COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four players scored to give Minnesota a 4-2 victory over Ohio State in men’s hockey Friday night, earning a milestone win for coach Don Lucia in the process. It was Lucia’s 391st victory behind the Gophers bench, pushing him past Doug Woog for the most in program history.
Justin Kloos, Sam Warning, Kyle Rau and Seth Ambroz each scored for the Gophers (19-11-3, 10-4-3 Big Ten), while seven other players chipped in one assist apiece. Adam Wilcox stopped 24 shots by Ohio State (11-18-2, 6-11-0) for the victory.
“I’m very fortunate to coach at a storied program with a great tradition like Minnesota,” Lucia said, referring to him having the all-time wins mark. “I’ve had the chance to coach outstanding players and had great assistant coaches to work with.
“Whenever someone reaches a milestone like this, it’s a team effort because of the players and coaches he surrounds himself with.”
This is Lucia’s 16th season at Minnesota and his team is hoping to win back-to-back conference titles. That possibility became more realistic a few hours after this game when Penn State upset No. 15 Michigan 6-4. The No. 16 Gophers and the Wolverines are now tied for first place with three regular-season games left.
At Value City Arena, Minnesota scored twice in the first period, but both leads were short-lived. Kloos opened the scoring at 13:04 after being left alone at the back post, converting a pass through the crease by Brady Skjei, but Ohio State tied the score 12 seconds later with a shot through traffic that went off a Minnesota defenseman.
Warning put the Gophers ahead 2-1 at 17:04, one-timing a shot from a sharp angle after a cross-ice pass from Travis Boyd, but the Buckeyes answered again just 19 seconds later.
“It’s frustrating when you give up goals right away like that, but we stayed with it,” Lucia said. “The key was getting that third goal, then adding the fourth was extra, and Adam was able to close the door after that.”
Rau and Ambroz added those two goals in the second period on similar plays, both redirecting a pass past Ohio State goalie Christian Frey. From there, Wilcox and the Gopher defense held the Buckeyes at bay, even withstanding 3½ minutes of 6-on-5 after Frey was pulled for the extra skater.
“It’s about doing the little things, such as blocking shots, or getting the puck off the glass and across the blue line,” Ambroz said of closing out the final minutes. “Those are the things you have to do to win hockey games.”
The Gophers now turn their attention to Saturday’s finale when, for the third straight week they will try to secure the elusive sweep after winning the opener.
“We need to have a good start, have a good focus and come out with the same type of effort we had tonight,” Lucia said. “Unless you have a great effort, you’re not going to give yourself a chance to win.”