The Ohio State men’s hockey team can finally silence its critics after a disappointing start to the 2009 season.
After a three-game skid, the Buckeyes added their first victory to their win column.
OSU (1-2-1) split a two-game series versus the Denver Pioneers (2-2-0), losing the first contest 2-0 Thursday at the Schottenstein Center and winning 4-0 Friday at the Nationwide Arena.
The change of scenery brought good fortune to the Buckeyes as they silenced the third-ranked team in country.
The Buckeyes had one of their best performances of the season in their opening game against the Pioneers. But their strong play wasn’t displayed on the scoreboard, as they were shutout 2-0.
“I thought the effort was good, the execution just wasn’t there,” coach John Markell said.
OSU outshot Denver 36-32 but still wasn’t able to muster a single goal. The Buckeyes weren’t able to capitalize on any of their nine power-play opportunities, including a 5-3 advantage.
“We had power-play chances, we just couldn’t follow up,” Markell said. “Eventually, you have to create your own puck luck.”
Forward Zac Dalpe was simply disappointed after his team’s shutout loss.
“It’s tough not to get frustrated with tonight and how last weekend went for us, but I know we can play with these guys,” the sophomore said. “We’ve got to get some goals, and now we just have to focus.”
The Buckeyes tried to turn around their skid in Friday night’s contest.
OSU looked like they would strike first on a 2-on-1 four minutes into the second contest of the series. Dalpe’s shot on the side of the net looked as if it had given his team its first lead of the series, but Denver goalie Adam Murray stretched to deflect the puck off his leg.
It didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to have another scoring opportunity, and this time they finally found the back of the net for the first time against Denver.
C.J Severyn streaked down the ice along the wall and found Taylor Stefishen in front of the goal for an easy score. Stefishen’s first goal of the season ended the Buckeyes 67-minute scoring drought.
They followed up that score with Dalpe’s first goal of the season on a power play with six minutes left in the first period. Sergio Somma and Devon Krogh assisted the goal to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
The 2-0 lead was in jeopardy two minutes into the second period. The Pioneers looked as if they got the first score of the contest off Chris Nutini’s shot, but the goal was later reviewed and overturned because of a high stick.
Shane Sims scored his second goal of the season off John Albert’s sharp pass from behind the net. Sims deflected Albert’s pass off his skate and made a perfect shot in front of the Pioneers’ goal to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead, the largest lead OSU has held all season.
OSU carried its 3-0 lead into the third period. The Pioneers looked frustrated on the ice and even started a small scuffle between the two teams after they missed another opportunity to score.
Both teams only produced a few shots in the first ten minutes of the final period. The Buckeyes were able to score their fourth goal with four minutes left in the game on an open netter by Severyn to put the contest out of reach for the Pioneers.
After 60 minutes, the Buckeyes shut out the Denver Pioneers 4-0, behind Heeter’s career-high 39 saves. Denver outshot OSU, 39-26, but like Thursday night’s contest, the team with the most shots wasn’t able to put any points on the scoreboard.
“Denver is a good hockey club,” Markell said. “They kept coming at us tough, but our guys won the battle, and we had the hot goaltender.”
Heeter gave most of the credit of his career night to his teammates.
“Anytime a goalie picks up a shutout, you have to give ultimate, complete credit to the defense and the forwards,” the sophomore said. “They got down and blocked shots. I kicked out the loose rebounds, and the defense took the puck out of the zone.”
Somma, who finished with a game-high two assists, was relieved to finally win this season.
“It’s a huge monkey off all of our backs. We can build some confidence after this game as we head on the road,” he said.
The Buckeyes will go on their first road trip of the season as they travel to Lake Superior State for games on Friday and Saturday.