COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mike McCormick netted two first-period goals to give Ohio State the early lead over Ferris State, as the Buckeyes went on to beat the Bulldogs 5-2, snapping OSU’s seven-game winless streak and reversing the two teams’ positions in the middle of the CCHA standings.
Miguel Lafleche had the game-winner, a shorthanded tally that broke the Bulldogs’ proverbial backs in the second period, netted 16 seconds after Ferris State’s Matt York cut the OSU lead to one goal.
“We had just scored to make it 2-1, and we were still on the power play there, and to turn around fifteen seconds or so later to give that one up — no question, that took a lot out of us,” said FSU head coach Bob Daniels.
Daymen Bencharski and Scott Titus also had goals for the Buckeyes, while Derek Nesbitt had a goal and an assist for the Bulldogs.
Mike Betz stopped 24 of 26 Ferris State shots — although the Buckeyes tried to make a case for a 25th save, on the first Bulldog goal of the contest. Mike Brown made 14 saves and allowed four goals through two periods; John deCaro made five stops on the five shots he faced in the third for FSU.
There’s rarely a dull moment in a Bulldog-Buckeye contest, and this game was made more interesting by referee Mark Wilkins’ calls. In a physical contest, the official sent players from both teams to the penalty box for what appeared to be clean checks, while allowing more serious infractions to slide, leading to a penalty-filled game in which neither Bulldogs nor Buckeyes seemed to know what was legal and what was not.
Twice during the contest, calls regarding goals appeared subjective. York’s power-play goal at 1:14 in the second may not have crossed the goal line. Wilkins gestured for the goal before the goal judge lit the lamp. Betz and OSU team captain Jason Crain both pleaded, but to no avail. In fact, Crain’s efforts earned him 10 minutes in the penalty box.
“I don’t know why we have goal judges,” said Buckeye head coach John Markell, “if we don’t ask them.”
For his part, Daniels said the refereeing was “fair,” and added that there were calls that neither coach liked.
McCormick picked up two Bencharski rebounds in the first period to give OSU the 2-0 lead after one. At 6:51 with the McCormick-R.J. Umberger-Bencharski line crashing the net, Brown stopped Bencharski’s initial shot, but the puck was then redirected toward the net by a Bulldog defender. Never breaking stride, McCormick stuffed in the deflection low to the ice between Brown and the right post.
At 13:00, McCormick put the puck away in the exact same manner, but Bencharski’s shot came from the left and rebounded right.
With a two-man advantage early in the second, Ferris State worked the puck in closer to the Buckeye net, and Betz stopped two point-blank shots, one from Derek Nesbitt and one from Jeff Legue. It was then that York touched the puck — but his “shot” appeared to stop right on the goal line.
The Buckeyes didn’t cry over the call for long, however, crashing the net shorthanded in the opposite direction to make it a 3-1 game. Lafleche flew up the right wing after taking a pass from Dave Steckel, and slicing from right to left through the crease, put the puck around the prone Brown for his eighth goal of the season, and OSU’s second shorthander of the year.
At 16:58 in the second, OSU took a 4-1 lead on Bencharski’s goal. With traffic in front of the FSU net, the game briefly resembled hot potato more than hockey, with no one able to get a stick on the disc. In the scrum — and with two FSU defenders and McCormick down in the slot — Bencharski gained control and made a true goal- scorer’s move, waiting for Brown to commit before put it away.
“I had a week in front of the net,” said Bencharski.
Nesbitt scored his goal on the FSU power play at 12:47 in the third from Rob Collins, but Titus capped the game with a shorthanded empty-net goal, scoring from the right circle in his own zone on the Bulldog power play, after deCaro was pulled in favor of the extra skater for a six-on-four advantage. Titus’ lob went high and long, accurate for 160 feet of ice.
The five goals were more than Ohio State has scored since Jan. 12, when the Buckeyes blanked the Lakers at home, 5-0. Markell said that the difference for OSU, a team not known for firepower this season, was the line of Bencharski, McCormick, and Umberger.
“We’re just kind of clicking, I guess,” said Bencharski. “We weren’t gripping the stick so hard as were before.”
Said McCormick, “We finally ended up doing the little things right, getting the puck deep. It is the little things of hockey. It seems so easy, but it’s been tough for us lately.”
“I think we struggled all the way around,” said Daniels. “I don’t know that we played awful defensively, I just think that when we sprang a leak, we sprang a big leak.
“We really had a difficult time being in the zone and setting the puck up. Nothing was quite right. I think from an offensive standpoint, that was really magnified on the power play, but throughout the whole game we had a tough time.
“But I also think that a lot of credit goes to Ohio State. They were really tenacious defensively. They were positioned well out there.”
Ohio State (15-12-4, 10-9-4 CCHA) and Ferris State (14-14-1, 11-11-1 CCHA) face off again at 7:05 Saturday night in Columbus, the last of four regular-season games between the clustermates.