Gophers top Ohio State 5-1 in series opener

The No. 4 Gopher men’s hockey team continued to generate plenty of offense in its return to Big Ten play on Friday, picking up a 5-1 win over Ohio State at Value City Arena.

Five skaters found the net and four Maroon & Gold forwards tallied multi-point games including three-point nights from Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker, who each pulled in a goal and two assists. Minnesota (14-3-0 overall, 10-3-0-0-0-0 Big Ten) has now outscored opponents 25-3 on its current three-game winning streak while the Gophers lead all NCAA programs that have played more than 10 games in scoring offense at 4.18 goals per game (UMass Lowell is averaging 4.50 goals per game through four games this season).

The ‘U’ opened the night with its third shorthanded goal of the season (and second in as many games) as Jackson LaCombe scored for the second time this year at 6:32 of the first period off assists from McLaughlin and Walker. The Gophers took a two-goal lead into the first intermission after Sampo Ranta scored his Big Ten-leading 11th goal of the season at 11:29 with an assist from Ben Meyers. Ranta, who now has five points in the last three games, is one goal off the NCAA lead for the season.

Walker and McLaughlin then added to the lead with the junior captain’s eighth of the year at 7:07 of the second stanza.

McLaughlin, the defending Big Ten First Star of the Week, continued his hot streak in the third period with his eighth of the year at 1:17 of the third period while Scott Reedy and Walker picked up assists. McLaughlin now has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in the last three games while also recording five multi-point performances in the last eight contests. Ben Meyers closed out the scoring for Minnesota with his eighth of the year at 8:27 of the final session with assists coming from Brannon McManus and Ranta.

Ohio State (5-11-1, 5-9-0-0-1-0) scored its goal on its first shot of the third period as Quinn Preston tallied a power-play goal at 15:41.

It was the lone blemish of the night for Jack LaFontaine (12-3-0), who stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced and picked up his NCAA-best 12th win of the year. Tommy Nappier (5-11-1) took the loss for Ohio State, making 25 saves on 30 shots. Evan Moyse stopped three shots in a relief appearance.

Minnesota held a 33-18 advantage in shots on goal for the series opener.