After a resounding 6-2 victory for the No. 6 Ohio State men’s hockey team in Game One of the Big Ten quarterfinal best-of-three series against Michigan State, Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik knew that they would get the Spartans’ best effort Saturday with their season on the line.
Ohio State needed extra time against a Michigan State team that proved to be a tough out even as a seventh seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Sixty minutes proved insufficient with the Buckeyes requiring overtime to (23-8-5, 16-8-2-1 Big Ten) beat Michigan State (12-22-2, 6-18-2-1 Big Ten) 4-3 at the Schottenstein Center to set up a matchup against Michigan in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday.
“I thought we played a complete game tonight,” Rohlik said. “It was good to get the win, and move on in the tournament.”
Junior forward Freddy Gerard netted the winner in the extra session on a deflection off a shot from junior defenseman Sasha Larocque at 5:53 of overtime. Gerard scored the winner, but was quick to credit his teammates in the win.
“It wasn’t just me tonight. Our team, we all fought hard,” Gerard said. “[Redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo] played well in net, [junior forward Mason Jobst] stepped up big, [junior forward John Wiitala] had a big goal. Top to bottom.”
Jobst added two goals, while Romeo had 15 saves on 18 shots in the win. Jobst extended his point streak to five games. He has six goals, four assists and 10 points in that span.
“I’m feeling good. I feel in great shape right now,” Jobst said. “My line mates have been great in finding me in soft spots and it’s been working out.”
Throughout the contest, the Buckeyes found themselves down by a goal on two separate occasions and clawed back to force overtime and eventually win.
Both teams traded power play goals in the opening frame. Jobst picked up the goal for the Buckeyes and junior forward Cody Milan scored for the Spartans with just 27 seconds left in the period.
The back-and-forth play continued early into the second period when Michigan State took the lead just 29 seconds in of sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko, his 12th goal of the season.
The Buckeyes answered at 7:43 of the second with another goal from Jobst, but the tie didn’t last long as the Spartans pulled ahead again 25 seconds later with a goal from freshman forward Tommy Apap.
Ohio State added another goal off the stick of junior forward John Wiitala, that pulled the score to 3-3 headed into the third period.
The third period continued with Ohio State dominating in possession and shots, but couldn’t solve Spartan sophomore goaltender John Lethemon with the game headed to extra time.
In overtime, both teams traded chances, until 5:53 into the extra session, Gerard sent the Buckeyes to the semifinal when he tipped-in Larocque’s shot from just inside the blue line for a 4-3 final.
Shots were 41-18 in favor of Ohio State. Lethemon made 38 saves on 41 shots in the loss.
The Buckeyes advance to the single-elimination Big Ten Tournament Semifinal to play fourth-seed Michigan next Saturday. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.