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‘Close isn’t good enough’ for Ohio State men’s hockey in series vs. Minnesota

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OSU forward Tommy Parran (6) tries to clear the puck in front of the Buckeyes' goal in a game against Minnesota on Feb. 12 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 5-4. Credit: Evan Szymkowicz | Sports Director

OSU forward Tommy Parran (6) tries to clear the puck in front of the Buckeyes’ goal in a game against Minnesota on Feb. 12 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 5-4. Credit: Evan Szymkowicz | Sports Director

The Ohio State men’s hockey team fought hard and dug deep in two gritty contests against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but it just could not find the finishing touch to grab maximum points, losing 5-4 and 4-3, on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

In the first matchup, the Buckeyes would open the scoring courtesy of sophomore forward Christian Lampasso. Lampasso picked up the puck from senior forward Tyler Lundey and slotted it past freshman goaltender Eric Schierhorn’s right-hand side. Freshman defenseman Tommy Parran also assisted on the play, earning his first point in scarlet and gray.

The Golden Gophers found the equalizer with just 24 seconds left in the first period. Junior forward Justin Kloos received the puck from freshman forward Tyler Sheehy and fired the puck past junior netminder Christian Frey from midrange.

“When you’re playing a decent first period, and you’re playing well, and again you go into it and give up a goal at the end like that certainly gives the other guys momentum,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.

And momentum Minnesota did have, as it picked up right where it left off after the first intermission. Just a little under four minutes into the second period, the Golden Gophers grabbed a 2-1 lead when sophomore forward Leon Bristedt put the puck past Frey’s lower right-hand corner.

After a scrappy, defensive second period, the floodgates opened in the third period. Three goals were scored in just under five minutes of play.

OSU junior forward David Gust would tie it up with a little over a minute and a half into the third period for the Buckeyes. The score stretched his point streak to 14 games.

The Buckeyes would then take advantage of a power play and grab their second lead of the night, courtesy of Dakota Joshua’s third goal of the season. Not to be outdone, Minnesota fired back immediately with a goal from freshman forward Tommy Novak, leveling the score at 3-3 with just 4:45 off the clock in the third period.

And then with 2:45 left in the period, Sheehy put the Golden Gophers back on top. However, just as it looked like Minnesota had the game wrapped up, the Scarlet and Gray dug deep and found yet another equalizer. With less than one second left in the period, sophomore forward Matthew Weis picked up a cleared puck in front of a crowded Minnesota goal and fired it past multiple bodies, sending the contest to overtime at 4-4.

“That’s happened a few times this year, a couple of late goals,” junior forward and co-captain Nick Schilkey said. “We’ve just kept the pedal down all game, no matter what happens, we try to keep that energy up, but the margin of error is just so small. It’s frustrating at times, but we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”

That margin of error would appear when junior forward Justin Kloos scored the game winner in overtime off a faceoff deep in the Buckeyes’ zone. Friday’s contest was the third game this season between the two sides that ended a Minnesota overtime victory.

“Nine points. Nine points is a big deal in our league,” Rohlik said regarding the dropped points in those games. “So, tip your cap to those guys. You know, especially getting a goal scored on you with a second to go in the game. They created some really good opportunities there in overtime. It comes down to little things at the end.

“I give our guys credit too. We didn’t quit, and again college hockey proves again how close everything is. Frustrating part is we’re close, but close isn’t good enough.”

The second game on Saturday was just as action-packed and high-flying as Friday’s encounter.

Minnesota would get on the board first a little over halfway through the first period. Frey was caught out of his goal attempting to collect the puck and couldn’t scramble back in time to stop a shot from junior forward Hudson Fasching. The Golden Gophers would double their lead with just over two minutes left in the period, courtesy of a long-range goal from redshirt junior forward Connor Reilly.

“The first period, maybe the shots didn’t show. I thought that we played in their zone quite a bit,” OSU freshman forward Mason Jobst said. “If you just watch the game, I wouldn’t think it would be a two-nothing game. It’s something we’ve got to work on this week and get ready for Penn State.”

Both sides traded shots throughout the second period, with Frey and Schierhorn making some spectacular saves. Then, similar to Friday’s encounter, three goals would were scored in just over two minutes of play.

Minnesota would make it 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the period with a second goal from Fasching. The Buckeyes rapidly responded with a goal from Jobst, only for the Golden Gophers to restore their three-goal advantage courtesy of Leon Bristedt.

“I think we came out fine in the first period,” senior defenseman and co-captain Craig Dalrymple said. “I think up to date, up until the first period, that was our best 20 (minutes) of the weekend. We weren’t really able to build off that, we kind of dug ourselves into a hole.”

Gust assisted on Jobst’s goal, extending his point streak to 15 games. It is the longest streak for a Buckeye since Ryan Dzingel had a 10-game point streak in the 2013-14 season.

The Buckeyes would cut into Minnesota’s lead once again just over three and a half minutes into the third period. Sophomore forward Luke Stork collected a long pass from freshman defenseman Sasha Larocque and slotted the puck under Schierhorn, putting the score at 4-2.

But the Scarlet and Gray once again refused to go away. Freshman John Wiitala’s sixth goal of the season was originally called a no-goal, but further review confirmed the puck had crossed the line, bringing OSU back within a point.

But unlike Friday, there was no last-second magic for the Buckeyes, as the match would end 4-3.

“We dug too deep of a hole,” Rohlik said. “Even though I think we put together probably a better game overall, but they certainly took advantage of their chances. They scored a couple of big time goals but I can’t fault our guys at the end. They came out to win a hockey game in the third period. They believed we could still win, and we just ran out of time.”

OSU will use the next week to rest up before heading east to State College, Pennsylvania, where it is set to take on Penn State. The first installment of the two-game series is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Puck drop for Game 2 is slated for 3:00 p.m. the following day.

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