COLUMBUS, OHIO – For the third week in a row, the Gophers men’s hockey team had a chance to sweep a weekend series. And for the third week in a row, the Gophers came up short, this time falling to Ohio State 5-2 on Saturday night at Value City Arena.
Taylor Cammarata had a goal and an assist for the Gophers (19-12-3, 10-5-3 Big Ten), who got 27 saves from Adam Wilcox. Vinni Lettieri had the Gophers’ other goal.
“It’s something we’re going to have to learn from one of these times or it’s going to bite us in the butt,” Cammarata said.
The loss prevented the Gophers from moving alone into first place in the Big Ten. Instead, Michigan State finished a sweep of Wisconsin and took a one-point lead over the Gophers and Michigan.
Moreover, the Gophers fell from No. 11 into a tie for No. 14 in the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the formula the NCAA tournament committe uses to pick its 16-team field.
“It’s disappointing, we had the opportunity to come away with the win and we didn’t get it done,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “It’s not about what other people do. We need to win games.”
Said sophomore Justin Kloos: “It’s the same thing we’ve done the last few weekends, putting ourselves in position to get the sweep and then blowing it. This time of year, we’ve got to start to get things rolling.”
The Gophers trailed 1-0 after a sluggish first period that saw them put just three shots on goal, but came out strong in the second period as Cammarata’s third goal of the year knotted the score at one. Lettieri gave the Gophers the lead at the 5:09 mark of the second, but Ohio State tied it back up nearly three minutes later on Stillwater native Matt Johnson’s 13th goal of the season.
Ohio State took the lead for good with 14:18 to play. Wilcox kept the Gophers alive, making a number of stops on breakaways throughout the game, but Minnesota hit posts twice late in the third period and couldn’t get the tying goal. Ohio State then sealed the game with a pair of empty-net goals in the final 1:02.
“By trying to play catch-up, we came too loose and tried to force some things and gave up some breakaways,” Lucia said. “Good offense starts with good defense, and when you start to play more by yourself, it’s not going to go our way.”
Said Kloos: “We must have given up four or five breakaways, and we feel bad putting [Wilcox] in a situation like that. We’ve got to rally around him and play better for him next week.”
“He was really sharp and gave us a chance in the third,” Cammarata said of Wilcox. “It just didn’t really click on offense tonight.”