Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle wasn’t in much of a mood to mince words after his No. 14 Wildcats suffered a 4-1 loss to the Ohio State men’s hockey team Friday afternoon in Value City Arena.
“They’re a good team. They played very well,” Kyle said. “I think they soundly took the game to us. The key to the game was that we got outworked tonight, big time.”
Ohio State scored four unanswered goals to extend its unbeaten streak to six and its winning run to four. Leading scorer Chris Crane got the winning goal with 8:57 left and co-captain Cory Schneider added a pair of tallies for insurance – not that it mattered as OSU has now allowed only one goal in its last four games.
In addition, the Buckeyes (7-3-1, 4-2-1-1) outshot the Wildcats by a 38-13 margin, including 33-7 over the last two periods of play.
“After the first period we gave our guys an earful,” head coach Mark Osiecki said. “We didn’t play very well in the first period. I thought the second and the third, we had a great response.”
In fact, the Buckeyes were dominant in just about any facet a team could be dominant. OSU also controlled the faceoff count by a 30-21 margin and earned seven power plays to just one for the Wildcats (4-4-3, 1-3-3-2). OSU goaltender Cal Heeter had to make only 12 saves in improving to 6-1-1 in his senior season.
Sophomore Alex Szczechura started Ohio State’s charge, scoring only 1:16 into the second period to knot the game at 1. Senior Danny Dries won a battle for the puck on the boards below the goal line, allowing Szczechura to skate out from behind the cage and slip the wraparound attempt between the legs of Reid Ellingson.
“Dries was working hard down low and I just got it and went to the net and luckily for me it just went in,” he said. “Nothing special about it.”
Szczechura nearly added a couple more, as Ellingson denied him fairly spectacularly moving right to left on a rebound chance later in the second, then the OSU sophomore rang the post on a wrister from the left boards in the frame.
That post aside, Ellingson was excellent in the middle frame and into the early part of the third. He was the best player while the Wildcats killed a 5-on-3 for 90 seconds in the second and later turned into a snow angel to cover up a chance by Crane in front.
Ellingson, a senior who entered with a 1.98 goals-against average, again was steady as OSU buzzed early in the third, but the Buckeyes finally got the break they needed at the 10:38 mark when Jake Baker was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head of Dries.
Crane quickly converted, finding loose change in the slot and slipping it by Ellingson just 25 seconds into the power play for his sixth goal of the year.
“Going hard to the net, that’s our mentality as Ohio State,” Crane said. “It worked out for us.”
Schneider put the game out of reach with 2:32 left, scoring just three seconds after an NMU penalty ended by putting in the rebound of a Travis Statchuk shot while twisting away from goal.
He chased down a puck to put in the empty-netter, too, with 1:09 to play.
The teams had played an even first period, one that looked as though as it was being played as part of a noon start. After a largely sleepy opening, Northern Michigan got on the board at 16:07 when Stephan Vigier shuffled Kory Kaunisto’s pass behind Heeter from the slot with an awkward backhander. The goal snapped OSU’s shutout streak of 211:58.
Ohio State freshman Ryan Dzingel deked in minutes later before firing high, but his missed chance was the first signal of the Buckeye onslaught to come.
“We came out in the first period and we didn’t play Ohio State hockey,” Crane said. “Coach Osiecki let us know that. I think he got us ready for the second and third and we played our game.”
Notes: Ohio State was still without freshman forward Max McCormick because of injury. … Ellingson finished with 34 saves. … Eighteen of Ohio State’s shots came on the power play. … The Buckeyes are now 2-1 against ranked teams. … The rematch will be Saturday night at 7:05 in Value City Arena. … OSU freshman defenseman Al McLean had two second assists and was plus-2. … The Buckeyes finished with 95 shots attempted.