ESTERO, Fla. — After Wednesday’s loss to Maine, Clarkson head coach Mark Morris lamented his squad’s lack of offense.
Thursday night, after beating Ohio State 7-6 in the consolation game of the Everblades College Classic, Morris quipped, “There was too much scoring, I think.”
Buckeye head coach John Markell said, “It’s a feeling of embarrassment.”
Neither coach was particularly happy with his team’s performance, particularly in net. For the Golden Knights, Karl Mattson gave up three goals on six shots before being replaced by Shawn Grant, who saved 17 of 20. Buckeye Mike Betz gave up four goals on 24 shots, while his relief, Peter Wishloff, saved 13 of 16.
“It’s nice just to feel what it’s like to win again,” said Morris. “In the past three games we had a tie and two losses. To experience a win is good for our morale.”
From the initial drop of the puck until five minutes into the first, the Buckeyes were all over the Knights, scoring on their first two shots on goal. Miguel Lafleche opened it up at 1:16, and Daymen Bencharski made it 2-0 at 1:59. But the momentum inexplicably changed — there was no key play, no significant incident — and Mike Nagai (7:52) and Rob McFeeters (17:55) made it a brand-new game by knotting it for Clarkson. The first period ended 2-2.
The Buckeyes took another two-goal lead in the first half of the second, with Pete Broccoli’s tally at 5:06 and Paul Caponigri’s goal at 9:20.
This lead, however, was short-lived as the Golden Knights scored four unanswered second-period goals in rapid succession. Dave Reid registered an even-strength goal at 11:53. Murray Kuntz scored on the power play at 12:06. Don Smith had back-to-back power-play goals at 14:30 and 16:04.
Jaisen Freeman scored for OSU at 19:44 in the stanza, and Clarkson had a 6-5 lead after two.
Still, the Buckeyes weren’t done. Scott May evened it up again at 7:52 in the third, but Jean Desrochers’ goal at 10:41 held up to be the game winner.
You had to wonder if the scoring stopped only because the game ended.
Markell likened it to “ping-pong” hockey, the kind of game Ohio State fans were accustomed to seeing in the OSU Ice Rink before the men moved to the Schottenstein Center, before the ice surface was made regulation and the neutral zone was two strides across.
His team’s play, he said, also reminded him of the past, of the Buckeyes that lost 11 in a row in the first half of the 1999-2000 season.
“Obviously I’m upset with a lot of players,” said Markell. “I thought we were looking for the easy win. It’s hard to comprehend when we knew we’d have a tough game.
“We scored two quick goals and then the momentum shifted right to Clarkson. In the past three games we’ve allowed 19 goals and we’ve blown two-goal leads in each.
“The only positive is that Wishloff came in and made some nice saves under the circumstances.”
While Wishloff did settle down and play more solidly as his time on the ice progressed, the first two goals he allowed were right off his own glove, both of Smith’s second-period goals. The first hit the netminder’s glove and went up and over; the second hit his glove and trickled in.
But Wishloff was in good company tonight when it came to soft goals. Bencharski’s first-period goal was nearly slow-motion. There was a scramble in front of Mattson, and no one controlled the puck. Bencharski spun and saw the idle puck — the puck was idle a lot Thursday night — to the left of the crease and just pushed it past Mattson short-side.
Then there was McFeeters’ goal late in the first, which went in point-blank through the hole that Betz left between himself and the left post.
Then there was the puck that Freeman put past Grant, the puck Freeman wound up for and nearly missed, the puck that went in so slowly that it accumulated interest on the way.
“I don’t think either team had the kind of netminding that they’ve come to appreciate so far this season,” said Morris, “and I’m sure that the goaltenders would love to have that opportunity back, but that’s the way it goes some nights.”
In spite of the win and the seven goals, Morris said his team has a lot of work to do in the second half of the season.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves as a team. We’re learning more and more about ourselves as we stumble along. We’re hoping we can tighten up defensively and shore up our goaltending so that we can make a run for it in the second half. We traditionally start slow in our league, and we’ve come on like gangbusters in past years, so it’s time.”
Markell was unhappy with every aspect of his team’s game, other than Wishloff’s performance after he settled down.
“Our guys were stick checking, not willing to play defense. They thought they were going to get the easy win, and they lost interest in playing in their own end. There’s just no excuse for it.”
The Buckeyes had planned to relax for a few days in Florida after the tournament ended, but that will change, said Markell.
“The next three days will have a training-camp atmosphere. They’ve turned something that was going to be fun into something that will be harsh.”
The Golden Knights improve to 5-5-3 (1-1-2 ECAC) while the Buckeyes are now 10-7-1 (7-4-1 CCHA).