Tyler Sheehy and Leon Bristedt each scored two goals as the Gophers opened the Big Ten Conference hockey season with a 5-3 victory over Ohio State on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
“Sometimes you have to grind out games and this is one of them,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We had to grind it out.”
This was the Gophers’ seventh win in a row over Ohio State, going back to late in the 2014-15 season. Minnesota leads the all-time series 25-3-1.
Ohio State took an early lead on a fluky goal just 6 minutes, 31 seconds into the game.
“We put one in our own net,” Lucia said, “and you start to wonder if it is not going to be your night.”
The three-time defending conference champions trailed for much of half the opening period before defenseman Ryan Collins tied the score 1-1 in the 16th minute with his first goal of the season.
“Collins' goal was huge to get us going again,” Lucia said.
Bristedt put the No. 11 Gophers (7-4-2) ahead 2-1 on a shorthanded goal with 34 seconds left in the first. His second goal, on a power play, made it 3-1 early in the middle period, and Sheehy made it 4-1 just 51 seconds later.
“[We] had a good surge in the second,” Lucia said. “Unfortunately, we gave it right back. But I liked the way we played in the third.”
Ohio State came into the series ahead of Minnesota in the USCHO.com poll at No. 10 and picked to finish second behind the Gophers in a preseason Big Ten coaches poll.
And the Buckeyes responded to the Gophers’ back-to-back in the second period quickly. Just 17 seconds after Sheehy’s first goal, Miguel Fidler scored for the Buckeyes (8-2-4) to get them within 4-2 and, at 14:15 of the second, David Gust’s power-play goal made it 4-3.
It stayed a one-goal game until Sheehy’s second goal of the game — and seventh of the season — in the middle of the third. Rem Pitlick had three assists for Minnesota and captain Justin Kloos had two assists and was a plus-3 for the game.
Bristedt, a junior forward with 20 goals last season, had been struggling to find the net lately before getting his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
“You have a monkey on your back and it keeps talking to you,” he said. “But I think I’ve been playing pretty good. I get my chances. I get my shots. Pucks are not going in. But it’s about the team and I am happy I can contribute tonight.”
Also excited was Sheehy, a sophomore forward who now has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in six games against Ohio State counting last season when the Gophers were 5-0 against the Buckeyes, winning three of those games in overtime.
Why his success vs. Ohio State? “I am not sure,” Sheehy said. “I don’t know if I get up for a conference game or if it is I kind of like the way they play. They are up and down kind of like us and it opens up our opportunities.
“I don’t know exactly what it is, but I hope it continues.”