COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 1 Michigan State gave another convincing performance in Value City Arena on Saturday, beating Ohio State handily for the second consecutive night, this time by the score of 7-2.
“Last night I really felt as though we were going to play a good game, and we did. Tonight I wasn’t sure,” Michigan State coach Ron Mason said. “When you’re on the road … you win the first night, and maybe the games aren’t quite as meaningful to us as they are to Ohio State, you’re not sure what kind of response you’re going to get.
“I thought tonight showed the kind of team we really had.”
Brad Fast and Sean Patchell each had a goal and three assists in the match. Ryan Miller made 25 saves on 27 shots, and the Spartan power play continued to click, capitalizing twice on three tries.
“I thought we started strong and weathered some storms when Ohio State came after us pretty good,” said Mason. “Ryan made some saves. That’s been our team all year. Obviously we scored more tonight than we have been, but the puck went in on Mike Betz tonight and that’s why we did that.”
Buckeye goaltender Mike Betz 30 saves on 37 shots before being replaced by Kelly Holowaty with 4:38 left in the game.
“Mike Betz is a good goaltender,” said OSU coach John Markell. “I’m not going to fault him for that loss tonight. We made mistakes in front of him, and there were some rockets that would have scored in any league, and he did what he thought was right at the moment.”
This one was over nearly as soon as it began, and not for lack of Buckeye effort. After the first period, the Spartans led 3-0 on goals by Adam Hall, John-Michael Liles, and Damon Whitten, but Miller stymied several good OSU chances, including a stop on Chris Olsgard, who at 5:30 danced his way into the Spartan zone along the boards, moved his way around a defender and blasted one from point-blank range, only to find that Miller had taken away every possible angle.
“Actually, I thought in the first period we played better than we did last night,” said Markell, “and it ended up being three-nothing. I think in the end, with a combination of a lot of things, 7-2 is probably the right score.”
Hall got the Spartan ball rolling at 9:05 in the opening stanza. After R.J. Umberger turned over the puck to Brian Maloney inside the MSU blue line, Maloney fired through the neutral zone the other way to Adam Hall, who broke in solo on Mike Betz, deking the Buckeye netminder and placing the puck behind Betz on the right to make it 1-0.
At 12:58, it was Patchell who wound up with the puck in heavy traffic in front of the OSU net. After a serious of close-in shots, Betz couldn’t cover, the Buckeyes couldn’t clear and Patchell passed to Liles at the left point. Liles’ blast beat the screened Betz near, nothing but net.
It was 3-0 at 14:53, when Whitten picked up the trash on the first Spartan power play of the evening, pushing in Fast’s rebound.
“We make three mistakes … in the first period, and we have three goals against us,” said Markell. “I thought we didn’t have a bad period. You know what? That’s just hockey.”
The fourth Spartan goal was a gift with a little help from Betz, who came out of his net and two-thirds of the way to the blue line to play the puck during a Buckeye power play. Betz made his move as Rustyn Dolyny and J.F. Dufour were racing for the puck, which Whitten had poked away from the OSU power-play unit moments before.
Betz missed the puck and couldn’t recover, and Dolyny shot on a completely empty net to make it 4-0 at 15:10 in the second.
It was Ryan Smith who scored Ohio State’s first-ever goal against Ryan Miller just a 1:37 later, and the second stanza ended 4-1.
The Spartans and Buckeyes again exchanged goals within a short span of time midway through the third, when Patchell made it 5-1 at 9:41 and Scott May cut the Spartan lead to three at 10:16, but Fast scored at 12:59 and John Nail added insult to injury at 15:22, giving Michigan State the 7-2 win.
“We score by committee,” said Mason. “I’ve said so all year. Nothing this team does surprises me.”
With the win, the Spartans are 27-4-4 (20-4-3 CCHA), and face arch-rival Michigan in Munn Arena Thursday night, the last regular-season game for each team.
The Buckeyes (16-14-2, 13-11-2 CCHA) have two regular-season games remaining against the Miami RedHawks, whom Ohio State trails in the league standings by four points.
“We still feel we control our own destiny,” said Markell. “This series is over, and it’s how we respond to it on Tuesday night.”