Gophers men’s hockey’s fast start not enough in 4-3 loss to Ohio State

Freshman Rhett Pitlick tallied his first career multi-point game with two assists, while junior Colin Schmidt made his Gophers debut in the loss.

Gophers Forward Ben Meyers takes a shot on net at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Gophers ended the night with a 6-3 victory over Ohio State. 

Liam Armstrong

Gophers Forward Ben Meyers takes a shot on net at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Gophers ended the night with a 6-3 victory over Ohio State. 

by Michael Lyne , Sports Reporter

The No.6/8 Gophers men’s hockey team conceded four consecutive goals in a 4-3 loss against No. 18/14 Ohio State Friday night, marking their fifth loss this season as they hold an overall record of 6-5 on the season.

“We earned it [the loss],” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko. “We couldn’t have played any better early. [We] knew they were going to have a push back, but we took a couple of bad penalties and gave them momentum back into the game.”

The Gophers got off to a fantastic start in the first period, scoring three unanswered goals, courtesy of their juniors. Jack Perbix opened up the scoring 2:42 seconds into the game, and then Ben Meyers added two more goals in the final minute of the period.

Ohio State’s Ryan O’Connell attempted to clear the puck out of the defensive zone via a bank pass off the boards on the opening goal. However, it did not make it outside the blue line before freshman Rhett Pitlick picked up the loose puck and fed Perbix, who fired a five-hole shot to put the Gophers up 1-0. His tally marked his first goal this season and Pitlick’s third assist.

Just before the first period came to a close, Meyers scored two goals 18 seconds apart. His first came with 47 seconds remaining as he cleaned up a loose puck in the slot off a pass from junior Jackson LaCombe, and fired it past goaltender Jakub Dobeš. Then, he tallied his second of the evening after deflecting a point shot from sophomore Mike Koster in front of the net.

Meyers’ two goals bring his season total to four. Pitlick, LaCombe, Koster, and freshman Matthew Knies all recorded assists. The two tallies gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead into the second period as they dominated the shots on goal at 11-3.

Just 2:25 seconds into the second period, Perbix received a minor penalty for tripping, and the Gophers’ momentum quickly faded throughout the rest of the game.

Ohio State’s Jake Wise scored the Buckeyes’ first goal on a one-timer after receiving a circle-to-circle pass from Georgii Merkulov just after their powerplay expired. Then, less than two minutes after their first goal, senior Sammy Walker took a slashing penalty and put the Gophers back on the penalty kill.

The Gophers’ penalty kill units killed Ohio State’s man advantage with 11:43 remaining. However, the Buckeyes still had the momentum on their side as Patrick Guzzo fired a shot just 37 seconds later into the back of the net to cut their deficit to a score of 3-2.

Walker went on to take one more penalty late in the second period that the Gophers would kill off, but they could not find a way to build momentum in a period where they were short-handed for six minutes.

Although the Gophers held a 3-2 lead in the third period, Ohio State is a dominant third-period hockey team. Before Friday’s game, the Buckeyes outscored their opponents 15-2 in the third period this season.

Ohio State continued to follow this trend by adding two more goals courtesy of Gustaf Westlund and Joe Dunlap to complete their 4-3 comeback in the third period.

“For a rare time, some of those goals should’ve been saved,” Motzko said on graduate student goaltender Jack LaFontaine’s performance. “I haven’t said that too often.”

Motzko was adamant after the loss that even though LaFontaine did not have the best game, making 16 saves on 20 shots faced, there is no question that he will remain their starting goalie.

The Gophers outshot the Buckeyes 26-20 but went 0-5 on the man advantage. The loss snaps their seven-game unbeaten streak against Ohio State (6-0-1) and marks the first time they have lost a game leading after the first period.

“It hurts,” Perbix said on the loss. “Obviously, having a three-goal-lead, we can’t be doing that, and we’re going to learn our lesson from this.”

In the loss, Pitlick recorded his first career multi-point game as he recorded two assists, and junior Colin Schmidt played in his first game with the Gophers.

The Gophers will look to get back in the win column Saturday night when they finish their home series against Ohio State at 5 p.m. at 3M Arena at Mariucci.