Minnesota moves on to Big Ten hockey title game

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — Regular-season Big Ten champion Minnesota turned back a determined challenge by Ohio State, 3-0, Friday in the first game of the semifinal round of the conference championship tournament at Joe Louis Arena.

Minnesota advanced to the title game at 8 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the day's second semifinal between Michigan State and Michigan.

An NCAA Tournament berth is awarded to the winner.

"We're excited to be moving on and having a chance to play for the title tomorrow," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.

"I think we felt a little bit of pressure tonight that we knew how important this game was that we had to win. It's always difficult to end somebody's season.

"I thought Ohio State played extremely well. They've been on a good run here the last month, once they finally got healthy."

The Buckeyes, winners of four consecutive games entering this game and 7-2-1 in 10, skated like a confident team, despite their fifth-place finish in the six-team conference.

Ohio State took most of the shots (39-23), carried a lot of the play and killed two early penalties without allowing a shot to the Minnesota power play.

But the Golden Gophers did all the scoring.

At 7:51 of the second period a heavy forecheck by Minnesota forced a turnover deep in the Ohio State zone and Travis Boyd, a senior drafted by the Capitals in the NHL, seized the puck and put a perfect pass on the stick of Sam Warning, 18 feet from the Ohio State net.

Warning, an undrafted senior, ripped it past Buckeyes goalie Christan Frey.

Then, in the third period, Minnesota sophomore Vinnie Lettieri drove the net and chipped in a puck that lay on the goal line for a moment, behind Frey, after it had deflected off Ohio State defenseman Clark Cristofoli.

Ben Marshall, a senior defenseman drafted by the Red Wings, and Taylor Cammarata assisted for Minnesota.

Ohio State pulled Frey with 4:43 left in the game for a man advantage.

But Boyd sent one the length of the ice for insurance.

Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, a junior drafted by Steve Yzerman's Lightning , got the shutout.

"The main thing for me was holding my ground and making sure I'm at a good depth," the 6-feet-1 Wilcox said.

"I worked with (volunteer goalie coach) Justin Johnson all week, and getting the angles in and having my feet set and not getting too aggressive and too out there. I think that's a big thing, especially on the smaller rink when pucks were going to be bouncing everywhere.

"There were a lot of weird bounces tonight."