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2016 Big Ten Tournament: Minnesota pulls away in the third to set up title game rematch

At its most desperate, the Gophers scored four goals to defeat Ohio State 4-2 at Xcel Energy Center. Taylor Cammarata had his first career multi-goal game for Minnesota, which faces Michigan for the Big Ten conference tournament championship.

Taylor Cammarata (13) scored two goals for the first time in 114 career games.
Taylor Cammarata (13) scored two goals for the first time in 114 career games.
Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

ST. PAUL, MN- First on the ice every practice to work on shots and puck movement, the time Vinni Lettieri and Leon Bristedt put in paid off at Minnesota's most desperate hour so far this season.

At this point the two know where the other is going to be.

"I knew it from the minute (Bristedt) had the puck that I was going to go backdoor and that he was going to pass it to me with his back turned. He just has such great vision," said Lettieri, who scored the go-ahead goal for the Gophers.

Needing a win to keep its season alive another night, Minnesota did what it had to do Friday against Ohio State. The Gophers scored four times in the third period to come back and win 4-2.

"We needed the one goal to kind of get us going,"said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "I really felt that it was one of those nights where we relied on three main guys to do most of the scoring. If we're going to win tonight, somebody else was going to have to step forward."

Junior Taylor Cammarata had his first career multi-goal game, scoring twice to set up a rematch with Michigan Saturday night for the Big Ten championship. Linemate Tyler Sheehy assisted on both his goals and tied his career high with a three point night.

Having played the night before and with payback and revenge on their mind from losing to Minnesota four times in one season, Ohio State came out firing on all cylinders.

The Buckeyes successfully killed a five minute major in the opening ten minutes. Kevin Miller responded later in the period. Getting the puck off of a broken play, the sophomore forward beat Eric Schierhorn to give OSU a 1-0 lead.

It was the only puck Schierhorn failed to stop, making 27 saves in his first collegiate postseason game.

"He's been a rock for us this year. He was great for us tonight; especially early in the game when maybe we didn't have all of our best stuff," said Jake Bischoff. "He was able to keep us in the game and keep us within reach. It was huge for us tonight."

Minnesota spent much of the first period finding its way before slowly testing Buckeyes goaltender Christian Frey in the second period.

Frey, ending with 41 saves, denied Hudson Fasching from point-blank range in the second period. He wasn't as fortunate in the opening minute of the third. The overtime game Ohio State played the night before came back when Sheehy tied the game on a two-on-one rush.

We take a five-minute and, you know, we're out there.  We killed it off, but, you know, maybe that was a little exhausting," said Ohio State junior Nick Schilkey. "We played two games and maybe they just had a little extra at the end there. But, you know, we kept fighting."

As the Buckeyes faded, Minnesota responded. With every goal the partisan crowd at Xcel Energy Center responded. Every rendition of the Rouser got louder and louder.

Lettieri gave the Gophers the lead before Cammarata scored twice in a span of 5:27. Sheehy kept the puck in the zone on his first goal. His linemate skated around Frey all alone and stuck the puck between his pads to make it 4-1.

By ending Ohio State's season, Minnesota finds itself in the position that Michigan was last year. Win and get in the NCAA Tournament. Lose and the season is over. The Gophers continue to be desperate and put the in the work that has gotten Lucia's team its third consecutive Big Ten regular season championship.

Nothing needed to be said, Bristedt, well said. Not between the second and third period Friday nor for what lies ahead tomorrow.

"We've been playing together for 35 games," said Bristedt. "We know what we know and it's too late to learn new stuff.

"If we try to keep (Michigan) at 2 and try to play a tight, good, tight defensive game, I think that's what we need to bring in tomorrow because that's what we're going to need against them."


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 --