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Buckeyes among nation’s elite

Preview: Two teams headed in opposite directions meet this weekend when the Gophers, losers of six of their past eight, face the Buckeyes, who have won seven in a row and are on a 15-game unbeaten streak. Ohio State (19-5-4, 12-3-3-2 Big Ten) can clinch the Big Ten regular-season championship — and a first-round bye, plus home-ice advantage in the conference playoffs — with a sweep of Minnesota (11-14-4, 8-9-3).

Players to watch: Ohio State, No. 2 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and No. 3 in the PairWise Ratings, is rolling behind a balanced, veteran squad. Seniors Mason Jobst (15 goals, 18 assists, 33 points) and Dakota Joshua (9-12—21) rank first and third in points, while junior Tanner Laczynski (8-17—25) is second. Those three were key in the Buckeyes’ run to the Frozen Four last year in St. Paul. In goal, Ohio State starts senior Sean Romeo (8-4-2, 2.32 goals-against average, .913 save percentage) on Fridays and sophomore Tommy Nappier (11-1-2, 1.60, .946) on Saturdays. Nappier ranks second nationally in goals-against average and save percentage. … Gophers coach Bob Motzko said he expects that both junior Mat Robson (9-10-4, 3.09, .916) and senior Eric Schierhorn (2-4-0, 2.51, .904) will get a start in goal.

Last meeting: The Gophers and Buckeyes played to a pair of 2-2 ties on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with Ohio State gaining two extra conference points by winning both in 3-on-3 overtime.

RANDY JOHNSON