For 30 minutes in Value City Arena, it looked like the No. 10 Ohio State men’s hockey team’s eight-game winless streak would be history.
Instead, it was just a prelude to the Buckeyes figuring out a new way to lose a game.
After trailing 3-1 at the midway point of the game, Michigan State scored five unanswered goals to stun the 4,450 in Value City Arena and take a 6-3 victory that extended Ohio State’s misery. After a nearly flawless opening half of the season, the Buckeyes are 0-5-4 in 2012.
Ohio State held a two-goal lead for the first time in the losing run but fell apart after taking the early lead thanks to a number of obvious and costly mistakes.
“To be honest with you I think we played pretty well,” head coach Mark Osiecki said. “We really did. We handed the puck over a couple of times and it cost us. We have to eliminate a few mistakes that we make because every time we make a mistake right now it ends up in the back of the net.”
Among the things Osiecki liked were 44 shots on goal, the 3-1 lead at the midway point and a number of other chances to score, but the errors – including a pair of defensive zone turnovers that led directly to the two MSU goals that tied the score – were too much to overcome.
“Michigan State was able to take advantage of a lot of their opportunities, obviously more than we were, but we have to keep moving forward and keep working hard,” co-captain Cory Schneider said. “We’ll turn this thing around.”
Ohio State now sits in third place in the league, tied with Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio). Western Michigan, which has two games in hand on the Buckeyes (14-9-5, 10-8-5-1), is three points ahead while second-place Ferris State is two in front.
Lippincott, Max McCormick (who had a hat trick in his last game) and Ryan Dzingel scored for the Buckeyes, while Michigan State (14-11-4, 9-9-3-2) got three-point nights out of captain Torey Krug and Anthony Hayes.
Michigan State goaltender Will Yanakeff was also solid, posting 41 saves after fighting the puck in the early going. He settled in to stop 25 shots over the final two periods.
“I thought our defensive effort was much better starting in the second period. We put two good periods together and tonight that was good enough to win the game,” MSU head coach Tom Anastos said. “We decided to hang with (Yanakeff) and he rewarded us because I thought he played real strong in the second and third.”
The same couldn’t be said on the Ohio State side. Osiecki decided to go with junior Brady Hjelle after Cal Heeter struggled last weekend, but Hjelle gave up four goals on 19 shots and was pulled after two periods.
“I didn’t think Brady was very good,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit of an issue there right now.”
Lippincott started the scoring quickly, skating into the zone and ripping a shot past Yanakeff from the top of the left circle that hit the twine just 58 seconds into the game.
Ohio State doubled the lead with a pretty team play at 4:19. Max McCormick skated the puck up the ice rather than shoot it the length of the surface as an OSU penalty expired, then threw it cross-ice for Alex Carlson. The OSU junior reversed it to the right point, where Brandon Martell let loose a shot that McCormick tipped through Yanakeff’s legs to make it 2-0.
Dean Chelios cut the OSU lead in half at 14:26 with a 2-on-1 goal from the left dot that hit Hjelle’s arm and bounced in, but OSU made it 3-1 at 17:12 when Dzingel buried McCormick’s rebound top shelf.
That two-goal lead held going into the intermission, one that admittedly included some yelling in the locker room from Anastos.
“It’s a big dressing room so you have to talk loud,” the first-year coach and former CCHA commissioner joked. “We made an attitude adjustment at the end of the first period.”
That adjustment combined with OSU’s carelessness with the puck turned the game around. Dzingel lost the puck behind his own net, giving the Spartans possession and allowing A.J. Struges to take a shot from the left point that deflected through Hjelle’s legs off the skate of OSU’s Devon Krogh at 10:26 that started the MSU comeback.
The Spartans tied it at 15:16 on the power play after Alex Carlson took an offensive zone interference penalty. Lippincott tried to clear the puck but threw it right into Krug, who collected biscuit, skated in on Hjelle and scored five-hole to make it 3-all.
“Two really costly turnovers,” Osiecki said. “You guys saw them. On the bench, guys see it. Their heads go down. What do you say? (You have) full control of the puck. You just have to eliminate those. That’s something we’re fighting.”
The true backbreaker came with just 56.1 seconds left in the period, though. Matt Crandell took the puck at the center point and unleashed a hard wrist shot that crossed up Hjelle and went into the net over his glove as the netminder hit the ice.
Heeter took to the goal in the third but despite 16 Buckeye shots on goal it never seemed like Ohio State had much chance at the equalizer. The game was put away by the Spartans when Chris Forfar scored on the rebound of a blast by Krug with 5:45 to play, and Matt Berry added an empty-net goal with 1:56 left.
The result was tough to take for his young team boasting 12 freshmen, Osiecki said.
“They’re down,” Osiecki said.
The teams will rematch Saturday night at 7 p.m. The game will serve as OSU’s Teddy Bear Toss, with fans encouraged to bring stuffed animals to throw on the ice after the Buckeyes’ first goal.