The Gophers had a weekend of redemption against one of the best teams in the country after getting swept in the previous series at Penn State.
Minnesota beat No. 2 Ohio State by a score of 4-3 in each game Friday and Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The sweep gave them six conference points, and put them back at the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten conference.
"It felt good, I think the team really bought in. I think we listened to coaches' pregame plan and stuck to it all game, and won our shifts and stayed as a unit," said Gophers defenseman Tyler Nanne.
On the back of Mat Robson, who posted 43 saves on Saturday, the Gophers (13-14-4, 10-9-3 Big Ten) hung on in a close game and beat the Buckeyes. Scott Reedy, Nathan Burke and Brent Gates Jr. gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead going into the second period, but the Buckeyes pushed back and scored two goals later in the period to make it 3-2.
Then, Gophers forward Tyler Sheehy scored what proved to be the game-deciding goal in the middle of the third period as the Buckeyes made an offensive comeback with a barrage of shots. Ohio State's Ronnie Hein scored with 10:02 left in the third to make it 4-3, but Sheehy's goal proved enough for the victory.
Nanne took a penalty with 2:19 left in regulation, and Ohio State (19-7-4, 12-5-3 Big Ten) pulled its goalie but the Gophers hung on during the 6-on-4 disadvantage and swept Ohio State in the last Big Ten away series of the regular season. Minnesota tallied 16 shots in the game, including a combined six shots in the second and third periods.
"There was a whole lot of good coming out of this weekend," Gophers head coach Bob Motzko told reporters after the game. "We've had a roller coaster [of] ups and downs ... but they fought it off."
Minnesota won on Friday when Eric Schierhorn was in net. The Gophers got off to a 2-0 lead with goals from Jack Sadek and Burke, then Ohio State scored with 16 seconds left in the second period to make it 2-1. In the third period, Ryan Zuhlsdorf scored his first goal of the season and Reedy scored again to make it 4-2. Ohio State tallied a goal with 3:35 left to play but couldn't get another. The Minnesota victory ended the Buckeyes' seven-game winning streak.
The six conference points will be critical for seeding of the Big Ten Tournament. Seeds two, three and four will host seeds five, six, and seven in the first round while the first seed gets a bye-week until the next round.
"We were all on the same page, and we decided to play with a system that we hadn't really played before, but we all bought in because we knew they were a good team. So we knew we had to play disciplined hockey," said Minnesota senior forward Darian Romanko.
Minnesota will play Notre Dame next weekend at 3M Arena at Mariucci in the team's final series of regular season Big Ten play. Many of the other teams in the Big Ten have four conference games remaining, contrary to the Gophers' two.
Minnesota's last regular season series of the year will be against Arizona State at home on March 1 and 2.