Ohio State is unbeaten in six games following a 2-1 win against No. 8 Wisconsin on Friday in Value City Arena, but the Buckeyes insist they are thinking only about the next game and not of being one of the hottest teams in the country.
“All we’re saying is six is a fluke, seven’s a streak,” junior Darik Angeli said after he scored what proved to be the winner in the first period.
His goal allowed the Buckeyes (15-9-3, 5-5-3-2 Big Ten) to take a 2-0 lead after sophomore Tyler Lundey scored just 2:08 into the game.
Nick Oddo assisted on both and freshman sensation Christian Frey carried a shutout for more than 43 minutes until Michael Mersch beat him early in the third before the Buckeyes held on to run their streak, or whatever you want to call it, to 4-0-2.
It began with a 3-1 win at Wisconsin on Jan. 25 when Frey stopped 36 shots. He made 29 more Friday and also got some help from the post on three occasions to run his record to 6-1-2 since joining the team in December from junior hockey.
“We did some good things in the second and third periods,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eves said. “I don’t know how many goal posts we hit and we couldn’t solve the young goaltender again. I don’t know if it was three or four (posts).
“The start of the game was the difference. We made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them to get those goals.”
Shortly after Mersch beat Frey from the high slot the Badgers started rolling. Mark Zengerle hit the pipe and Frey made an outstanding stop of a backhander by Tyler Barnes and then, with 12 minutes left to play, the Badgers (16-9-2, 7-5-1-0) went on the power play.
Following a pair of shootout wins at Michigan State last weekend in which the Buckeyes had to rally in both, OSU coach Steve Rohlik said he wanted to see how his team could play with the lead.
The Badgers got only one shot on the power play and five more the rest of the way despite pulling goalie Joel Rumpel (28 saves) for most of the final minute.
“We’ve been falling behind a lot so it was like, maybe we should change some things up,” Rohlik said. “When your goalie's playing well and you can get the lead, it gives you confidence.”
The Buckeyes didn’t play a particularly strong first period and were hemmed in their zone for stretches but still managed the lead.
First, Oddo’s centering pass from the left corner set up Lundey for a one-timer at the edge of the goal crease at 2:08. Junior Justin DaSilva had an assist on Lundey’s fifth goal before an announced crowd of 4,540 on a snowy night that may have prevented more fans from venturing out and also cost the services of referee Craig Welker, who could not make it to the game because of travel difficulties related to the weather.
Frey maintained the lead with a brilliant full extension right pad save on Mersch with just under eight minutes left and the Buckeyes responded at 14:25 for their second goal.
A strong forecheck by Lundey created a turnover that Oddo collected. He drove the net and after being denied by Rumpel pried the puck away to the right of the goal. Lundey also got a whack and the puck came in front where Angeli rammed it for his eighth.
“I was going to the net hard,” Angeli said. “Odes made a great play trying to wait out the goalie. The goalie made a great save and threw it out front. Luckily it went off my shin pad. I’ll take it.”
Rohlik praised the play of Oddo, who entered the game tied for the second-best plus/minus in the nation at plus-21 and added two more to his ledger.
“At the end of the day he’s a plus. He’s always positive,” the coach said. “He makes everybody better. We slid Lundey to a wing tonight; first time in his career. That line scores two goals. One common denominator is Nick Oddo.”
A scoreless second period had its moments with great saves, a few punches and a lot of pushing and grabbing. The end result was that OSU defenseman Sam Jardine and Badgers blueliner Chase Drake were given five-minute majors for grasping the facemask as well as game misconducts.
They will be eligible for the rematch Saturday (8 p.m./NBC Sports Network).
The incident began after Frey robbed Joseph LaBate and then Sean Little on the rebound. Little circled back after Frey froze the puck and checked a Buckeye from behind to instigate the near-brawl.
OSU got a power play out of it but didn’t convert and right after that Wisconsin’s Frankie Simonelli was denied on a breakaway by Frey.
In the opening 90 seconds of the period the Buckeyes had a chance to go up by three but Rumpel made a beauty of a pad save on Nick Schilkey in the slot.
“We had a chance to go up three-zip and he made that toe save,” Rohlik said. “That was incredible. If we could have gotten to three it might have been different but he made the big save there.”
That was one of the few highlights for the Badgers in their first trip to Columbus since Jan. 29, 1969. The Badgers had won the previous three visits by a combined 24-3 score.