The Gophers will get an extra day to prepare for the NCAA West Regional. No. 4 seed Ohio State upset the No. 1 Gophers 3-1 in Friday night’s Big Ten tournament semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.
Ryan Dzingel scored the eventual game-winning goal midway through the third period, and Anthony Greco secured the win with an open-net goal in the final seconds. Freshman goaltender Christian Frey recorded 30 saves.
Ohio State advances to play Wisconsin in Saturday night’s championship. The Gophers will have to settle for the inaugural regular-season title.
“That’s the last lesson we can learn. It’s do or die from here on out,” Gophers forward Sam Warning said after hitting the goal post twice on the night.
The tournament loss comes six years to the date since the Gophers last won a conference tournament single-elimination game. Travis Boyd isn’t sure why this round of the postseason has been so elusive to the Gophers over the past several years, but he’s hopeful the group can make a quick turnaround for next weekend’s NCAA regional back at Xcel Energy Center.
The Gophers are guaranteed a spot in the four-team West Regional based on their No. 1 ranking in the PairWise system used to select the tournament field.
Boyd was part of the 2012 Gophers that lost at the same point in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament and recovered to advance to the Frozen Four.
“We saw [Friday night] the desperate teams are the ones that win” this time of the season, Boyd said. “Ohio State’s back is up against the wall. They’re playing for their season. I don’t think we came out as hard as we need to. … I think it helps open everyone’s eyes that when it comes down to the end of the year, it’s a different game out there.”
The Big Ten’s leading scorer, Dzingel, grabbed the lead for Ohio State on a slapshot just beyond the right circle. The puck eluded two Gophers defenders and snuck past Wilcox’s left skate. Sloppy passing in the final minute led to a Gophers’ turnover seconds after Wilcox left the ice for an extra skater and Greco scored from the center red line.
Gophers fans grew weary and began booing as Justin Kloos passed instead of shooting on a rush with 9 minutes left. Warning calmed the crowd when he hit the post moments later, and the Gophers picked up their intensity.
Seth Ambroz found the net with 7 minutes left, but it came after the referees blew the play dead and was officially called off after a video review showed he pushed the puck in after falling to the ground in a scramble in front of the net.
Ohio State scored first on a power-play goal by Nick Schilkey late in the first period.
The Gophers’ first power-play ended with several bad passes, but the second power-play opportunity ended with sharp passing and a goal.
Kyle Rau slid into the slot and finished assists from Taylor Cammarata and Boyd for the Gophers’ lone goal 4:47 into the second period. Rau has scored goals in five of the Gophers’ past seven games.
Ohio State coach and St. Paul native Steve Rohlik said his team was just happy to be playing in the semifinals after Thursday’s victory. Now the Buckeyes are a win from claiming the Big Ten’s automatic qualification for the NCAA tournament. A win is the only way the unranked Buckeyes will qualify.
“We didn’t talk about playing desperate. We know that we just got to play our game. That’s really the bottom line,” Schilkey said. “As desperate as we need to play, we got to stick to our fundamentals and our systems and we should be fine.”