Numerous times throughout the season, Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik has said his hockey team played with a “bend, don’t break” mentality.
Saturday night, in the men’s hockey team’s first-ever sweep of Minnesota, that mentality led the Buckeyes to a crucial in-conference victory.
“Our team kind of just hung in there,” Rohlik said. “We did what we had to do, we blocked shots, our goaltender made saves, and we kind of did the little things just good enough to win a hockey game.”
The No. 15 Buckeyes (10-4-4, 5-4-1-0 in Big Ten) completed the sweep of No. 7 Minnesota (10-9-1, 4-7-1-1 in Big Ten) with a resounding 4-1 victory.
This win was anything but easy for Ohio State, and the victory gives the Buckeyes a rush of momentum heading into a three-week break.
“[It’s] huge,” senior forward Matthew Weis said. “I think that’s a great accomplishment and shows where this program is headed, and I think it shows the heart and guts that we have in that locker room.”
Weis assisted on sophomore forward Matt Miller’s eventual game-winning goal with less than six minutes to go. Miller ripped a one-timer from the point off the Weis faceoff win, giving Miller the game-winner and Weis his 100th career point as a Buckeye. He joins junior forward Mason Jobst who earned his 100th point in Friday’s game.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Weis said. “I’m really happy and honored, but I mean I wouldn’t have done it without my teammates over the four years, I was lucky enough to play with some great guys over the time here.”
Ohio State outshot the Golden Gophers 14-8 in the first period, but then was outshot by Minnesota 24-12 for the remainder of the game.
Redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo was dominant in net for the second straight night. The Buckeyes’ netminder made 31 saves on Saturday and stopped 64 of 66 shots in the series.
“I think our team just really bought in this weekend, and it just goes to show how well they played in front of me,” Romeo said.
Jobst got the Buckeyes on the board late in the first period. The Ohio State captain walked the puck out from the corner, and found plenty of space to beat sophomore goalkeeper Mat Robson on a shot to the weak side.
The Golden Gophers outshooting Ohio State 13-3 during the second period. Romeo held strong in the net until a deflection led to Minnesota deadlocking the score.
Junior forward Brent Gates Jr. threw the puck in front from behind the net and the puck deflected off senior defenseman Janik Moser’s skate, beating an ill-prepared Romeo to the near side.
“Bounces like that are going to happen,” Romeo said. “You hate to see it in a tight game like that, but I figured that if I could just keep doing my job, our team would put the puck in the net, and we’d come out on top.”
Ohio State entered this series a team that struggled at home, falling twice to Penn State in two pivotal in-conference matchups. This weekend, the Buckeyes beat a top-10 team twice in their home arena, moving them all the way to second place in the Big Ten standings.
“It means we put the time and the effort in this week,” Rohlik said. “I’ve said it a million times, we practiced well this week and I felt great about it, and we’ll enjoy it this weekend, but it’s a long season, I think it’s a building block for our program, it’s a building block for this team.”