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Men’s Hockey: No. 5 Ohio State skates to consecutive ties in weekend series at Minnesota

Senior forward John Wiitala (10) faces off during the first period of Ohio State’s game against Wisconsin on Nov. 16. Ohio State won 4-0. Credit: Nick Hudak | For The Lantern

Two games and more than 130 minutes of ice time weren’t enough for Ohio State (9-4-3, 4-2-2-2 Big Ten) and Minnesota (4-6-3, 2-2-2-0 Big Ten) to decide the better squad as the teams skated to two 2-2 ties, with the Buckeyes picking up a Big Ten point in both overtimes.

Ohio State entered the weekend having only played one overtime game, a 2-2 tie against Bowling Green, and the Gophers lost 3-4 in their only overtime game against St. Lawrence University.

Game 1

Minnesota opened up the scoring late in the first period with a shorthanded goal during Ohio State’s first power play of the game. The shorthanded goal, scored by senior forward Ryan Norman, was the third given up by the Buckeyes this season.

Senior forward John Wiitala tied the game up early in the second period off an assist from junior forward Tanner Laczynski.

Part of the Buckeyes’ difficulty in finding the net was in their special teams. Ohio State wasn’t able to score on any of its four power play attempts on the night but  allowed Minnesota to convert on one of its two opportunities.

The score remained tied until late in the third period when Ohio State junior forward Ronnie Hein hit the net for the fifth time this season. Assists were credited to junior defenseman Matt Miller and senior forward Freddy Gerard.

The Buckeyes seemed to have the game in hand until an untimely penalty by redshirt junior forward Wyatt Ege with only 2:04 remaining gave the Gophers a power play in addition to their already empty net.

Facing the six-on-four, the Buckeyes held strong until Minnesota scored the game-tying goal with 40.8 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes headed to their second overtime game of the season.

After only three combined shots in the first overtime period, 2-1 in favor of Ohio State, the Buckeyes got their first taste of three-on-three Big Ten overtime.

While nationally the overtime rules have stayed the same — a five-on-five period of five minutes followed by a shootout — the Big Ten changed its protocols going into the 2018-19 season.

Now, instead of a shootout following the five-on-five overtime period, teams will play an additional five-minute three-on-three sudden death overtime for an additional point in the Big Ten standings.

After killing a Minnesota power play early in the three-on-three, Ohio State got a chance of its own with less than two minutes remaining. With the four-on-three advantage, Miller scored his first goal of the season off an assist by senior forward Mason Jobst to give the Buckeyes an extra point in Big Ten play.

Redshirt senior goaltender Sean Romeo allowed two goals on only 17 shots, a season-low for Romeo.

Game 2

After an uneventful opening 15 minutes, the teams combined for three goals in the last five minutes of the first period.

Senior forward Brendon Kearney opened up the scoring with his fourth goal of the season, assisted by sophomore forward Austin Pooley and junior forward Sam McCormick.

Jobst followed the score up three minutes later with his 10th goal of the year on an Ohio State power play. He was assisted by Laczynski and freshman forward Gustaf Westlund, his 10th assist of the season.

Less than 10 seconds later, the Gophers cut into Ohio State’s lead with their first goal of the game. Midway through the second period, Minnesota was able to tie the game up.

While Ohio State had opportunities in the second and third periods, with three power play opportunities in the final frame, neither the Buckeyes nor the Gophers were able to find the net for the rest of regulation and headed to overtime for the second time in as many nights.

The Buckeyes didn’t allow Minnesota to register a single shot during the five-minute overtime period while notching six of their own. It was thought that Jobst scored the game-winning goal, but it was overturned on account of a high stick.

The rest of the shots didn’t find their way between the pipes, however, as the teams again headed to three-on-three Big Ten overtime.

Freshman forward Quinn Preston scored the goal in three-on-three with an assist by Jobst to give Ohio State an additional Big Ten point.

Sophomore goaltender Tommy Nappier allowed two goals on only 16 shots faced, the fewest he and the Buckeyes have seen this season.

Overall, Ohio State outshot the Gophers 74-33 throughout the series. The Buckeyes scored on one of their nine power play attempts and killed all but one of the Gophers five opportunities with the man advantage.

The Buckeyes will take an extended break at the midpoint of their season before they return on the road against Mercyhurst on Dec. 28 and 29.

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