OXFORD, Ohio — Ohio State jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Miami scored two unanswered second-period goals and capped the night with an empty-netter to win the final regular-season game for each team, 3-1.
Matt Chandler recorded the game winner for Miami, his first goal of the season. Jason Deskins and Derek Richardson also scored for the RedHawks, and David Burleigh stopped 20 shots on net.
JB Bittner registered the sole OSU goal, while Mike Betz made 24 saves in the loss.
Immediately after the game, each coach was already thinking about potential playoff seeding, rather than the contest that had just ended. Since both the Buckeyes and RedHawks are done with regular-season play, each team has to sit and wait for Saturday’s results to know where it will be playing next weekend.
“It’s been a strange year for us,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “I know we played at Northern a couple of weeks ago. They’re a good hockey team and well-coached. Fairbanks is running pretty high like we were last year.
“We’ll just see what happens. We can’t control anything. The only thing we can concentrate on is [to] be ready to play. It’s a best two out of three. Anything can happen, as we found out last year.”
Last year, the third-seeded RedHawks dropped two consecutive home first-round CCHA playoff games to Bowling Green, the eighth seed.
For Ohio State, the loss means a definite road trip for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Had the Buckeyes won and Western Michigan lost two to Michigan this weekend, OSU would have secured the sixth and final home playoff spot.
OSU head coach John Markell did not mince words after the loss. “We’re not mentally tough on the road, and it’s disappointing because they [the OSU players] knew the magnitude of this game. I thought we played decent in the first period, but in the second period we got outmuscled and outplayed. I thought Mike Betz had a good game. He gave us a chance to come back, but there’s a reason for our record on the road, and we are not mentally tough on the road.
“We had the chance to determine our own destiny, at least give ourselves a chance. We know what our record is on the road. They’re going to have to take a hard look in the mirror because our road record has determined that we’re going on the road in the playoffs.”
Markell’s assessment of the game was dead-on. The Buckeyes came out flying in the first, and Bittner scored OSU’s fourth shorthanded goal of the year to give OSU the 1-0 lead after one. But after the first, the game belonged to Miami.
Deskins tied the game for the ‘Hawks at 2:33 in the second, tipping in Ken Marsch’s shot from the right point on the Miami power play, with Buckeye Scott May in the box for interference.
Chandler’s game-winner late in the second was a fluky goal that was a direct result of OSU’s persistent inability to clear the puck from its own end. Left of the crease along the goal line, Chandler stole the puck from an OSU defender and lobbed it toward the net, where it hit Buckeye Eric Skaug in the chest and bounced in at 17:47 to give Miami the 2-1 lead.
Edwardson’s empty-net goal capped the game at 19:44, but there really wasn’t any question as to the outcome. After being outshot by the Buckeyes 12-7 in the first, Miami took it to OSU in the second and third, besting the Buckeyes in shots 20-9 in the final two stanzas.
And Betz did stand tall for OSU, thwarting several point-blank shots and subsequent rebounds that resulted from Buckeye turnovers in their own zone, most notably stopping Danny Stewart’s hard shot from just outside the crease at 6:36 in the third, then stoning Miami on a two-on-none breakaway late in the third.
Blasi said that the Miami players earned the win, which snapped a seven-game losing streak, through consistent hard work. “That effort you saw tonight I think is the same effort we had against Michigan State, that we had against Northern Michigan, that we had against Michigan, Fairbanks.
“The effort — I’ve never questioned that from our guys. The execution, sometimes there’s maybe been an odd bounce here and there that hasn’t gone our way, but for the most part the effort’s always been there.”
Miami finishes the regular season 12-20-2 (9-17-2 CCHA), while Ohio State ends the year 17-15-4 (12-12-4 CCHA). Saturday’s CCHA results will determine where each team is seeded in the first round of the league playoffs.