MINNEAPOLIS – It might have been Hockey Day in Minnesota, but it was a Missouri native who propelled the Gophers to victory.
Sam Warning recorded a natural hat trick in Minnesota’s 4-2 win over Ohio State.
The win capped the weekend sweep for Minnesota. The Gophers’ first win came Friday at TCF Bank Stadium in the Hockey City Classic.
Saturday was Ohio State’s first game all season on a larger sheet of ice, and coach Steve Rohlik said it took his team “a while,” to get used to.
Though Minnesota seemed dominant in the first part of the game, generating numerous offensive chances, Ohio State struck first.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a lead midway through the first period on a redirect goal from Nick Oddo.
Defenseman Drew Brevig added a slap shot power-play goal to move Ohio State’s lead to 2-0.
Less than 30 seconds later, Warning slashed the Buckeyes’ lead in half with a goal of his own after defenseman Mike Reilly set him up for an easy tap-in goal.
“You’ve got to hold on to that 2-0 lead longer than we did, that’s for sure,” Rohlik said.
The goal quelled Ohio State’s momentum and shifted it back to the Gophers.
“Anytime you get it back on your side like that and take the wind out of their sails, it’s huge,” Nate Condon said. “We did a good job responding there with that goal.”
The Gophers outshot the Buckeyes, 16-7, in the first period, and Minnesota coach Don Lucia said he liked the way his team played in the first period, despite being down.
Warning scored the equalizer for the Gophers just 1:34 into the second period.
He completed his hat trick — Minnesota’s first natural hat trick since 2010 —- later in the second period on a power play.
“It was a pretty special moment,” Warning said.
Lucia moved Warning to a line with Condon and freshman Justin Kloos two weeks ago against RPI, and it has paid off. Warning said the biggest thing clicking for his line right now is their speed.
“We just tried to get behind their [defense], and get pucks low,” Warning said. “I think our speed took advantage of their [defense] this weekend.”
Warning now has five goals in three games after scoring twice in Monday’s game against Penn State.
“Sam can be a little bit of a streaky player from an offensive standpoint, but he scored some goals around the blue paint, which is something we talked about,” Lucia said.
Lucia said he liked the way Warning has been playing lately, making strong plays with the puck instead of going for the fancier option.
Warning said he has been “a little passive lately,” but his coaches and teammates have been urging him to take more shots on goal.
For the Buckeyes, the loss drops them to 1-4-1 in the Big Ten; three of those losses were one-goal games.
“I just told our guys it comes down to the little things and you’ve got to get a little better,” Rohlik said. “Every game in the Big Ten has been a one-goal game basically with us and we’ve come up short.”
The two teams will face off again March 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio.