ORONO, Maine — Despite dropping a 3-2 decision to Ohio State on Friday, Maine’s A.J. Begg explained that the Black Bears werent about to change anything in the series finale.
“We played good hockey,” said Begg. “There were a couple of bad bounces, but that’s the way it goes; no reason to do anything different.”
Employing the same suffocating forecheck it had used to rack up 60 shots the previous evening, Maine posted a 2-0 victory over the Buckeyes at Alfond Arena on Saturday. The win helped Maine gain a valuable series split on Homecoming weekend.
Maine forwards Dan Kerluke and Kevin Clausen posted their first goals of the season in the first and third periods, respectively, to lead the Bears who improve to 2-2-1 on the season. Ohio State dropped to 3-2-0.
“I like this team,” said Maine head coach Shawn Walsh. “We play with intensity. If we play this way every night, I like our chances against anyone.”
Still smarting from the heartbreaking turn of events on Friday night, Maine hit the ice with purpose. The Black Bears stormed the OSU net and at the 4:30 mark of the first period, their work paid off.
Maine forward Chris Heisten collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and chipped a pass on the right wing to freshman Brendan Donovan.
“We talked about getting to the net,” said Donovan. “I was just trying to throw it in front for someone.”
Donovan’s feed from the goal line deflected off Buckeye goalie Mike Betz (32 saves) into the low slot, where Kerluke dove and whacked it past a defenseless Betz.
“It’s just one of those garbage goals you get through hard work,” said Kerluke. “I’ve been robbed a few times so far, so it was good to finally get one.”
Maine continued to apply pressure to OSU in its zone, limiting the Buckeyes to seven shots through two periods, a situation that had Maine goalie Mike Morrison out of sync.
“It’s tough to go long stretches without shots,” said Morrison. “I saw a few more in the second and I was so happy to get them, I got a little hyper. Coach mentioned it during the break and I was a little more relaxed and in better position after that.”
Clausen gave Maine some breathing room at 8:21 of the third.
Betz corralled a loose puck from behind his net and fired a clearing pass through the right circle. Clausen, coming off the boards, pounced on the pass.
“He couldn’t have seen me,” said Clausen. “I picked it off on the backhand and let it go.”
Clausen’s shot beat Betz to the far side and gave the Black Bears a two-goal lead.
Despite a two-goal lead at home, Maine was taking no chances. The Black Bears continued to pressure OSU throughout the remainder of the game, limiting the Buckeyes to only 12 shots on Morrison.
“Our intensity was there the whole game tonight,” said Bears forward Martin Kariya. “We played that way last night, but had a couple of breakdowns. Tonight, we were solid the whole game.”
Buckeye forward Nick Ganga said the experience was good for Ohio State.
“These guys just keep coming at you,” he said. “Our new players haven’t seen anyone like this so far, and this should help them.”
OSU head coach John Markell agreed.
“We’ve played two weekends (Northern Michigan and Maine) in a hostile setting,” said Markell. “This helps our young players adjust, especially playing here where it’s so tough to get a win.”
“I’ve got to give coach Markell credit,” said Walsh. “That’s a great young team over there.”
Maine will hit the road next weekend as it opens its Hockey East schedule with Providence and Northeastern.
Ohio State heads home where the Buckeyes will host a pair of game with Alaska-Fairbanks next weekend.