Brent Gates Jr. and Rem Pitlick stared down Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo on a breakaway in sudden-death, 5-on-5 overtime Friday.
Gates could have taken the shot, but instead threaded a perfect pass to Pitlick, who flipped in a backhander, only to have Romeo stretch all the way behind himself to snag the puck off the line with his glove.
After the game, Pitlick didn't have much to say about that play, though his facial expression conveyed his annoyance. Senior center Darian Romanko could appreciate it, at least.
"That was amazing," he said. "That's going to be on SportsCenter."
That absolute robbery captured the Gophers' overall vibe this game, which ended in a 2-2 tie officially but with Ohio State nabbing an extra point for conference purposes thanks to a goal from defenseman Matt Miller in the second 3-on-3 overtime. The sudden-death 5-on-5, 3-on-3 and eventual shootout are a new format for the Big Ten Conference, something the Gophers acknowledged was mostly for the announced 8,113 fans at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The home team improved to 4-6-2 (2-2-1-0 Big Ten), with Ohio State at 9-4-2 (4-2-1-1).
Coach Bob Motzko has lamented his team's inconsistency and seemingly unpredictable performances this season. But he saw some improvement Friday against the No. 5 Buckeyes.
"I liked us in the first period. I liked us in the third period. I sure didn't like their second goal. Neither of the defensemen even turned to go with the guy," Motzko said. "We got back on our heels again [in the second period] and were losing stick battles and little 1-on-1 battles, and we weren't pushing through. But I've seen us do that and then not get it back. We got it back in the third."
The Gophers started off Friday's game with a big confidence boost. Senior winger Ryan Norman scored the breakthrough goal at 14:33 in the first period thanks to some hard work from center Sammy Walker along the boards. It was just the second shorthanded goal for the Gophers this season.
But the Gophers' power play couldn't register any shots its first time out, and overall the Gophers ended up trailing in shots on goal 33-23. Ohio State senior winger John Wiitala, a Lakeville native, scored the equalizer at 6:06 in the second. Motzko credited goaltender Mat Robson, who ended the game with 30 saves, for keeping the Gophers in the game during a dull middle period.
With less than three minutes to play in the third, junior center Ronnie Hein split the Gophers defense to score the goal Motzko found most disappointing. But Pitlick, a junior center, forced overtime with 40.8 seconds to go, capitalizing on a late power play and two-man advantage with Robson pulled.
Pitlick was a heavy presence in overtime as well, from that stuffed breakaway to committing the penalty that allowed Miller to score on the power play with just more than 30 seconds until a shootout.
Pitlick said he was personally a little upset he didn't end the game when he had the chance. And he wasn't hearing anything about the Gophers tendency to play one good night and one bad night within a series, with a rematch set for 4 p.m. Saturday.
"Those are past weekends. We're not going to have that issue," Pitlick said. "That was the past. The future's not going to be like that."