COLUMBUS, Ohio — After sweating out a 1-1 tie with Lake Superior State the night before, the Ohio State Buckeyes blanked the Lakers 5-0, earning goaltender Mike Betz his fifth shutout of the season, a team record for OSU.
“A shutout is another gauge of your team’s play,” said Betz. “As a goaltender, you look at save percentages as a true mark of a goaltender. Goals against … is a big sign of team play. I fell down in the corner today, and there were guys there covering for me.
“You make mistakes in a game, they make mistakes … it’s really a team thing, but individually, it’s nice to have the acknowledgement.”
“I think he does a good job,” said Frank Anzalone, LSSU head coach, of Betz. “I think if we were a little stronger offensively, crashing the net … there were a number of times that we didn’t even get a shot off on two-on-ones. He didn’t see the quality shots that … can really test him.
“We just don’t have that. We are just not at that level. If we had two or three other really good players … I mean, we’ve got two centermen on our team that aren’t even on scholarship playing at the Division I level. So, until we regroup and we regain momentum, all the Mike Betzes in the world are going to look good against us. That’s not derogatory toward Betz.”
Betz was tested only a couple of times as the Buckeyes outshot the Lakers 43-19. R.J. Umberger had two goals and an assist on the night, Dave Steckel had four assists, and JB Bittner’s first-period goal held up as the game winner.
“We needed once again to start out well. We needed sort of to be even-steven, a zero-zero type of thing but it didn’t go that way,” said Anzalone. “I think where we are showed up. Them seam’s ripped open, and you can only keep stitching it for so long.
“We are in twelfth place and we haven’t been a program going down for nothing. There’s reasons for these things. Obviously, the water broke the foundation and broke the wall down and the dam burst. That’s pretty much how it went.”
Bittner made it 1-0 at 2:46 in the first Umberger that was tipped initially by Steckel. Umberger swept down through the left circle and from behind the net fed back to Steckel in the slot, who got just enough of a stick on it to tip it back to Bittner.
Doug Andress made it 2-0 at 16:51 with his first goal of the season. With Buckeyes swarming the Laker net, Steckel sent a cross-ice pass to Andress, who blasted it in from just left of the crease.
Steckel earned his third assist of the night with a highlight-reel drop back between his own legs to Jason Crain, who then shot it across the slot to Umberger, who was crashing the net. The goal at 5:48 in the second period was the first power-play tally of the night, and put the Buckeyes up 3-0.
Scott May made it 4-0 at 7:38 in the second, picking up the trash in front of the net, and Umberger’s second goal on the power play with 25 seconds left in the third period made it 5-0.
Buckeye head coach John Markell said that the difference between the tied game and this shutout was mental preparation. “We were moving our feet, [with] better anticipation. I think Lake Superior gave us what they had on Friday night, and I think we have to learn from that because that’s what this league’s all about — everyone comes to compete every night. You have to give them credit. They played hard on Friday night and took a point, and we raised the level of our play [tonight].”
After skating 65 minutes without a penalty called in the 1-1 tie, Lake State earned 22 minutes in this contest to Ohio State’s 12.
At 10:38 in the second, the Buckeyes were awarded a penalty shot when Justin Micek made a great save on Steckel’s shot from the left circle, but made the mistake of closing his glove on the puck in the crease before flinging it aside. Umberger, the chosen shooter, skated in left on Murray, who committed early and out of the crease, but Umberger hit the junior Laker goalie in the belly.
The blocked shot sucked the life out of the atypically involved crowd, which came to life early in the first with the first penalty assessed in the game — Tyson Turgeon’s two minutes for holding the stick — and which roared to its feet with the call of the penalty shot.
Umberger said that after the game, he and his teammates did a little reminiscing about his last penalty shot attempt. “It was probably back in Squirts, when JB [Bittner] tripped me. It was the last time we played on opposite teams, actually. We were little. He tripped me on the breakaway and we were down two-one. I actually missed that one too.”
The Buckeyes finished the night 2-for-7 on the power play, holding Lake State scoreless in three attempts.
The win gives Ohio State (13-7-2, 9-5-2 CCHA) 20 points and keeps the Buckeyes one point ahead of Alaska-Fairbanks (13-8-1, 9-8-1 CCHA) in third place in league play. Lake Superior State (3-12-1, 6-15-1 CCHA) remains in last place in the CCHA.
Up next for OSU is a two-game series against visiting Yale (5-10-2, 5-2-2 ECAC) Jan. 18 and 20, while the Lakers host Miami (9-11-2, 6-8-2 CCHA) Jan. 18-19.