COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two first-period penalties cost Northern Michigan dearly, as Ohio State made short work of its power-play opportunities to jump out to an early lead, eventually winning the game 2-0 and completing a weekend sweep.
Mike Betz made 27 saves in the shutout, his third of the season and third in as many weeks. In Ohio State’s 3-1 win over Northern Friday night, Betz stopped 25, giving him a two-game total of 52 saves (.981 SV%).
“I thought we played well,” said Ohio State head coach John Markell. “I thought both goaltenders kept the score to where it was. Both teams had opportunities and obviously the first two power-play goals set us in motion.”
Just as in Friday’s contest, Ohio State scored before Northern Michigan took an official shot — twice, in fact, before Northern finally registered a shot at 14:20 in the first. Scott May earned his fifth goal of the year and picked up an assist, and Doug Andress had two helpers for the Buckeyes.
Each goal was a classic bing-bang-boom one-timer. After Ryan Moderson was called for elbowing at 4:47, the Buckeyes set up their umbrella in the Wildcat end, with Doug Andress passing from the right point to the left, where Jason Crain passed to Scott May in the left circle. May’s blast at 5:05 beat Kowalski long for the 1-0 lead.
A call for too many men at 11:54 led to Ohio State’s second goal at 12:28. It was Andress at the point again, this time passing to May, who banked the puck off the boards behind the net to Daymen Bencharski just right of the crease. Bencharski’s shot went up and over Kowalski to make it 2-0 after one.
“That was kind of a set play that we were working on last week,” said Bencharski. “Scotty put it off the backboards … and I just walked out. [Assistant coach] Casey [Jones] was saying before I went out there, just try to take a shot at it … just go for the net. That’s what I did, went for the net.”
Both teams had power-play advantages in the scoreless second and third periods, but few actual opportunities. OSU held NMU to three shots on five Wildcat power plays, and the Buckeyes themselves converted on two of their five total man-advantage shots.
“In the second period, they started to get the momentum a little bit and at the end,” said Markell. “We got it back a little bit, and then it was just a matter of who was going to stay patient.
“In the third period, they began to push, but we continued to work hard and when you work hard, good things happen. Opportunity was there for us to get rid of the loose pucks, and Mike Betz stood tall.”
Northern Michigan head coach Rick Comley said that his team’s slow start hurt the Wildcats both nights. “I thought in the third period we played really well. It was the first period when we really started playing with desperation. They’re [OSU] too good not to play the whole game against. I thought they played very good defense. They defended their net very well.”
Going home with no points to show for the trip is frustrating, said Comley. “You want to see people you respect and see how you match up against them. I think we match up against them okay. You have to play better for longer than we did both nights.”
The win marks Ohio State’s second sweep this season, after downing Wayne State 9-0 and 3-2 Nov. 9-10. Winning on Saturday is something new for the Buckeyes, who have tended to let down in the second game of a given series in the past. May said that the maturity of the team is a factor, as well as Betz’s play.
“I think we know what’s at stake,” said May, “playing the number-six team in the nation. Today we just played the systems unbelievably. Everyone contributed today. It was a phenomenal game.”
May said that Betz’s performance “gives the team energy,” and added, “Obviously, there are going to be some letdowns during the game, and Mike’s going to be there, which is a huge thing for the team. It builds the team tremendously.”
“I feed off them, they feed off me,” said Betz. “I know that all I have to do is make the first save, make three or four tough stops, and we get results like tonight.”
Next weekend, the Buckeyes (7-2-1, 5-2-1 CCHA) travel to New Hampshire for the UNH Conference Classic (Nov. 24-25), and the Wildcats (6-3-1, 6-3-1 CCHA) host Minnesota-Duluth for two (Nov. 23-24).