Ben Marshall, a senior defensemen for the Gophers, called the first period, "a track meet." It had a great pace up and down the ice. It seemed that the Gophers controlled the puck for most of the period. They had nothing to show for except 9 shots on goal and a couple of posts. The Buckeyes on the other hand, had to be feeling good about their efforts in the first period. They spotted the Gophers two penalties in the first 5 minutes and the outshot the Gophers 11-9 in the first. The Gophers have one of the best power plays in the country so the two early kills for the Buckeyes were huge for their confidence.
The second period started much the same as the first with great pace. It did not feature as many shots as the first period, both teams ended the period with 6 shots. The period did feature the first Buckeyes power play of the tournament, officially 92 minutes and 59 seconds into the proceedings. Also, the scoring was opened up by the Gophers. The Buckeyes failed to clear the puck and Travis Boyd got the puck to Sam Warning, all by himself in front of Christian Frey, and he went top shelf, glove side. At the end of two, Minnesota 1-0.
At this point going into the third, the Buckeyes had to be feeling pretty good about things; they were only down 1-0 and still out shooting the Gophers. The Buckeyes would lay everything they could on the line and on Adam Wilcox but they could get none of the 22 shots on goal past him. The first Gopher goal of the 3rd period came on a shot from the point where it appeared that Frey made the save but it trickled through and Lettieri put it home for a 2-0 Gopher's lead.
The Buckeyes received a late power play on Seth Ambroz for high sticking at the 14:03 mark. With an offensive zone face off, the Ohio State coaching staff decided to pull the goalie. The Buckeyes were down 2-0, it was pretty gutsy but I loved the aggressive call. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes could never get set up after winning the face off. Travis Boyd stole the puck and whipped it down the ice into the empty net, making it 3-0 Gophers. The Buckeyes pulled the goalie again later in the period but were unable to score.
With the flurry of offensive from the Buckeyes in the third period and the number of shots that Wilcox faced, it is impossible to understate how well he played. Like the night before when Frey made the difference in the Penn State game, Wilcox made the difference in the Minnesota - Ohio State game. He showed that he was definitely worthy of the 2nd Team All Big Ten Goalie honor, and maybe was a little jealous of not being named to the first team. Goaltending is so important, and even more important in the playoffs.
The loss ends the Ohio State season. There is nothing to hang their heads about how the game turned out. They played their butts off in the third and it was just one of those things where the puck just does not find the back of the net. On the other side of the coin, Minnesota will face Michigan in the final tomorrow for the Big Ten Championship. As predicted before the tournament started, this game should be a high scoring classic for the title. Both teams are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament and need a win badly. Go Gophers!
Game Notes: The Minnesota Golden Gophers feature 14 NHL Draft Picks, if you do not follow hockey, the hockey draft works like baseball where players get drafted but usually do not leave school unless they are ready to play in the NHL.....The Minnesota Pep Band and the Cheerleaders must not have received the memo about the game, because they were nowhere to be seen at Joe Lewis Arena!