By the world at large, the Ohio State men’s hockey team’s 2011-12 season might be remembered for the way the Buckeyes won only one of their final 16 games after reaching as high as No. 2 in the national rankings.
By those on the squad, however, the Buckeyes will be remembered as a team that put it all on the line each night, even as it struggled through such difficult adversity.
That was the message after Ohio State’s season came to an end Saturday night in South Bend, Ind. The Buckeyes dropped a 4-2 final to Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish finished off a two-game sweep in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
Eighth-seeded Notre Dame had beaten the ninth-seeded Buckeyes by a 2-0 score Friday night to open the best-of-three series.
“They played and gave what they had all year,” head coach Mark Osiecki said. “They gave what they had all year. You have to be proud of that. Every game, every day, every day in practice, they gave what they had.”
Ohio State finished the season at 15-15-5 in Osiecki’s second year. Notre Dame improves to 19-16-3 and will play either Michigan or Ferris State in the CCHA quarterfinals.
A pair of seniors scored for the Buckeyes. Sean Duddy tallied just the second goal of his career while Danny Dries had a power-play tally that gave OSU a 2-1 lead after the first period.
“We left it all out there,” Duddy said. “The chips didn’t fall our way.”
Jeff Costello, Anders Lee, Mike Voran and Billy Maday scored for the Fighting Irish.
Ohio State was without forwards Matt Johnson and Tanner Fritz, both of whom were injured in the first game of the series, and the game had a chippy vibe from the very beginning as Costello and OSU blueliner Devon Krogh were given matching slashing minors just 1:09 in. Pre-faceoff and post-whistle pushing and shoving were commonplace – to be expected with so much on the line.
“It’s playoff hockey,” OSU sophomore Chris Crane said. “You’re going to have to battle every shift and I feel like our squad worked as hard as we can every single second of the game.”
That work led to a pair of leads in the first period. Duddy got the scoring started at 4:35 of the opening frame, taking a faceoff win from Alex Carlson and firing it home from the right point for the only goal of his final campaign.
Notre Dame tied the score at 1 at 9:20 as Kevin Lind hit Costello with a breakout pass, and Costello had the space to pull up into the right circle and snipe a shot over the glove of OSU goaltender Cal Heeter.
But Ohio State finished off the frame on a strong note at 17:19 with a power-play marker. Curtis Gedig spied Dries cutting to the back post from the left point, and his diagonal pass gave the OSU senior plenty of time to fire the puck past the out-of-position Steven Summerhays.
The Buckeyes finished the period outshooting the home team 13-7, but the home partisans among the 4,202 in the beautiful new Compton Family Ice Center would have plenty to cheer about as the Irish took control in the second period.
It took only 2:08 for Notre Dame to get the tying goal, as Bryan Rust came out from behind the goal line and fed Lee across the crease for an easy slam dunk past Heeter. The goal was Lee’s team-best 16th of the year.
The Fighting Irish got the game-winning goal somewhat controversially at 8:57 of the frame. David Gerths’ shot from the slot bounced up in the air for Mike Voran to deposit past Heeter to make it 3-2. The goal was reviewed by the referees but allowed, though Osiecki was sure the shot was batted in by Moran.
“Major adversity,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”
It could have been 4-2 later in the frame but Lee was denied a second goal as Gedig poked the puck off his stick with the net open on an ND power play.
Ohio State survived a penalty-laden second down only one, but Summerhays was stingy and didn’t give up much in the third. In fact, the best chance went ND’s way as Costello pinged the post on a breakaway late, then Maday tucked an empty-net, power-play goal in with 50.2 seconds left to set the final margin.
Heeter finished his career third in save percentage and goals-against average in the OSU career annals. … OSU was 1 for 5 on the power play while ND was 1 for 4. … OSU won the shot count 33-28. … All 12 Ohio State forwards took at least one faceoff.