug Woog for the most victories at Minnesota with 391. The Gopher head coach, who also was behind the bench at Alaska and Colorado College, has earned 2 national titles and been to 5 Frozen Fours in his 16 years at Minnesota.
Ohio State and Minnesota will complete the two-game series in Columbus tomorrow at 5 p.m CT.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate