COLUMBUS, OHIO – For the first time in four meetings this season, the Gophers and Ohio State didn’t need overtime determine a victor.
But that doesn’t mean Minnesota had an easy victory.
Hudson Fasching scored two goals and assisted on another as the Gophers built a three-goal lead before hanging on for a 4-3 victory over the Buckeyes on Saturday night. The victory gave the Gophers a four-game sweep of the season series and kept them in first place in the Big Ten.
The Gophers, who on Friday night gave up the tying goal with 0.1 seconds left in the third period before winning 5-4 in overtime, saw the Buckeyes on Saturday trim the deficit from 4-1 to 4-3 in the third period. But the Gophers held on this time when Ohio State pressed.
“Definitely a lot more relief that it didn’t go to overtime,’’ said Fasching, who had his fifth two-goal game this season. “Obviously, in the back of our mind, we’ve gone to overtime three times [with Ohio State].’’
Said coach Don Lucia: “Unlike last night, at the last second, we were in great position when that puck went in the corner. We showed them on the video today about the positioning you have to be in. That’s one thing they learned from the night before.”
Fasching gave the Gophers (16-13, 11-3 Big Ten) a 1-0 lead when, with Ryan Collins in the penalty box for cross-checking, he took a pass from Kloos and beat Buckeyes goalie Christian Frey at 10 minutes, 18 seconds of the first period. The shorthanded goal was Fasching’s third of the season.
“Me and [Justin] Kloos are joking around at this point that we’ve almost got a better chance of scoring [on the penalty kill],’’ Fasching said. “… I guess all we’re trying to do is just try make plays.’’
Connor Reilly made it 2-0 with a wrist shot with 2:23 to play in the period, giving him a goal on the same day his brother, Mike, scored his first NHL goal for the Wild.
Fasching boosted the Gophers’ lead to 3-0 on a wraparound at 14:40 of the second period, giving him 18 goals on the season.
Ohio State answered 18 second later on a goal by Mason Jobst before Leon Bristedt restored the Gophers’ three-goal lead at 16:49 of the second.
But the Buckeyes (8-16-2, 3-7-2-1) weren’t finished.
Ohio State’s Luke Stork cut the Gophers’ lead to 4-2 at 3:32 of the third, and John Wiitala followed at 11:45.
“We still have a tendency to play on our heels when we have a big lead,’’ Gophers forward Vinni Lettieri said. “We have to learn to keep that lead growing. We’ve got to get more goals and never quit.”
Gophers freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn finished with 20 saves as Minnesota outshot Ohio State 32-23.
With the victory, the Gophers improved to 6-2 in Big Ten road games, which was not lost on Lucia.
“We’ve been good on the road,’’ he said. “… We were 4-4-2 last year on the road in the league. Our big guys stepped up.’’