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Updated: January 18th, 2014 12:34am
State's biggest-ever crowd witnesses Gophers win Hockey City Classic

State's biggest-ever crowd witnesses Gophers win Hockey City Classic

by The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota freshman Taylor Cammarata gave his home state's biggest hockey crowd their only reason to cheer on Friday. Cammarata's second-period goal was the difference as Minnesota held off Ohio State 1-0 in the Hockey City Classic, played before an announced crowd of 45,021 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Cammarata threw a puck on net that Buckeyes goalie Matt Tomkins slowed enough with a pad save to stop the puck on the goal line. But when the goalie scrambled to cover the puck with his glove, he inadvertently knocked it into the net, giving the Gophers rookie his fifth career goal.

Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox had 21 saves for his second shutout of the season as top-ranked Minnesota improved to 16-2-3 overall and 6-0-1-0 in Big Ten play. Tomkins had 25 saves as Ohio State fell to 11-7-1 overall and 1-3-1-0 in the conference.

The Buckeyes' best chance to score came in the opening period, when Wilcox stopped Ryan Dzingel on a shorthanded breakaway.

"I'm not going to sleep tonight," Dzingel said. "I tried to go upstairs with it and obviously he made a great save."

Minnesota's top-ranked women's team opened the event with a 4-0 blanking of Minnesota State-Mankato, as the Gophers improved to 21-1-1. Playing hockey outside was somewhat familiar for Lauren Barnes, a Minnesota State defenseman who grew up skating in her suburban Twin Cities backyard, but the setting on Friday was definitely something new. Despite her team's loss, Barnes left the ice beaming, as the outdoor hockey trend finally came home to the place that calls itself the State of Hockey.

"It's an experience you will never forget, especially being from here," said Barnes, from nearby Burnsville, Minn. "You grow up playing in your backyard. Mom is rubbing your toes to get them warm. It's just another game for us, but it's definitely one that tops the memories.

The evening's marquee attraction looked to realistically have a crowd more in the 30,000 range. But fans were plentiful throughout the 50,000-seat stadium and in the concourses, decked out in all manner of cold-weather gear normally reserved for winter pursuits such as ice fishing and deer hunting. Concession lines for coffee and hot chocolate were lengthy during the first and second periods, but were dwarfed by the line for beer, which stretched from the end zone to the 15 yard line in one corner of the stadium.

Minnesota had played in last year's incarnation of the event at Chicago's Soldier Field, where the Gophers fell 3-2 to Wisconsin in an afternoon game. Most of the complaints on the Lake Michigan waterfront stemmed from afternoon sunshine that produced sub-par ice conditions. There were no similar complaints on Friday, as the temperature had dropped to 7 degrees by the start of the third period. Although with very little wind, many fans said it was cold but not unbearably so.

"It seemed like everybody had a good time, and the ice conditions were very good," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who stopped at a few tailgate parties on the way to the stadium to take photos with fans. "I think they had to make one (ice) repair the whole game. That was a lot different from last year's event."

Minnesota and Ohio State play again, indoors this time, on Saturday afternoon.

© The Associated Press