Gopher mens hockey sweeps Ohio State with 6-3 win

The 10th-ranked Golden Gophers men’s hockey team picked up a 6-3 win Saturday night to finish off a Big Ten Conference sweep of Ohio State inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Minnesota (14-6-4 overall, 7-4-3 B1G) scored three times in both the second and third periods and led 5-1 late to defeat the Buckeyes (9-11-4 overall, 1-11-2 B1G) and win its fifth-straight contest. Eleven different players picked up a point for the Maroon and Gold led by Bryce Brodzinski’s three-point performance as the fifth-year senior had a goal and two assists.

After a tentative start for both teams, the home side nearly capitalized on a defensive-zone turnover by OSU as John Mittelstadt found an open Garrett Pinoniemi, but the sophomore’s shot from the slot whistled wide. The Gophers used that chance to build a forecheck and kept the visitors pinned in their end, leading to quality chances from Rhett Pitlick and Jimmy Clark, before allowing the first Buckeyes shot seven minutes into the game. Minnesota maintained the pressure and put six shots on target during a five-minute stretch, holding a 7-1 edge in shots. OSU drew a penalty late in the frame and twice tested goaltender Justen Close, but the graduate student made saves each time and the game headed into the first intermission tied, 0-0.

The second period started with more than two minutes of continuous action before the first stoppage. The Gophers won the ensuing faceoff and took control of play, leading to a Sam Rinzel wraparound chance that was pushed aside. Pinoniemi won a battle in the crease and buried the rebound to open the scoring and give the Maroon and Gold a 1-0 lead at the 3:14 mark.

Minnesota doubled the margin four minutes later as Brodzinski snapped a shot over the netminder’s glove from the right circle thanks to a perfect pass from Mason Nevers. The Buckeyes responded on the next shift and cut the gap to one. Close needed to make a pair of important saves as OSU started to build momentum, looking for the equalizer. The Gophers weathered the flurry and like Friday night, an Oliver Moore faceoff win directly led to a goal as Pitlick showed off his quick release. The junior wasted no time collecting the puck and shot through the goalie’s legs for a 3-1 advantage with 2:14 remaining in the second stanza, a lead they carried back to the locker room through two complete periods.

The Maroon and Gold tacked on their fourth goal of the night 5:17 into the final frame when Brody Lamb split two OSU defenseman and drove to the goal line. The sophomore got a pass across the slot to a waiting Aaron Huglen, who blasted the one-timer into the back of the net and the Gophers stretched their lead to 4-1. Minnesota remained on the attack and at the midpoint of the stanza, Jaxon Nelson fired a low shot that found its way through the pads from the top of the left circle, making it 5-1 in favor of the home team. The Buckeyes turned momentum and scored twice in a span of 54 seconds to close the margin to 5-3 with 5:13 to play in regulation. After a spearing major penalty and game disqualification on OSU in the final minute, Lamb scored into an empty net on the power play to secure the weekend sweep and match a season-high six goals for Minnesota.

Brodzinski recorded his 12th goal of the year and has six points in the last four contests after his sixth multi-point performance, totaling 25 points in 2023-24 … Pinoniemi entered the night with a 27-game drought since his last goal on Jan. 28, 2023, and scored his first of the season and third of his career … Rinzel continues to pile up helpers during the campaign with 22 total assists, including 12 over his last five outings, the longest point streak of his young career … The Chanhassen, Minn., product has seven multi-point efforts and ranks fifth nationally in assists and second among freshmen after a pair Saturday … Nevers posted his sixth assist this season and 49th point of his career … Thomas registered his first point since Nov. 18, a span of 11 games, and has six points on the year … Pitlick picked up his 15th tally of the season and fourth of the weekend, increasing his team-leading point total to 28 … He now has 16 points in 10 games since the start of December … Moore collected his fourth assist of the weekend and pushed his point total to 21 … Huglen is on a season-long, three-game point streak thanks to his fifth goal and 10th point of the year and the junior tallied his first game-winning goal since his freshman campaign … Lamb has seven points in his last eight outings with the sixth multi-point game of the year … Nelson put away his seventh goal of 2023-24 … Luke Mittelstadt joined Huglen as Gophers to reach double-digit scoring this season, recording his 12th assist, nine coming over the last 12 contests … Close tallied 24 saves Saturday, moving to 8-1-1 all-time against the Buckeyes … Minnesota went 1-for-4 on the man advantage and have a power-play goal in five-straight games, all of which are victories.

Coach Motzko’s Comments
“I liked us the last three weeks and I liked us all weekend,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “It was a little squirrely there at the end at 5-1, but they put out a push and we made a couple mistakes. Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with our effort throughout our entire lineup.”

Next Up: Away at Michigan State (Jan. 26-27)
Minnesota begins a two-week road stretch where it faces the top two teams in the Big Ten Conference standings, starting Jan. 26-27 in East Lansing, Mich., to battle the league-leading Spartans of Michigan State.

Courtesy: University of Minnesota Sports Information