After 20-goal weekend, Gophers hockey heads to Ohio State

The Gophers men's hockey team is off to a 10-0 start, its best since 1940, after beating Arizona State Monday night 6-4 to complete a series sweep. ((credit: University of Minnesota Athletics))

The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team set a pretty high bar for itself the rest of the season after sweeping Arizona State last weekend.

The Gophers beat the Sun Devils 10-0 and 10-2 to improve to 13-3 on the season. That’s 20 goals over two games after getting swept by Notre Dame 3-2 and 2-1 two weeks ago. The last time Bob Motzko has seen that many goals in 48 hours? He says it was 1979, when his high school team scored 18 times in one playoff game.

Motzko’s message moving forward? Don’t expect that offensive outburst to continue.

"Like last week, goal scoring came a little easy for us. But that’s over," Motzko said. "We’ve got to get back to work and that’s all we’re shooting for right now. We’ve got a real good group, they’re not big-headed after 20 goals. I think they know that was an aberration. That won’t happen again in our lifetime."

When you score 20 goals in a weekend, it means points galore for several players. One of them was junior forward Blake McLaughlin. He had four goals and seven points against Arizona State, and earned Big Ten First Star of the Week as a result.

It’s the kind of performance that gives the Gophers confidence heading to Ohio State this weekend.

"It seemed like every line was clicking, everyone could kind of just find the back of the net. That was really fun, but carrying it over this next weekend is kind of big," McLaughlin said. "Knowing that we can score and we’ve got guys up and down the lineup who can score gives us a great deal of confidence."

The Gophers took a more business-like approach to the game after getting swept by Notre Dame. They focused on "battle practices," increasing the competition on the ice and getting back to fundamentals.

They’re now hitting the road to face the Buckeyes, and earlier this season, earned a sweep with 4-1 and 20 victories. The Gophers head to Columbus leading the Big Ten at 9-3, with 27 points, four points ahead of Michigan and five points clear of Wisconsin. Minnesota leads the Big Ten, and it’s No. 4 in the PairWise Rankings.

Ohio State is sixth of seven teams in the league, one point ahead of Michigan State. Even after a 20-goal weekend, Motzko isn’t about to look past any Big Ten opponent.

"Going on the road, Ohio State, we’re going to get slapped right in the face where we’re back in league play," Motzko said.

After last weekend’s offensive outburst, the Gophers now have six players with at least five goals. Sampo Ranta has a team-high seven goals, while Sammy Walker, Ben Meyers and Scott Reedy each have seven. Six players have at least 12 points this season, with Reedy and Meyers leading at 17 each.

While it’s unlikely we’ll see 20 goals in a weekend again any time soon, Motzko is still looking for his team to keep taking steps.

"I know it’s happened before, but it’s a rarity. Decades before something like that happens again," Motzko said. "Our team, we have another level we can get offensively. Time will tell, not just one weekend. Over time, are we going to take that next step offensively? I believe we had one to hit, hopefully that’s a sign we’re moving in that direction."