The No. 7 Ohio State Men’s hockey team won its first game in two weeks after defeating Michigan State 5-1 at home in commanding fashion.
Ohio State (20-8-5, 13-6-4 Big Ten) scored the first goal of the game and never lost the lead to Michigan State (11-17-5, 7-12-4 Big Ten), a stark contrast to the past four games in which the Buckeyes seemed to struggle to get any momentum going.
Despite giving up a goal to Michigan State in less than two minutes, Ohio State managed to firmly cement their lead in the second period. With 6:12 on the clock, junior defenseman Matt Miller hit a hard shot past the Spartans goaltender. Then, only a few minutes later and with Michigan State junior defenseman Jerad Rosburg knocked to the ground, senior forward Freddy Gerard put the Buckeyes up to a 3-1 lead going into the third period.
Emotions seemed to run high throughout the second period, with multiple fights breaking out, though Gerard said he doesn’t fully understand why so many fights broke out.
“I don’t really know honestly,” Gerard said. “I think it’s just two teams competing hard: it’s getting to the end of the year here and everyone’s gearing up for the tournament so I think it’s just competing.”
Ohio State managed to extend its lead further in the beginning of the third period when junior forward Ronnie Hein scored on the Spartans a few minutes in. Then, still within the first half of the period, senior forward John Wiitala netted the last goal of the night, bringing Ohio State to a 5-1 lead over Michigan State.
The rest of the period was a stalemate between the defenses, with neither team managing to drive a puck past the goalies.
This game saw sophomore goaltender Tommy Nappier play his first Friday game of the season, replacing redshirt senior goalie Sean Romeo for the night.
Nappier said playing his first Friday night game is just being like any other game.
“I found out earlier this week from my goalie coach,” Nappier said. “It’s just a hockey game to me, no matter what night it is.”
Both the Buckeyes and the Spartans took a defense-oriented approach in the first period, with the period ending with a 7-5 shot total in favor of Ohio State.
Along with a focus on defense, the Buckeyes also had a focus on accuracy: with 12:42 left on the clock, sophomore forward Eugene Fadyeyev, with an assist from junior forward Miguel Fidler, managed to make one of those few shots count when he put the first goal of the night on the scoreboard. The Buckeyes went into the second period with a 1-0 lead.
Head coach Steve Rohlik explained the importance of getting that early lead.
“When you score a goal, they have to score two to beat you,” Rohlik said. “All of a sudden you get the second goal, now they have to score three. So, when you look at the numbers that way, it starts to put pressure on the other team.”
Ohio State and Michigan State compete once again Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. Puck drops at 5 p.m Saturday.