Minnesota opened up Big Ten conference play much the same way the past four years of conference play have gone. The Gophers were tested, but ultimately had too much talent for their competition en route to a 5-3 win over Ohio State.
It was the Buckeyes that struck first on a fluke play when a clearing attempt by Minnesota’s Ryan Lindgren in front of his own net deflected off teammate Vinni Lettieri and into his own net.
But the Gophers evened the score later that period on Ryan Collins’ first goal of the season, and took a lead into the locker room thanks to a late short-handed goal by Leon Bristedt.
Bristedt opened the scoring in the second period with a power play and was followed shortly after by a goal from Tyler Sheehy to bring the lead to 4-1. Ohio State would call timeout and change goalies after the fourth goal.
That changed the momentum and the Buckeyes scored 17 seconds after the timeout, and would add another to trail 4-3 heading into the third period.
But the Gophers controlled play in the third period, limiting Ohio State to very few scoring chances, and adding an insurance from Tyler Sheehy to win the game 5-3.
Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn stopped 18 shots in the winning effort, while Ohio State’s Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey combined to stop 21 of 26 shots.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night at Mariucci Arena to complete the first leg of their four-game series this season.
Notes and Thoughts
-The key moment in this game for me came in the final minute of the first period. The score was tied 1-1 and the Buckeyes were on the power play. Ohio State’s leading scorer Tanner Laczynski got a clean look at the net from just inside the top of the circles, but missed the corner on his shot and sailed it wide.
Seconds later, Lettieri and Bristedt were racing down the ice and scoring to make it 2-1 Gophers. Goals in the last minute of a period are always tough ones to give up. Giving one up when you were inches away from being up 2-1 yourself on a last-minute goal of your own doubly so.
That spark got Minnesota moving after a slow first period on their part and helped them to two quick goals early in the second period that put the game out of reach. Give credit to Ohio State, they regrouped after a timeout and made a game of it when it looked like they were about to get run out of the building, but a 4-1 deficit is very tough to come back from.
-All eyes were on Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn tonight, who has struggled in his last five Friday night starts. It wasn’t a shining effort; he allowed three goals on 21 shots. But he did enough to get the job done. Ironically, the goal his own defense scored on him was the one I thought was the worst. Schierhorn had an opportunity to cover the puck and missed it, leading to the puck ending up behind him and Lindgren doing whatever he did to put it in his own net.
The other two goals fall more on the defense in front of him failing to pick up forwards and allowing them wide open chances in prime areas. Maybe you’d hope your goalie would steal one of those for you on a night when he’s not being asked to do a lot, but goal isn’t the first place I’d point the finger on those two.
-This was the best game I’ve seen from Ryan Collins in a long time. He had the nice goal when he jumped into the rush and used his big slap shot for the goal, but on the shift before that, he created an equally good chance by skating the puck into the zone and flipping a 3-on-2 pass into the slot that could have easily been a goal had a teammate not whiffed on the shot.
Collins was more assertive and aggressive than I’ve seen him play in a long time. After a rough start to the year, it was beginning to look like he’d never reach the high potential he had. But if the light goes on and he keeps playing like this, he could be a really valuable player.
-The camp roster is likely already picked, but it was interesting comparing Minnesota’s Tommy Novak and Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski—two potential candidates for final spots on the US World Junior roster—-play head-to-head. Both bring some intriguing abilities. Novak’s hands and his potential for offense are exciting. Laczynski is a much better skater and can do a little more with his speed. Neither plays a particularly heavy game which could work against their favor given how the US usually picks those last few spots. Neither one are likely to be make-or-break guys, but I’d be fine with either being on the roster.
Shots on goal: UM: 7-9-10-26 OSU: 7-8-6-21
Even strength shot attempts: UM: 12-14-12-38 OSU: 17-15-12-44
Prime scoring area attempts: UM: 3-6-6-15 OSU: 7-7-3
What do the numbers tell us?
Minnesota got off to a really slow start, but got better as the game went on. The most impressive stat is how few chances Ohio State got in the prime scoring area in the third period when they were down by a goal.
6:31 Kevin Miller unassisted 1-0 Ohio State
Miller took a long shot and the rebound trickled through Schierhorn to the side of the net. Ryan Lindgren picked up the puck in the crease, but Vinni Lettieri skated through and accidentally knocked the puck off his stick and into the empty net.
15:49 Ryan Collins from Rem Pitlick 1-1 tie
Pitlick brought the puck deep into the Ohio State zone down the right wing. He flipped a long drop pass back to the top of the circles. Ryan Collins joined the rush and a one-timed slap shot of that drop pass that trickled through Tomkins for the goal.
19:26 Leon Bristedt from Vinni Lettieri and Jake Bischoff (short-handed) 2-1 Minnesota
Lettieri broke down the left wing on a 2-on-2 with Bristedt. Bristedt got a step on his defender and Lettieri put a perfect pass on his tape in stride, allowing Bristedt to deke to his backhand and slide the puck between the legs of Tomkins
4:19 Leon Bristedt from Tommy Novak and Steve Johnson (power play) 3-1 Minnesota
Novak made a pass through the Ohio State box from the top of the left circle to Bristedt at the right dot. Bristedt’s one-timer was a perfect bar down half-slap shot.
5:10 Tyler Sheehy from Justin Kloos and Rem Pitlick 4-1 Minnesota
Less than a minute after the previous goal, Sheehy fired a perfect wrist shot from a low angle that beat Tomkins high to the near post.
5:27 Miguel Fidler from Drew Brevig and David Gust 4-2 Minnesota
After calling timeout, Ohio State came back with a rush into the Minnesota zone with a 3-on-2. Brevig made the extra pass to Fidler in the slot and he had a wide open net to shoot at.
14:15 David Gust from Dakota Joshua and Josh Healey (power play) 4-3 Minnesota
Gust was able to sneak behind a Minnesota defenseman on a 2-on-2 rush and Joshua hit him with a perfect pass from just inside the blue line on the left wing. Gust deked to his backhand to put the puck Schierhorn.
11:47 Tyler Sheehy from Justin Kloos and Rem Pitlick 5-3 Minnesota
The puck took a friendly hop off the back boards to the side of Ohio State’s net, and Sheehy chipped a backhand shot over the shoulder of Frey for the goal.