KALAMAZOO, Mich. — For the second consecutive night, defensive mistakes cost Western Michigan the game.
A judgment call on offsides at the Bronco defensive blue line and a defensive breakdown allowed Ohio State sophomore Paul Caponigri to split the defense and skate in all alone on WMU goaltender Mike Mantua, before beating the freshman netminder at 2:08 in overtime to give Ohio State a thrilling 4-3 victory and finish a sweep of WMU.
Caponigri took a pass from Scott May and skated untouched past the Bronco defensemen before beating Mantua for his second goal of the evening. The Bronco defense was livid about the non-call, and defenseman Dave Cousineau had words with the linesman immediately after the goal.
WMU head coach Jim Culhane knows he has to move on regardless.
“We looked at the tape, it’s offside. There’s nothing you can do about it. He’s the official, he made a judgment call, and even though it looks like the wrong one, you got to live with it. There’s nothing you can do about it now.”
“I think we played extremely hard. All those kids next door [in the WMU locker room] played extremely hard for 60 minutes.”
The victory is the third in a row for the Buckeyes (12-7-1, 8-5-1 CCHA) and the defeat is the second consecutive for WMU (11-8-3, 5-7-2 CCHA).
OSU head coach John Markell knew WMU wouldn’t back down after seeing notable players such as co-captain Mike Bishai, Jeff Campbell, Austin Miller, and Jeremy Cheyne listed as scratches.
“We knew they were coming out with a little spirit and fire, especially when I saw the lineup, and we knew we were in for a dogfight. I have to compliment our team for holding firm, and that was a big goal at the end of the first period to bring us to 2-1.”
The Broncos took control of the game early on when Cousineau scored two goals from the right point on the power play, at 3:56 and 5:57 of the first period, to put WMU up 2-0.
In a game that saw most of the action take place in the neutral zone, OSU sophomore goaltender Mike Betz only needed 15 saves to earn the victory. Mantua made 14 saves for the Broncos, but would give everything back to replay JB Bittner’s goal.
At 19:19 of the first period, Mantua tried clearing the puck through the slot, only to fire it to a waiting Miguel Lafleche, who fed the puck to Bittner before the freshman forward put the puck in the open Bronco net for the goal on the power play.
OSU captain Jason Crain tied the score at 2-2 on the power play by ripping a shot over Mantua’s shoulder from the blue line at 3:54 of the second period.
Early in the third period at 0:34, Caponigri trickled a rebound off a shot from Daymen Bencharski past Mantua to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead.
Sophomore defenseman Rob Yamashita tied the game at 3-3 for the Broncos at 9:48 of the third period after putting a rebound through traffic past Betz.
Caponigri then tallied in overtime to clinch the sweep for the Buckeyes.
Next weekend, the Broncos take on Michigan State in a crucial home-and-home series, while OSU takes on the hot Lake Superior State Lakers in Columbus, Ohio.