COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Gophers remained winless against teams ranked in the top 10 this season on Friday night when they lost to No. 7 Ohio State 3-2 in overtime in Big Ten hockey. Quinn Preston's goal — with 25 seconds left in the 5-on-5 first overtime — gave the Buckeyes their fourth straight win before an announced crowd of 5,321 at Value City Arena.
The loss dropped Minnesota's record to 0-8-1 against top-10 teams.
"We are awful disappointed," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "We played a real good hockey game and then to find ourselves on the back side of it — that's hockey. But for us, that's been desperate for a win, that hurts, that stings.
"We made three glaring mistakes, and they scored on all three. I'm not sure they had three other chances to score."
Junior goalie Jack LaFontaine made 23 saves, including four in overtime, for the Gophers (5-9-3, 2-4-3-2 Big Ten). Tommy Nappier stopped 25 shots for OSU (10-4-1, 6-3).
Defenseman Grant Gabriele's unassisted goal gave Ohio State a 1-0 lead in the opening period. Teammate Tate Singelton set a screen on the play, planting himself near the right post.
Minnesota tied the score on defenseman Robbie Stucker's first goal of the season with 1:35 left in the middle period. It came on a power play on a shot from the high slot.
Forward Sampo Ranta gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead on another power-play goal at 1:43 of the third. It was the team-high seventh goal of the season for Ranta, a sophomore forward from Finland.
Ohio State tied the score on Carson Meyer's goal at 12:58. Miguel Fidler, Meyer's linemate, took the initial shot on the play from the left side. It hit LaFontaine's pads but the rebound bounced out to Meyer in front. It's a sequence the Buckeyes' practice regularly, Meyer said, and he relied on his "muscle memory" to score his fifth goal of the season.
The loss dropped the Gophers' record in series openers this season to 2-5-2 and ended a six-game unbeaten streak (3-0-3) against OSU.
For Ohio State, it was the Buckeyes' fifth one-goal win this season.
"The guys got a belief that we can win and that's pretty powerful," said Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik, a St. Paul native. "I don't think we were our best tonight and I give a lot of credit to Minnesota. But falling behind again and finding a way to win is huge."
Asked about the Gophers' two power-play goals, Rohlik said, "Naps [Nappier] would probably love to have those back. But what I heard from the bench is that Naps has bailed us out plenty of times. It was time for us to bail him out and that's what these guys did."
Rohlik especially had high praise for Preston, a 5-11, 182-pound sophomore forward who was awarded the game puck: "He is a one-man forecheck at times. Just his speed, his tenacity. He's all over the ice. He is a huge element out there for us."
Motzko, speaking from the Gophers' perspective, said the game should never have gotten to overtime,
"We needed to find a way to score another goal in the early part of the game," Motzko said, "and it just didn't come."