Coach Don Lucia said after the Gophers' overtime victory Friday night that he hoped his young Gophers hockey team learned how difficult it can be to win at this level.
If that message didn’t get through Friday, it sure did Saturday.
After Minnesota saw its two-goal lead evaporate in the final minutes of regulation, Leon Bristedt knocked in a rebound 81 seconds into overtime to lift the Gophers to a 5-4 win over Ohio State at Mariucci Arena.
“We don’t have a great margin for error with this group,” Lucia said. “We’re young, we’re learning, but we’re not an overly skilled, high-powered team. We have to try to do the little things and not beat ourselves.”
A mistake late in the game nearly did just that.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead with a little more than five minutes remaining, defenseman Ryan Collins was whistled for a checking-from-behind penalty — a five-minute major that would put the Gophers on a penalty kill for nearly the remainder of the game.
They killed more than 4½ minutes of it, before Ohio State, having already pulled its goalie for an additional attacker, got a goal from Anthony Greco with 26.4 seconds remaining.
“A gut-wrenching” feeling was the way Bristedt described it.
But the Gophers bounced back on the second shift of the extra period. Bristedt and linemates Tommy Novak and Hudson Fasching, who had Friday’s winner, created a flurry of chances in front of Ohio State goalie Christian Frey. Eventually, the puck squirted out to Bristedt at the top of the crease, and he buried it.
“Ending the game the way we did and how we got that goal — we probably had about six shots in 3 seconds, we never gave up on that play and it just ended up in the net,” Bristedt said. “It’s just a great feeling. There’s nothing better than ending a weekend with an overtime win.”
Freshman Tyler Sheehy scored twice and assisted on another, and linemate Justin Kloos had four points, and combined with Connor Reilly, the Gophers’ top line combined for nine points.
For Sheehy, it was his fifth goal in as many games.
“I think we’ve been clicking better,” Kloos said of his line.
Goalie Eric Schierhorn finished with 32 saves, and Frey had 35 for Ohio State.
After trailing 2-1 midway through the second period, the Gophers rallied for a 4-2 lead.
Kloos scored a momentum-changing goal late in the second, before defenseman Michael Brodzinski and Sheehy scored a minute apart, and just 2:37 into the final period.
It was a roller coaster, but Bristedt said his team’s potential is starting to show.
“It’s like making a puzzle: We have to put the pieces together,” he said. “ ... The puzzle’s starting to look pretty good.”