Minnesota bows out at Big Ten tournament

The Gophers fell to Ohio State in semifinals.

Minnesota forward Gabe Guertler skates against Ohio State at the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Friday. Minnesota went in as the tournament's top-seed team, but lost to Ohio State 3-1 in the semifinals.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota forward Gabe Guertler skates against Ohio State at the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Friday. Minnesota went in as the tournament’s top-seed team, but lost to Ohio State 3-1 in the semifinals.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers men’s hockey team endured an upset loss in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday, but it’s hard to feel too bad for the No. 1 team in the nation and the Big Ten regular-season champs.

The Gophers didn’t need this win. Ohio State did.

The Buckeyes kept hopes of a postseason berth alive with a 3-1 win over the Gophers at the Xcel Energy Center but eventually fell in the championship to Wisconsin 5-4 in overtime.

Ohio State junior forward Ryan Dzingel scored the game-winner against the Gophers and said desperation gave his team extra motivation.

“You play a little bit differently,” he said. “That feeling you get when you look at those four seniors in our locker room. They’re done if we lose. That feeling is a lot different.”

Ohio State might have had the “one-and-done” attitude, but the Gophers had the luxury of treating this tournament as the “last opportunity as a learning experience,” head coach Don Lucia said.

“I was really hoping we could get to tomorrow for the added experience,” Lucia said Friday after the loss. “[We have] six freshman forwards out there [who need] to experience playoff hockey, but it wasn’t to be tonight.”

Though his team didn’t have the pressure of a loss ending its season, Lucia said a lack of motivation wasn’t to blame for the loss. At this point in the season, he said, every team wants to win, and his just couldn’t score.

Gophers junior forward Kyle Rau said his team failed to come out strong in the first period against the Buckeyes. That showed as Ohio State scored first with a power-play goal from Nick Schilkey.

Rau tied it up on the power play about five minutes into the second period, and even though the Gophers looked stronger in the final period and outshot the Buckeyes 31-25 in the game, it wasn’t enough.

Dzingel gave his team the lead about nine minutes into the third period before Anthony Greco scored an empty-netter with about 30 seconds until the buzzer.

“We’ve just got to learn that we’ve got to play like we did in the third period, come out ready to go,” Rau said. “We’ve got to do whatever it takes.”

The loss didn’t hurt the Gophers’ postseason seeding.

Minnesota is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and will face fourth-seeded Robert Morris (19-17-5) of the Atlantic Hockey Association at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday afternoon in the West Regional.

No. 2-seeded Notre Dame and No. 3-seeded St. Cloud State play Saturday night before the championship Sunday evening for a trip to the Frozen Four.