EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State Spartans may be shaking their heads after a weekend series against the Ohio State Buckeyes. There were very few differences between the two games, including the fact that the Spartans worked hard and didn’t see much of a reward for their work ethic in either.
The Spartans, missing Adam Nightengale due to a concussion Friday night, had to change their lineup a little bit, put freshman goaltender Dominic Vicari between the pipes, and managed to put the puck in the net once.
The Buckeyes also made a few changes to their lineup, left Mike Betz in net, and put the puck past the Spartan goalie one fewer time than the previous night.
The game had a few more differences, like an increase in the number of quality chances for the Spartans, as well as more control of the puck, but the Buckeyes made those factors inconsequential en route to a 4-1 victory and road sweep of the Spartans.
John Markell, Buckeye head coach, said after Friday night’s game that he expected the Spartans to raise the level of intensity on Saturday.
He was right; the Spartans came out ready.
The Buckeyes were patient and weathered the Spartans early, however, then capitalized in the first period when J.B. Bittner scored his second goal on the weekend to given OSU a 1-0 lead in the locker room.
MSU captain Jim Slater made a nifty move in front of goaltender Mike Betz 41 seconds into the second period to keep the Spartans jumping, but Ohio State scored less than three minutes later when Lee Spector banked a shot off Vicari’s pad to regain the lead and deflate the Spartans a bit.
Then, on a power play, Scott May led a three-on-two rush, kept the puck, and rifled a shot past Vicari to put the Buckeyes up by two going into the second intermission.
May added another goal in the third to put the Spartans back on their heels, while Betz was flawless after Slater’s goal in the second.
“I thought we played good team defense. Obviously we had some good goaltending,” Markell said.
The Buckeyes neutralized the Spartans on the power play, while they went 1-for-4 with the man advantage themsevles. They gobbled up loose pucks, broke up passes in the neutral zone, and cleared everything away from the front of the net. While they didn’t dominate statistically, they executed their style of game while frustrating the Spartan offense.
The maturity of the team was a factor, as well. While the more experienced Buckeyes — who skated seven seniors — were content to wait for the Spartans to make a mistake, the Spartans, who skated one senior and three defensemen, made hasty plays that cost them.
Said Spartan coach Rick Comley, “We’re very young at defense. It’s tough for freshman to come in here and be effective at all times. That’s a tough style to play against [the style the Buckeyes used], and it takes a mature team. What really hurts you is the lack of a senior class. Usually a program is run by seniors, and we have one.”
“I expected to compete, but I didn’t think we could come in and sweep,” Buckeye coach John Markell said. “I’m very happy with the total effort this weekend. I thought we did a good job playing as 20 men.”
“I thought Ohio State was a very good team,” Comley added. “I thought they were mature, they were big, they played very well. They got the lead both nights, and when they get the lead, they become even better.”
The Spartans play a home-and-home series against Western Michigan next weekend, in East Lansing on Friday and in Kalamazoo Saturday, while the Buckeyes have a single non-conference game against Mercyhurst Friday.