Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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The Gophers are thankful shootouts are behind them. They lost all three Big Ten shootouts they were involved in this season, including their last visit with Ohio State.
Postseason rules replace shootouts with 20-minute sudden-death overtimes. Teams play until someone scores. Penn State and Michigan played 33 extra minutes of hockey in Thursday's double overtime contest.
Coach Don Lucia has voiced his discontentment with the shootout all season and replied "Thank God" when asked how he felt about not having to worry about them this weekend at Xcel Energy Center.
The Gophers last experience with Ohio State wasn't a pleasant. The Buckeyes scored in the final four minutes of regulation to force overtime on March 8. They would eventually win the shootout 1-0 and upset the Gophers' hopes of clinching the Big Ten regular-season title that night.
Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik will remind his players of their recent success against the country's top team, but said he's just happy the Buckeyes are still playing.
• Gophers Friday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Sam Warning, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Nate Condon, Justin Kloos, Taylor Cammarata
Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
Connor Reilly, Gabe Guertler, Vinni Lettieri
Defensemen (left, right)
Brady Skjei, Justin Holl
Mike Reilly, Jake Parenteau
Jake Bischoff, Ben Marshall
Adam Wilcox, Michael Shibrowski
• SEMIFINALS PREVIEW: NO. 1 GOPHERS vs. NO. 4 OHIO STATE
7 p.m. Friday at Xcel Energy Center
TV/radio: Big Ten Network; 1500-AM; BTN2Go.
Gophers at a glance: The Gophers (25-5-6) have the challenge of coming into Friday’s semifinal cold. Though the bye is considered a benefit to the top seeds, several Gophers said it’s an advantage for the team that played the night before and found its rhythm. Coach Don Lucia expects his team to play faster than it has this season in order to have postseason success. Ohio State plays a similar up-tempo style like the Gophers, which could lead to a lot of scoring. A scoring outburst would be good for the Gophers in their first game of the postseason.
Buckeyes at a glance: No. 4-seed Ohio State (17-13-5) will carry momentum into Friday night’s semifinals. The Buckeyes held off No. 5 Michigan State 2-1 in overtime of the quarterfinals to continue their hopes at extending their season beyond this weekend. They need to win the Big Ten tournament to qualify for the NCAA Regionals. Though he was pointless in Thursday night’s victory, the Buckeyes have the conference’s leading scorer in Ryan Dzingel. He’s given the Gophers trouble this year and played a big role in their shootout victory over the Gophers earlier this month.
For more read full Big Ten Tournament preview.
• Read Friday’s feature: Gophers hockey gains an edge on opponents with speed + Big Ten & NCHC tourney previews video.
• Adam Wilcox selected as Hobey Baker Award finalist.
• Quarterfinal recaps: Ohio State 2, Michigan State 1 (OT). Penn State 2, Michigan 1 (2OT).
• Replay of Wednesday's Gophers hockey/college hockey live chat.
• Friday's Big Ten hockey tournament results: Wisconsin 2, Penn State 1
Wisconsin scored two answered goals off the stick of Michael Mersch to defeat Penn State 2-1 in Friday afternoon’s Big Ten hockey tournament semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.
Mersch scored both goals in the second period. He tied the game 87 seconds in and connected for the eventual game-winner on the power play with 11 seconds left in the period.
“After we get scored on, we’ve been taught to lineup on the draw and let them know we’re coming for them. So that goal on the shift after was huge,” Mersch said about the Badgers quick response to falling behind. He scored 32 seconds after Curtis Loik gave Penn State a 1-0 lead.
Though Penn State played nearly 93 minutes of hockey in Thursday’s double overtime victory, fatigue didn’t appear to be a problem early on. Their big men – six players ranging from 6-1, 210-pounds to 6-5 and 236 pounds – instead challenged the Badgers’ size and physical play for as long as they could.
The Nittany Lions’ fight eventually broke down.
They were unable up to convert on the only two power plays of the third period and failed to get any shots off in the final minute.
Wisconsin forced Penn State to play the final 60 seconds of the game in its own zone and keep goaltender Matthew Skoff in the net instead of pulling him for the extra skater.
“The legs will maybe be there for the first periods or two [after a long game], but if you keep on them and keep chipping pucks in and chasing, which we did, made their ‘D’ turn and it paid off towards the end,” Mersch said.
Skoff finished with 32 saves and Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel had 24 saves. The Badgers’ second line of Morgan Zulinick, Jefferson Dahl and Mersch combined for four points.
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said his team learned how to mentally compete with the best teams at this stage in Thursday’s upset of Michigan. The improvement carried into the semifinals, but Gadowsky said the Badgers just wore them down.
“This was a tremendous experience and we're very proud of the strides that our team took. I thought we improved a ton,” Gadowsky said. “It was a phenomenal year to compete in [the Big Ten]. It was an absolute honor. I’m disappointed we came up a little short today, but extremely proud of how far we've come.”