Going into the third period of Saturday night’s game, it was time for the Ohio State men’s hockey team to make a statement.
The Buckeyes were outshooting No. 19 Northern Michigan through the first two periods of play by a 33-10 margin, but the squads were tied at two.
Would the Buckeyes allow a dominant effort against a shorthanded foe slide by the wayside? Or would Ohio State keep the pedal to the medal?
The Scarlet and Gray answered quickly. Alex Szczechura scored just 1:50 into the period, Chris Crane added another goal and the Buckeyes kept the Wildcats without a shot for the first 10 minutes as OSU finished the sweep with a 4-2 victory in front of 2,710 in Value City Arena.
“It’s Buckeye hockey to win the third period,” Crane said. “We came out on Friday night and we won the third period. We came out tonight and won the third period. That’s part of our mentality that we try to bring.”
The Buckeyes outshot the Wildcats – who were without two of their top scorers because of either injury or suspension – by a 42-14 margin, and OSU allowed only 34 shots on goal in the two games of the series.
Despite battling injuries throughout the early season – OSU had only one healthy scratch, and junior forward Alex Lippincott did not play after suffering an injury Friday night – Ohio State (4-3-3, 3-1-2-1 CCHA) moved above .500 on the year and now has 12 points in six conference games.
“We’ve just been sticking to our game,” forward Riley Simpson said. “We just worked at it and now it’s finally going in for us, and I think it’s going to keep getting better if we keep working hard at practice.”
Simpson scored added his first career goal, Ryan Dzingel had a goal and an assist and Tanner Fritz had a pair of helpers as the Buckeyes had a season high in goals, including two power-play tallies.
“It’s nice to see a couple of goals happen on the power play, and now things loosen up (5 on 5),” head coach Mark Osiecki said.
Ohio State led the shot count in every period, besting the visitors 13-4 in the first, 20-6 in the second and 9-4 in the third.
But Northern Michigan held a 1-0 lead after the opening stanza thanks to a goal on the counterattack. The Buckeyes were buzzing, but Ryan Daugherty blocked a shot attempt, raced down the ice and put a backhander top shelf past Collin Olson, who made 10 saves on the night.
It didn’t take long for the second period to blow up, though. The Buckeyes tied the score just 1:04 into the period on the power play when Simpson followed up his own rebound and whacked it past goaltender Jared Coreau while diving through the air.
The fired-up Simpson looked like he could have skated through a wall afterward, sprinting back to the bench for congratulations.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It feels like a weight off my back.”
Just 26 seconds later, Northern Michigan forward Erik Higby was given five minutes and a game disqualification when he drove Szczechura into the boards head first, breaking the OSU forward’s mask in half, Osiecki said.
Northern Michigan (4-6-2, 1-5-2-0) took another penalty 17 seconds later, and OSU made the Wildcats pay on the 5-on-3 when Dzingel one-timed Devon Krogh’s pass over Coreau’s glove from the top of the right circle.
Things turned midway through the second period when Ohio State started taking its own penalties, and Scott Macaulay scored nearly a carbon-copy goal as Dzingel’s on a 5-on-3 from the top of the left circle over Olson’s glove to tie the score at 2.
“It was 2-2 after two when to be honest with you I thought we were in full control of the game,” Osiecki said. “We took a dumb penalty after the whistle, and that took away from that flow when we really could have put our foot on their throats.
“It’s an interesting situation when you’re going from full confidence and a lot of offensive zone time and play to all of a sudden it’s a tie game. How are the guys going to respond? I thought the guys handled themselves very well.”
It took only 1:50 into the period for the Buckeyes to get the winner as Matt Johnson centered the puck from below the red line. Coreau got his stick on it but it only got as far as the slot, where an unrushing Szczechura scored with a one-timer.
“It was great for him to be able to withstand that and be able to continue to out and play,” Osiecki said.
The Buckeyes made got the insurance goal at 8:06 of the period. Craig Dalrymple shot the puck from the point that Coreau couldn’t corral through a screen, and Crane backhanded the rebound past the down-and-out netminder.
"They could have had a number of others," Kyle said. "They outplayed us. They were the better team this weekend."
Crane got a five-minute major and game misconduct at the final whistle when he jabbed a Northern Michigan player moments after low hit just before the buzzer.