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Ohio State pounces again to complete lopsided sweep over U women’s hockey

In a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup in college women's hockey, Ohio State spent the weekend at Ridder Arena showing who's the nation's best team, while the Gophers showed they have a lot of work to do to close the gap.

Hannah Bilka and Jennifer Gardiner each had a goal and an assist in a five-goal second period, and Raygan Kirk needed to make only 17 saves as the top-ranked Buckeyes beat the No. 2 Gophers 6-1 on Saturday.

The Buckeyes (18-2, 15-1 WCHA) outscored the Gophers 13-1 in a resounding sweep of the series, dropping Minnesota to 16-5-1 overall and 10-5-1 in the WCHA. Ohio State gained 11 of a possible 12 points in going 4-0 against the Gophers this season.

"I've said all year since we played them the first time: This is one of the best women's college hockey teams I've ever seen — not this year, not in the last couple of years,'' Gophers coach Brad Frost said. "… That is the deepest group I've ever seen."

Gophers goalie Skylar Vetter gave up five goals on 32 shots in two periods. Lucy Morgan replaced Vetter in the third and stopped six of seven shots as the Buckeyes outshot Minnesota 39-18. Gophers forward Madeline Kaiser ended Kirk's shutout bid by scoring on a breakaway at 6:32 of the third.

Minnesota kept things close in the first period, not giving up a shot on goal until 10:48 had expired. From there, though, Ohio State dictated play. Seven first-period saves by Vetter and eight blocked shots by the Gophers kept the game scoreless through the first.

In the second period, Ohio State put a stranglehold on the game, scoring five goals — three in a span of 1:48 — and outshooting the Gophers 25-3. The Buckeyes had three power plays in the period and scored on two of them.

Sloane Matthews' rebound goal gave Ohio State a 1-0 lead at 6:32 of the second, and then came the three-goal surge.

Bilka blasted a shot between Vetter's legs for a power-play goal at 10:59. After an Ohio State player collided with Vetter at the top of the crease, Gophers star Abbey Murphy received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with an official. Gardiner, the Buckeyes' leading scorer, one-timed a shot past Vetter for a 3-0 lead at 12:28. Only 19 seconds later, Lauren Bernard scored past a screened Vetter.

Emma Peschel made it 5-0 at 17:24 of the second.

"A minute and 46 seconds went wrong for us," Gophers forward Madeline Wethington said of the Buckeyes' three-goal flurry. "We mentally shut down the past two games for a span of about five minutes, and that really cost us. … Luckily, it's not the playoffs."

Afterward, Frost issued a challenge to his team.

"This is a big moment for our group," he said. "We've got to decide what we want to be going forward."