Right now, Mark Osiecki is hitting all the right buttons.
For example, there’s his Movember mustache, which started at the beginning of November as the team tried to raise awareness for cancer research and has continued into the next month as his Ohio State hockey team has won nine games in a row.
“It lives on,” he said. “Right now it’s (lucky), yeah.”
Then there’s the matter of his leadership of the Buckeyes, who responded to a morning team meeting staged by the coaching staff with a 2-1 victory against No. 11 Lake Superior State on Saturday night in Value City Arena.
“We had a good, honest talk this morning with our players,” he said. “I think that they were getting a little full of themselves. Our bad habits were creeping in, and as soon as those bad habits appear, you’re in trouble. We wanted to nip that in the bud quickly.”
How many of those habits were gone tonight as the Buckeyes stayed unbeaten in 11 straight contests?
“Most,” Osiecki said. “We did a lot of good things. Guys played very well against a good hockey team – played a solid, team game, did a lot of little things well. It was fun to see that response.”
Chris Crane scored the game-winning goal 6:59 into the third period as the No. 7 Buckeyes finished off a two-game sweep of the Lakers. Nick Oddo also scored for Ohio State while Cal Heeter was at his best again as the senior turned aside 29 shots from the Lakers. He also saw the iron turn aside two shots by Lake Superior State, but when you’re going good, things like that happen.
Ohio State (12-3-1, 9-2-1-1) moved five points clear of Notre Dame with the win, all but assuring they’ll lead the Central Collegiate Hockey Association when the holiday break hits after next week’s home-and-home series with rival Miami.
In addition, OSU stayed atop the PairWise rankings that determine the NCAA tournament field and also stayed at No. 1 in the RPI. The Buckeyes will also likely move up in the polls after three of the teams above them in the national rankings – top-ranked Merrimack, Notre Dame and Ferris State – were swept this weekend.
“We have to play our game,” Crane said. “Bottom line is if we don’t come out and play our game, it’s college hockey. We will be beat. It’s hard to win every night and for us to have a win streak like we have right now is unbelievable.”
Crane’s winner was a simple stuff of a rebound let up by sophomore Kevin Murdock, who was starting his first league game of the season. Alex Lippincott’s shot from the left was parried by Murdock, who tried to snag the rebound but could only watch as Crane drove it into the net from the doorstep.
“It’s Ohio State hockey, crashing the net,” he said after his ninth tally of the year. “We’re not going to score pretty goals all the time. That’s not us. We’re not the Michigan that we can go out and dangle. Going to the net hard is how we’re going to win games for this organization, bottom line.”
From there, Ohio State grinded out a physical affair, which culminated with a scrum that earned LSSU’s Kellan Lain a fighting major and game disqualification.
There were also a number of hard hits doled out, as Crane leveled Andrew Perrault into the boards in the second period before Perrault came back a minute later to upend OSU’s Cory Schneider. Oddo also earned a boarding penalty in the second period for a hit that shook up Will Power that could have been a five-minute major in today’s hyper-sensitive CCHA.
“I think our guys took the body well,” Osiecki said. “We put the onus on our forwards to move our feet and I think we had more hits because we were moving our feet.”
After a first period of feeling out, the action picked up in the second. Heeter stoned Chris Ciotti on a rush but seconds later the Laker corralled Max McCormick’s errant clearing pass, skated left to right across the zone and crossed up the OSU netminder with a shot far post that gave Lake State a 1-0 lead at 9:55.
It took only 37 seconds for Ohio State to tie the score. Murdock, who finished with 31 saves in a solid effort, stopped Sean Duddy’s initial blast from the center point, but Tanner Fritz sent the rebound across the goal line and Oddo tapped it in at the left post with a quick swipe.
Ohio State is now 5-2 when the opposing team scores first including five straight wins.
“We just went out there trying to provide energy for our team to get a push back,” Oddo said. “We were lucky to get it in their zone and get a couple of bounces and put it in to get the guys going a little bit. Everybody wants to push each other, make each other better. We’re all gunning to get that goal.”
Lake Superior State (10-6-2, 6-5-1-1) had some chances to score after that, though. Colin Campbell hit the post in the second off a draw, Lain drilled it on a shorthanded odd-man rush in the third and Heeter made a solid stop with the blocker when Nick McParland was left alone in the slot under the five-minute mark.
“We played good,” LSSU head coach Jim Roque said. “We played hard. We competed. We had some good chances to score. I don’t know. We played good on the road, gave ourselves a chance to win a road game and they got the goal we didn’t.”