How coach Bob Motzko assessed the Gophers’ Ohio State series: “We didn’t lose a game this weekend.”
How goaltender Mat Robson viewed it: “We lost both games.”
Technically, the coach is right, as the Gophers again tied No. 5 Ohio State 2-2 on Saturday before a second overtime goal granted the Buckeyes the extra point in the conference standings before an announced 8,543 fans at 3M Arena at Mariucci. It was the exact same outcome as Friday and left the Gophers with a 4-6-3 record (2-2-2-0 Big Ten), while No. 5 Ohio State is 9-4-3 (4-2-2-2).
The disparity in the pair’s interpretations comes mainly from their positions. Motzko is a first-year coach who finally saw his team turn around an unsettling pattern of playing well in one game of a series only to bomb in the other. Robson is the netminder who made 73 saves in the two games but only cares about the two overtime goals he let slip.
Robson called that a “busy weekend.” Motzko was a bit more effusive.
“Robson was MVP of the weekend. There’s no question about it,” the coach said. “I’ve never seen him stressed out. … That’s the sign of a great goalie: When the heats on, he’s reading everything and seeing it.”
Senior winger Brent Gates Jr. was the happy medium between his coach and his teammate, saying his team made strides forward handling a mental challenge but ultimately missed a one-shot chance both nights to defeat a top-ranked team.
“The score was a little closer at points than how we played,” Gates admitted. “And a lot of that was due to [Robson]. He kept us in it. Made some unbelievable saves.”
The Gophers certainly didn’t help Robson much in Saturday’s first period, when Ohio State scored twice. Center Brendon Kearney scored at 14:27 and then OSU doubled its lead about a minute later on the power play from center Mason Jobst on a rebound.
While the Gophers took only six shots in the first period, they did manage one goal, from sophomore defenseman Sam Rossini, who shot a long rebound through traffic at 17:25 for his first of the season.
The Gophers tied the score in the second period when junior center Rem Pitlick drove to the net and tied up Ohio State sophomore goaltender Tommy Nappier before Gates slid in to push the puck across the line.
Overtime is when the “crazy, controversial stuff” started, according to Motzko. The Buckeyes appeared to have ended it on a power play thanks to a contentious Pitlick penalty. But after a lengthy review, the referees waved off Jobst’s goal for high-sticking. Motzko and Robson said after the game they still weren’t sure what the call was for — they thought it was goaltender interference.
Ohio State, though, did eventually score at 3:23 in the second overtime, when Jobst slid a pass to freshman winger Preston Quinn in front of the goal.
Ohio State outshot the Gophers 46-17, but Robson made a season-high 43 saves.
“Just take a drink of water and make the next save,” he said, “is all it really comes down to.”