ESTERO, Fla. — After an embarrassing 6-2 loss Saturday to Maine, the Ohio State Buckeyes rebounded with a 2-0 shutout of the Cornell Big Red in the consolation game of the Everblades College Classic. The win, which snapped OSU’s three-game losing streak, was the first ever for the Buckeyes in the tournament, now in its second year.
OSU netminder Mike Betz stopped 22 shots for his fourth shutout of the season. In the loss to Maine, Betz was pulled in favor of backup Kelly Holowaty at the start of the third after allowing Maine’s first five goals.
“I think he showed real character coming back tonight,” said John Markell, OSU head coach. “He saw the pucks last night — he just didn’t stop them. Tonight he stopped them.”
Betz said the difference between the loss and win was the team in front of him. “I was a little bit more focused, obviously … but when [my teammates] play like that, it makes my job easier.”
The Buckeye defense played a tight, controlled, disciplined game, taking shots with the body, limiting the number of real Cornell scoring chances, and shutting down the Cornell power play, which had converted twice the night before. “The guys were showing off their bruises from how many shots they blocked,” said Betz.
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said his players “didn’t come out with the mental toughness” necessary after their double-overtime 4-3 loss to Northern Michigan Saturday evening.
“It was our worst performance of the year,” said Schafer, “and it will be our last bad performance of the year.”
JB Bittner had the game-winning goal at 4:30 in the second period, a cross-ice feed from Ryan Smith. Scott May added the empty-netter at 19:43 in the third. Dave Leneveu made 26 saves on 28 shots for Cornell.
The Buckeyes outshot the Big Red 22-13 through two periods of play, but Cornell turned up the heat in the third period, pressuring the Buckeyes in close and often. David Francis had one of the best Big Red chances to tie it up near the halfway mark in the period, when his shot from just outside the crease went wide of a nearly open net.
Markell said that his squad was “self-motivating” after Saturday’s defeat. “Their job is to learn from this. That’s part of building your team, to understand what it takes to be good. They beat a good hockey club tonight.
While Cornell played in a double-overtime game, Markell pointed out that the Buckeyes “played the late game,” essentially, he said, evening things out in terms of fatigue.
“If you look at that [fatigue] as a factor,” said Schafer, “you’re looking for excuses. These guys are 18 to 22 years old. They’ve got to be able to play seven or eight periods of hockey in two nights.”
Next up for Cornell (8-4-1) is a pair of home games against league opponents, Vermont Jan. 11 and Dartmouth Jan. 12. Ohio State (10-7-1) travels to Kalamazoo, Mich., for two games against CCHA foe Western Michigan Jan. 5-6.