For the fifth consecutive series, the Ohio State men’s hockey team continued its trend of losing the first game of its weekend matchup, only to win the backend game the following night.
The Buckeyes (3-6-1, 2-3-1-1 CCHA) split a conference series against the Northern Michigan Wildcats (2-5-1, 1-3-0-0 CCHA). After a 1-0 loss Friday night, OSU lit up the scoreboard to win 5-4 Saturday night.
“We have to do something about our Friday nights,” head coach John Markell said. “We need to try to set the energy on Friday nights that we have on Saturday nights.”
Before most fans reached their seats Friday, Northern Michigan’s Phil Fox wrapped around a pass from behind OSU’s net to junior forward Mark Oliver, who slapped it into the right side of net to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Neither team was able to find any offensive success for the rest of the contest. The Buckeyes placed goalie Dustin Carlson on the bench for an extra attacker with 28 seconds remaining, but they weren’t able to tie the tightly played game.
“At all of the critical times, Northern Michigan won, whether it was face-offs or along the boards,” Markell said. “The decisions our guys made dropped the game for us.”
Carlson, who is still looking for his first victory between the posts, tried to look past the difficult loss.
“It’s frustrating to lose,” the junior goaltender said. “I try to not let it eat away at me. I don’t want to have a bad game.”
Northern Michigan outshot OSU, 35-32, in Friday’s contest. The Buckeyes were unable to take advantage of their five power play opportunities.
OSU came out in the second contest of the series on Saturday looking to avenge its lackluster offensive performance. Cal Heeter once again took his role as the goalie for the backend of the series.
Creating a sense of déjà vu, Northern Michigan scored its first goal after only two minutes came off the game clock. Tyler Gron scored his first goal of the season on a one-timer from a swift pass from Andrew Cherniwchan.
Six minutes into the contest, Heeter fell to his left side to block a save, leaving an open net for Northern Michigan. It looked as if the Wildcats would be able to chip an easy goal into the left side of the net, but Heeter made two tremendous stick saves to keep his team’s deficit to only one goal.
The Wildcats posted their second goal of the contest with one minute remaining in the first period. Off a deflected puck from the wall behind OSU’s net, Oliver was able to chip the puck in on the left side of the net.
Even though the Buckeyes outshot the Wildcats, 11-5, in the first period, they were in an early 2-0 hole.
The Buckeyes had a few early opportunities in the second period to score their first point, but they finally broke through midway through the second period.
Off a steal, John Albert received the puck and had a breakaway opportunity at mid ice. After a few sleek moves to get past the goaltender, Albert was able to backhand the puck through the goal posts. The goal shrunk Northern Michigan’s lead to 2-1 and was the team’s first five-on-five goal in its past seven periods.
With 2:50 remaining, the Buckeyes controlled the puck around the Wildcat net. After a few sharp passes, Peter Boyd lined up a perfect wrist shot that slid past Northern Michigan’s goaltender. Albert contributed to the goal with an assist to knot the contest at 2-2 after two periods.
Just as the Wildcats did in the first period, they scored their third goal of the game only a few minutes into the final period. Billy Smith’s quick goal off Erik Spady’s assist caught the Buckeyes off guard.
OSU avenged the Wildcats’ go-ahead score with Corey Schneider’s first career goal.
Six minutes into the third period, Shane Sims passed the puck to Schneider, who stood right in front of Northern Michigan’s crease. After Schneider took his shot toward the net, the puck seemed to stop right under the goalie. A second passed, and the ref realized the puck reached the back of the net. The horn rang throughout the Schottenstein Center, signaling a 3-3 tie.
Three minutes after Schneider’s goal, Andrew Cherniwchan put Northern Michigan back on top 4-3 after his puck hit the back of the net off a slap shot. Gron contributed with an assist on the play to give the Wildcats their third lead of the contest.
The Buckeyes didn’t let their recent deficit last for long. Zak Dalpe scored off an assist by Sergio Somma with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
From the blue line, Sims hit a strong slap shot that nicked off of Peter Boyd’s stick in front of the net. Sergio Somma received the puck and struck it past the goaltender to give the Buckeyes a 5-4 lead.
“We call those plays greasy goals that are scored like that,” Dalpe said. “They aren’t always going to be pretty.”
The Buckeyes scored a season-high five goals in their 5-4 victory. After being blanked in the first period, OSU scored twice in the second period and three times in the third.
Dalpe said it was great for his team to face adversity and comeback from the early 2-0 deficit. He called Friday night’s shutout loss a wake-up call that helped fuel Saturday’s victory.
Markell said that the overall effort was better, and their play was smarter in Saturday’s contest.
“We got some bounces, and we didn’t get down and rattled after the two goals,” Markell said. “They didn’t stop working, and I thought we did a better job creating opportunities.”
OSU continues its home stand Friday and Saturday against Western Michigan.