MINNEAPOLIS -- In the as-yet-unsettled world of college hockey overtime, where every conference is free to do things its own way, the Big Ten allows you to win without really winning -- or, in the case of the Minnesota Gophers, to lose twice without an official loss on your record.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, for the second time in 24 hours, the Gophers fell 3-2 to fifth-ranked Ohio State during a 3-on-3 extended overtime. But by conference rules, this is an official tie, with the Buckeyes getting an extra standings point. The system has led to as much exciting hockey as it has produced confusion and differences of opinion among fans and players alike.
“Busy weekend, but two losses,” said Gophers goalie Mat Robson, who was his team’s star again with 43 saves on Saturday. “Obviously it says we tied both games, but we lost both games. Not too happy about that, but we’ve got stuff to build on.”
Robson was the difference-maker throughout, allowing only Quinn Preston’s game-ender in the second overtime after a first period where the Buckeyes took a 2-0 lead. But to the Gophers coach, there were signs of hope in playing one of the nation’s top teams so tough on consecutive nights.
“We didn’t lose a game this weekend,” Bob Motzko said. “It gives us something to continue to build on. That’s a good hockey team, and some really crazy controversial stuff happened both nights.”
The Gophers (4-6-3 overall, 2-2-2-0 Big Ten) got goals from Sam Rossini and Brent Gates, Jr. to get to overtime in the first place. The Buckeyes (9-4-3, 4-2-2-2) thought they had won the game on a power play in the first overtime, a few minutes before Preston’s decisive shot, only to have an apparent goal waved due to a high stick.
“Two tight games, right down to the wire again,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “It’s nice to get the two extra points. Points are huge in the league.”
Ohio State pounced early with goals by Brendon Kearney and Mason Jobst just 79 seconds apart, the second coming on a power play in which they needed just 10 ticks of the clock to get a shot past Robson for a 2-0 lead.
Minnesota answered late in the first on the initial goal of the season by Rossini. The play started when Ben Brinkman put a puck to the net that was stopped by Buckeyes goalie Tommy Nappier, but created a chaotic scramble. Tommy Novak eventually cleared the puck to Rossini, to put a shot through the crowd from the high slot and caught the left side of the net.
They tied the game at 2-2 in the second on a classic “good things happen when you go to the net” play. Tyler Sheehy’s pass to Rem Pitlick at the crease was perfectly placed, even though Nappier made the save on a point-blank shot. But the rebound squired loose and lay in the crease just long enough for Gates to tap it in.
Then they turned things over to Robson, the junior from suburban Toronto who is making a strong case to be the team’s every-night goalie. Motzko constantly praises Robson for a calm demeanor, even in times like the last 28 minutes of Saturday’s game, when the Gophers managed just three shots on goal and the Buckeyes sent puck after puck his way. But the goalie says that tranquil reputation may be overblown, especially when it comes to communicating with his defenders.
“From the top it might look like I’m calm, but if you get down to ice level you can definitely hear me yelling at those guys,” Robson said. “Nothing negative, always trying to stay positive. We have a lot of young D who play a lot of big minutes so I’m just trying to keep them in the game and keep their head on right.”
Nappier finished with 15 saves.
The Gophers travel to Michigan next weekend for their final series prior to a 20-day holiday break.
Ohio State 2-0-0-0-1-3
First period - 1. OSU, Brendon Kearney 4 (Austin Pooley, Sam McCormick), 14:27. 2. OSU, Mason Jobst 10 (Gustaf Westlund, Tanner Laczynski), 15:46, (pp). 3. MIN, Sam Rossini 1 (Tommy Novak, Sampo Ranta), 17:24. Penalties - Westlund, OSU (boarding), 7:39; Rem Pitlick, MIN (elbowing), 15:36.
Second period - 4. MIN, Brent Gates, Jr. 3 (Pitlick, Tyler Sheehy), 9:14. Penalties - Sasha Larocque, OSU (interference), 16:23.
Third period - No scoring. Penalties - Brannon McManus, MIN (tripping), 0:39; Wyatt Ege, OSU (high sticking), 1:34; Darian Romanko, MIN (hooking), 4:08; Ben Brinkman, MIN (interference), 17:42.
Overtime 1 - No scoring. Penalties - Pitlick, MIN (hooking), 1:22.
Overtime 2 -- 5. OSU, Quinn Preston 2 (Jobst, Gordi Myer), 3:23. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal - OSU 15-11-13-6-1-46; MIN 6-8-2-0-1-17. Goalies - Tommy Nappier, OSU (17 shots-15 saves); Mat Robson, MIN (46-43). Power plays - OSU 1-of-5; MIN 0-of-3. Referees - Colin Kronforst, Anthony Czech. Linesmen - Nicholas Bradshaw, Johnathan Morrison. Att. - 8,543.