Gophers resume Big Ten hockey schedule with 5-2 victory over Ohio State

The Gophers were putting the finishing touches on a 5-2 men's hockey victory over Ohio State on Friday night, so pardon Rhett Pitlick if he was feeling a little greedy.

With the Buckeyes net vacated for an extra attacker in the game's final minute, Pitlick was in a spirited battle for the puck in the Ohio State zone, and the thought of adding to a four-point night that already included his first career hat trick crossed his mind.

"I was partially thinking about it," the junior forward said, "but I was thinking, 'win first.' But of course, that would have been awesome."

Pitlick didn't get that fourth goal, settling for three with one assist. His performance stood out as the Gophers opened the second half of Big Ten play with a win in the series opener in front of 10,037 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

What the Gophers accomplish over six series spanning seven weeks will determine where they finish in the conference standings and will play a big role in deciding if they return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive season.

"All our lines played well tonight," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "That's a couple weeks in a row. ... We have good energy throughout our lineup right now."

Connor Kurth and Jimmy Snuggerud also scored goals as the Gophers won their fourth consecutive game. Goalie Justen Close made 27 saves, and freshmen Oliver Moore and Sam Rinzel each had three assists.

The Gophers (13-6-4, 6-4-3 Big Ten) remained in fourth place in the Big Ten with 20 points, one behind Notre Dame.

Theo Wallberg and Stephen Halliday scored power-play goals for Ohio State (9-10-4, 1-10-2). Goalie Logan Terness made 25 saves.

"We've been in this position all year long," Motzko said. "It's all about how we respond tomorrow."

On Friday, though, the Gophers set the tone with solid first and third periods that bracketed an Ohio State push in the second.

BOXSCORE: Gophers 5, Ohio State 2

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Minnesota took a 1-0 lead at 11:32 of the first when Pitlick grabbed a loose puck after a faceoff and quickly fired a laser of a shot over Terness' left shoulder. The Gophers went up 2-0 at 15:48 when Kurth took a pass from Moore and blasted a shot past Turness.

The lead quickly grew to 3-0 on a power play when Pitlick hit Snuggerud with a beautiful cross-ice pass and the sophomore winger scored his 18th goal of the season at 17:34.

The Buckeyes trimmed the lead to 3-1 in the second before the Pitlick show resumed in the third.

Just after Brody Lamb thwarted an Ohio State shorthanded breakaway with a strong backcheck, the Gophers rushed down the ice, and Aaron Huglen fed a wide-open Pitlick at 3:18 for a 4-1 lead.

"They were easy ones for him tonight, and that happens with the good ones," Motzko said of Pitlick's goals. "You put yourself in the right spot, and the puck comes to you. He knows what to do with it."

Hats rained down at 6:12 of the third when Pitlick took a drop pass from Moore and beat Terness again.

"It's kind of a divine flow, and sometimes it happens," said Pitlick, a fifth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens. "Tonight, it happened to be so."