EAST LANSING, Mich. — Hockey players will tell you that sometimes, the score is not indicative of the game. The score Friday night between Ohio State and Michigan State was one such case.
In such a game, during which the play was back-and-forth with both teams dominating at times, a 5-0 score seems unbelievable. However, the Buckeyes defeated the Spartans by exactly that score, thanks to goals from five different players and solid netminding by Mike Betz, who made 24 saves.
“I think we played a very good team and a very good game,” John Markell, Buckeye head coach, said. “It was a good college hockey game.”
“I thought we started okay, and then the puck went in on us. I thought Betz played well, but I don’t think he was severely tested. Obviously, we had a couple guys struggle early, and that cost us goals. I think Ohio State was just a better team than us tonight,” MSU coach Rick Comley said.
The difference was that Michigan State had chances and couldn’t convert, while the Buckeyes capitalized on theirs. A couple of MSU defensive slips early in the first period put OSU up a quick 2-0, courtesy of goals by Dan Knapp and Nate Guenin.
The Spartans bounced back from such a deficit against Minnesota-Duluth, but not Friday. Early on, Michigan State had several power-play opportunities, and failed to take advantage; later on, MSU took costly penalties which put the game out of reach.
The Spartans sustained a key loss when Adam Nightengale took a hit in the corner and suffered a concussion in the first period, neutralizing the third line of the Spartans’ four-line offensive system.
The Buckeyes weren’t simply lucky, however. Every time the Spartans attacked, there were four Buckeyes in front of the net. When the Spartans did get a quality chance, Betz was a brick wall — nothing got past him.
If it seems like there’s a little dash and flash missing from the breakdown of Ohio State’s win, that’s because there was. Ohio State was solid, both on offense and defense, complemented by a great game from Betz. OSU made almost no mistakes, and when there were mistakes, the Spartans failed to capitalize.
Paul Caponigri extended the Buckeye lead to 3-0 in the second period, while JB Bittner and Lee Spector capped the scoring with power-play goals late in the third.
Given the lopsided score, Markell knows that the Spartans will be out for blood Saturday, and it’s his veterans’ job to keep the youngsters from getting back on their heels.
“The older guys know it’s their job to tell these younger guys the intensity tomorrow is going to be unbelievable in the first period,” Markell said. “They’re going to want to come out and get a split here just like we did last weekend.”
Comley, on the other hand, isn’t going to change much in his game plan — he doesn’t have the personnel to do so. With Nightengale’s availability uncertain, Comley doesn’t have many options for a replacement, and his defense is almost the same way.
“We’ll make a few adjustments; we don’t have many options line-up-wise, so there’s not much you can do with that,” he said. “We have two lines that we need to be effective offensively, and if they are, we’re going to be in hockey games.”
MSU captain Jim Slater put the Spartans’ dilemma best: “You’re not going to win games if you don’t score goals.”
The Spartans and Buckeyes close out the weekend series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in East Lansing.