COLUMBUS, Ohio — With goals by Andre Signoretti, R.J. Umberger, and Nick Ganga, Ohio State picked up a win and two valuable points in conference play, but after the 3-1 decision over Alaska-Fairbanks, coach John Markell didn’t look like a man who’d just earned his second league victory.
“I’m very happy with the points, and I’m happy for Mike Betz that we put enough on the board because we tried to take a shortcut tonight,” said Markell. “Obviously, when the guys try to take shortcuts you get caught, and you get exposed. We were exposed tonight. Mentally, we are not getting ourselves prepared for the games.
The Buckeyes, a disciplined team so far this season, took an uncharacteristic 30 minutes in penalties, padded by the 10-minute misconduct Dave Steckel received for diving in the second period. And the Nanooks’ only goal of the night was scored in the first period by Jim Lawrence against a penalty kill that’s been effective 96 percent of the time this season.
“We showed a little bit of immaturity today,” said Markell. “A mature hockey club puts together their best effort in the first, second, and third, but you know, we rebounded, and I think Mike Betz made the save to change the game around on that breakaway. I think that would’ve broken our back.”
The breakaway was Bobby Andrews’ point-blank shot 25 seconds into the second period, when the Nanooks already had a 1-0 lead on Lawrence’s goal. As Andrews flew in on the left wing, Betz filled the net to take away any real angle Andrews had, making the dramatic save with his left leg after extending himself in a full spread-eagle split.
Six minutes later in the other end, Signoretti tied the score for Ohio State, a blast from the left point screened by Luke Pavlas.
Umberger had the game winner at 1:29 in the third, a two-on-none breakaway that beat Fairbanks netminder Lance Mayes five-hole. Ganga’s empty-netter at 19:58 sealed the game.
“Like so many others we’ve had, we came up short,” said Nanook head coach Guy Gadowsky. “It’s becoming difficult to describe the same outcome in different ways.
“Every time you have a game like this, you can always find some positives to talk about. Our start I think was excellent, we definitely came ready to play. But the bottom line is that at the end of the night, we’re down, we’re pulling our goalie, we’re grasping for straws.”
UAF outshot Ohio State 8-6 in the first period, and carried a 1-0 lead into the second, but the momentum clearly took a Buckeye turn in the middle stanza, where OSU tied the game and outshot the Nanooks 19-10. While Markell thinks the game turned on Betz’s early save, Gadowsky thought otherwise.
“I think it was the end of the second,” said Gadowsky. “They turned it up a notch and we failed to answer. The feeling for me was that we got a little bit frantic. I don’t think the game was lost at that time, but that was definitely the turning point in the game.”
Ironically, the team that logged the most miles within the past 10 days was affected least by travel, according to each coach. Markell said the Buckeyes may have been tired from their trip to Maine last weekend as well as their midterm exams.
“Maybe the trip took a little bit more than I thought out of us, all day Sunday traveling, and our legs seemed a little heavy in the first. We tried to give them rest on Thursday, but it wasn’t just the practices. It was the travel combined with coming back and … getting ready for exams and stuff like that.”
The Nanooks played last weekend in Bowling Green, and have spent the week since in Columbus, but Gadowsky said that being away from home wasn’t a factor in the loss.
“I thought we had a great first period and we were ready to play. We had an excellent week here in Columbus. We saw an NHL game, we were able to study for two hours a day at the Younkin Success Center … the weather was nice, we had ice time every day. I can’t complain one bit.
“This is Division I hockey. If they’re finding it difficult to prepare on the road, then they shouldn’t be at this level.”
On the night, Betz had 23 saves and Mayes 32. OSU was 0-for-4 on the power play; UAF went 1-for-6.
With the win, Ohio State improves to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 CCHA), while Alaska-Fairbanks has yet to see its first victory this season (0-5-2, 0-3-2 CCHA).
The two teams meet again Saturday night in Columbus.