ESTERO, Fla. — Perhaps the Maine Black Bears should arrange to play the Ohio State Buckeyes more often. Including Saturday’s 6-2 win over OSU, the Black Bears lead this all-time series 10-1.
Martin Kariya and Don Richardson each had two goals for Maine, and Peter Metcalf and Ben Murphy each had two assists. Mike Morrison made 36 saves in the win, 18 in the third period when the Buckeyes outshot the Black Bears 20-7.
With the win, Maine advances to the Everblades College Classic championship game against Northern Michigan Sunday night.
“It was a good team effort,” said Maine interim head coach Tim Whitehead. “The key was to get to that championship game. We’re excited to be in that game. We know that Northern Michigan is a really good team.”
The Black Bears jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two periods with three even-strength goals and two on the power play. The only fly in Maine’s ointment came in the form of Buckeye defenseman Pete Broccoli, who was responsible for both OSU third-period tallies. With the two goals, the junior blueliner doubled his previous career total.
At the start of the third, OSU replaced starting goaltender Mike Betz with backup Kelly Holowaty, who made six saves on seven shots in the stanza.
“Kelly works hard, and it was a situation where I thought it warranted it [the goalie change],” said OSU head coach John Markell. “He did well. I like the way the team responded to him. Mike Betz is still a good goaltender and he’s still our number-one.”
Kariya set the tone early for Maine with his goal at 1:06 in the first from Michael Schutte and Colin Shields. Prestin Ryan gave the Black Bears a 2-0 lead after one on his power-play goal at 4:44.
Don Richardson netted what held up to be the game winner at 2:35 in the second, a goal that Whitehead called a “backbreaker.”
“That was big, that first goal he scored,” said Whitehead. “If they score, it’s 2-1. I remember thinking at that point what a key goal, what a clutch goal that was.”
Lucas Lawson made it 4-0 on the power play at 6:37 in the second, and Kariya’s second goal of the night at 9:03 gave the Black Bears their 5-0 lead going into the third.
Broccoli ruined Morrison’s shutout at 1:12 and scored again at 8:29. Richardson’s second goal was sandwiched between Broccoli’s pair.
The Buckeyes redoubled their efforts in the third in front of Holowaty, who saw limited time in net last season — less than a full period for the whole year — and hadn’t seen game action since.
“We had to work at it to win the third period and we did,” said Markell, “and now we have to prepare to play a tough team tomorrow.”
Markell added that OSU was without two star centers, Dave Steckel and R.J. Umberger, who are playing for Team USA in the World Junior championship Tournament. Miguel Lafleche was also out with an injury for the Buckeyes.
“We were a little bit slow with … trying out new lines,” said Markell. “We won the third period 2-1; it wasn’t a 6-2 game. Obviously we have to make some more adjustments. I think [the slow start] was a combination of the layoff, playing new roles, and playing against a good hockey club.”
The Buckeyes (9-7-1) meet the Cornell Big Red in the tournament consolation game at 4 p.m. Sunday, while the Black Bears (9-5-3) face off with the Northern Michigan Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. for the championship.
“They’re well coached, and they’re a talented team,” said Whitehead of NMU, “so we’ll have to give it our best effort.”