COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ferris State came out flying and outshot Ohio State, 33-21, in the last regular-season meeting between these two clustermates, but the tenacious Buckeyes came from behind to win this one, 4-3, evening the season series 2-2-0 and securing their third weekend sweep of the season.
The Bulldogs came out with jump and took an early 2-0 lead, until the one-man wrecking crew of Paul Caponigri tied it up for the Buckeyes with two goals within the last two minutes of the first period.
OSU scored on its first shot in the second to make it 3-2, gave up the lead with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, and answered FSU’s tying goal 16 seconds later — at 18:03 in the third — to win the game.
“You’ve got to respect the fact that our guys came back and answered the bell,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “There were a lot of penalties toward the end, killing the momentum. I thought we were playing decent defensive hockey when all of a sudden we got ourselves in a situation where they got a power-play goal and we came right back and showed a lot of character by going right back down there to score the goal and try to get the win. That was important.”
Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said he was disappointed in netminder John de Caro’s performance. De Caro had 17 stops.
“You hold them to 21 shots and give up four goals — personally, I thought the goaltending let us down tonight.
“We played a very good game, and I think we carried the edge in the play overall. I obviously think we deserve a better fate than getting beaten tonight, but that happens, and we’ll go on Monday and get right back to work.”
Jeff Legue’s unassisted tally at 10:22 in the first put the Bulldogs up 1-0. With the Buckeyes in control of the puck and trying to wrap it around their own boards to clear, Legue’s aggressive forecheck stripped Reed Whiting and gave Legue a clear opportunity in front of Mike Betz for his fifth goal of the season.
A little over two minutes later, Matt York took advantage of heavy traffic in front of the OSU net coupled with the Buckeyes’ inability to clear to give FSU the 2-0 lead. Simon Mangos’s initial shot toward the OSU net was blocked by a defender, but the puck came back to Chris Kunitz, who had time to fire once and then pick up his own rebound with two OSU players down in the crease and Betz having to fend for himself. After Betz thwarted Kunitz twice, York picked up the rebound in the slot and shot it in clear, on the Buckeye netminder’s glove side.
Just when it looked as though the Bulldogs would take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, Caponigri notched two to negate the FSU advantage.
At the end of a successful OSU penalty kill, Ryan Smith — who was serving one of Jason Crain’s double minors — flew out of the penalty box and took the puck into the Ferris State zone. The Buckeyes cycled
the puck twice around when OSU rookie defender Thomas Welsh intercepted a Bulldog clearing attempt and shot from the left circle. Caponigri tipped it in at 18:20 to make it a 2-1 game.
With just 30 seconds remaining in the opening period, Caponigri stole the puck near the FSU blue line, waited for a Bulldog defender to commit, and blasted it toward de Caro. The shot grazed the goaltender’s left leg as it went past him near the right post.
Caponigri factored in OSU’s third goal as well, stealing the puck in the FSU zone during some four-on-four action near the midway point of the second. Caponigri passed up to R.J. Umberger, who read the play and was already streaking into the neutral zone. Umberger then went in alone and made it 3-2 in favor of the Buckeyes at 9:33 when he — finally — capitalized on a breakaway, stuffing in the puck through de Caro’s five hole on OSU’s first shot of the second period.
The Bulldogs had a golden opportunity to knot the game at 5:25 in the third, when Betz was caught out of position and Buckeyes and Bulldogs were scrambling in the crease and slot. The play was whistled dead, however, when the puck was caught beneath a pile of assorted players.
Ferris State’s eventual tying goal came on the power play, after Dave Steckel was sent to the box for punching the FSU defender that thwarted his breakaway attempt late in the third. The Bulldogs set up the power play, with Jason Basile passing to Derrick McIver, who passed to Phil Lewandowski in the right circle. Lewandowski’s one- timer bounced over Betz’s left leg on the short side at 17:46.
But Daymen Bencharski wanted no part of bonus hockey tonight. Picking up Umberger’s rebound, Bencharski put the puck in the Bulldog net 16 seconds after Lewandowski tied the game, stuffing in the puck between de Caro’s legs.
“R.J. was shooting and I just went to the net, hoping for a rebound,” said Bencharski. “It came out on my stick and I banged away the first time and it just sat there, so I banged a little harder and it went through his five hole.
“We didn’t want it to go into overtime. We knew we had to finish right there.”
Caponigri said the Buckeyes expected to be put back on their heels a bit after winning Friday’s match. “When you beat a team five to two, they’re going to come out hard. We didn’t match their intensity at the start. When we got those couple of goals at the end of the first, I think that might have deflated them a little bit.”
As was the case with Friday’s game, the Mark Wilkins’ officiating crew made this contest even more interesting. Both squads played cleaner games, but the officials again ignored the goal judge in a situation that could have — and should have — given Ferris State a three-goal lead late in the first period.
It was Brett Smith who took a shot from the left circle at 15:53, beating Betz low inside the near post. The puck was clearly several inches over the goal line before Betz scooped it out, but the goal light never lit, and there was no discussion of the “play.”
“I thought it went in,” said Daniels. “Calls go against you. Some go for you, and some against you; that’s the way it goes. Next week they may go in our favor. I don’t want to use that as a crutch for losing the game tonight.”
Markell had concerns of his own regarding tonight’s officiating. “Unfortunately, we have a couple of guys hurt pretty badly, and that upsets me because no penalties were called on those plays.”
OSU defenseman Pete Broccoli took a hit in the second period and didn’t return; his wrist may be broken. In the third, forward T.J. Latorre went down hard after being checked, re-injuring the right shoulder on which he had surgery in the offseason.
“You know, you try to teach the guys not to dive,” said Markell. “Some of them are hurt, and it’s unfortunate.”
With the wins and points, Ohio State improves to 16-12-4 (11-9-4 CCHA), good enough to move back into sixth place in league standings, two points behind Northern Michigan. Ferris State (14-15-1, 11-12-1 CCHA) slips to eighth, two points behind Western Michigan.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a home-and-home series with Western, Feb. 22 in Big Rapids and Feb. 23 in Kalamazoo. The Buckeyes will play three games in four days, traveling to Michigan Feb. 22-23, and hosting Miami Feb. 25.