No. 11 Ohio State men’s hockey (8-4-1, Big Ten 4-3) returned for its first home game since Nov. 2 as it took down the No. 20 Michigan State (6-6-1, Big Ten 4-2-1) 3-1.
Freshman goalie Ryan Snowden got the win in his first career start. Snowden took over in net for injured junior goalie Tommy Nappier in the third period of this past Saturday’s 4-3 win against No. 7 Penn State.
“There’s always a little bit of nerves having your first college start, junior start, whatever it may be,” Snowden said “The guys in the locker room were awesome. They really helped me calm down.”
“When [Nappier] goes down, we have Snowden stepping up. We know we have another good goalie there behind us,” senior forward Ronnie Hein said. “It makes us a lot more comfortable. If we do have a breakdown, he’s back there to help us out and bail us out.”
Snowden recorded 26 saves on 27 shots in his first career start.
Both teams struggled to get any offense going early on, as there were a combined nine shots on goal in favor of the Buckeyes — 5-4.
“I think we were all frustrated really to start, to be honest,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. “There was a good TV timeout there that basically brought guys in and said, ‘This isn’t us. We got to play our way and that’s at least working 110 percent.’”
The score remained 0-0 until sophomore forward Gustaf Westlund took a shot from the top of the right circle and beat Michigan State senior goalie John Lethemon’s blocker side. It was Westlund’s eighth goal of the season. The goal came 8:50 into the second period.
Ohio State held onto the one -goal lead as it entered the third period.
Hein made it a two-goal lead with 17:50 remaining as he skated into the zone and fired a shot past Lethemon from between the faceoff circles.
Michigan State cut the Buckeyes lead in half as a misplayed puck from Snowden behind the net allowed Michigan State junior forward Mitchell Lewandowski to throw the puck off Snowden’s leg pad and into the back of the net with 4:49 left to play.
“He was playing stellar all night, and you have one bounce like that,” Hein said. “We weren’t worried about it. We knew we had his back, he had our back.”
Michigan State pulled its goalie to get the extra skater as it attempted to tie the game late.
However, Hein tripped on a breakaway, which by rule resulted in a goal because of the empty net. It was Hein’s second goal of the night.
“I just kept moving my legs,” Hein said. “I was just going to take it to the net and see what happens. I was thinking about shooting it, but he was pretty close. I don’t know if I quite had the breakaway, but the ref gave it to me, so that was nice.”
The Buckeyes and Spartans will meet for Game 2 of the series Sunday at 2:30 p.m.