McLeod blog: Gophers hockey insider – Gophers-Buckeyes Round 2

The Matchup

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-6-2, 2-2-1 Big Ten) vs. No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-4-2, 4-2-1 Big Ten), 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis

Broadcast      

4 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports North)

Recent history

Minnesota and Ohio State skated to a 2-2 overtime tie Friday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Buckeyes picked up the bonus point in the Big Ten standings for the overtime win.

The Gopher special teams did the damage, starting with Ryan Norman’s power-play marker in the first. Ohio State answered with even-strength goals by Lakeville’s John Wiitala and junior gunner Ronnie Hein, who gave the Buckeyes a 2-1 lead with less than three minutes to go in regulation time.

The Gophers were awarded a late-game power play and head coach Bob Motzko pulled goalie Mat Robson (30 saves) for an extra attacker. With time dripping away, Buckeye-killer Tyler Sheehy set up Rem Pitlick for a dramatic game-tying goal with only 41 seconds left.

And then …the overtime.

When is a loss NOT a loss?

Ah, yes: when it’s a TIE. Importantly, that’s how it will look to the Pairwise when spring comes around, too. Not as a loss. Keep that in mind.

Friday night’s thriller finish looked like a loss, felt like a loss and was treated as a loss by the fans, who didn’t exactly pack the stands. HOWEVER: It officially goes in the books as a tie, with the bonus point to OSU for the overtime victory.

Here’s why: The NCAA doesn’t recognize results past the first overtime. This season, our pals at the Big Ten instituted the two new layers of OT we’re using now. As we saw last night, that includes a five-minute sudden-death period of three-on-three. It would have been followed, if still knotted up, by a sudden-death shootout.

Last night was the first three-on-three overtime outing in Gopher hockey history.

OT Power-Play Anomaly

Yes, it’s rare to see a penalty for anything in overtime and this morning saw a social media eruption of fan unhappiness with the officiating. Whatever, you play with what you’re handed and in the second OT, that meant Ohio State had a power play.

Now, three-on-three on that big international ice at Mariucci makes for some wide open spaces. But a power play? How does that work? You certainly can’t make it three-on-two. No, as we saw, you add a skater for the team with the man advantage. That makes it four-on-three and man, does that restrict the short-handed team’s options.

It was in that situation that the Buckeyes’ Matt Miller rifled home the winning goal from the right circle, just 36 seconds away from the shootout.

Who’s in goal?

Fair money is on Eric Schierhorn, who hasn’t really given Motzko a good reason not to keep rotating him with Robson. Schierhorn started all 38 last season and is a two-time Big Ten goalie of the year. Besides, it’s an early game.

For the Buckeyes, look for sophomore Tommy Nappier, who has shared the twine with last night’s winner Sean Romeo all season.

Broadcast team

Ben Clymer, Katie Emmer and I will call today’s game on Fox Sports North.

DOUG McLEOD is the five-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports and a longtime voice of Division I and NHL hockey. This is his 22nd season calling Golden Gopher hockey games.