COLUMBUS, Ohio — Six goals, twenty penalties, and bad blood — everything you’d expect from a Nanooks-Buckeye game. This one went Ohio State’s way 4-2, with Chris Olsgard recording the game-winning goal and Mike Betz getting earning his fourth win of the season with 19 saves.
“We got beat badly,” said Alaska-Fairbanks head coach Guy Gadowsky. “They certainly played a lot hungrier and executed a lot better as a result. I think we played a little better toward the end, but it was too late.
“I don’t think there’s a lot to say. We didn’t look in it. I don’t know why. They wanted the game a lot more than we did — certainly the first half, if not more.”
The game was OSU’s to lose after two, with the Buckeyes outshooting the Nanooks 26-10 but the score close — 3-2 — through 40 minutes.
Dave Steckel opened the scoring for the Buckeyes at 3:19 in the first, tipping in Thomas Welsh’s blast from the top of the slot, but Ryan Campbell evened it up for UAF at 9:40. After stealing the puck from OSU’s Matt Waddell near the OSU blue line, Campbell skated in along on the Buckeye net and beat Betz five-hole to make it a briefly tied game.
Chris Olsgard’s first goal of the season made it 2-1 when he buried Lee Spector’s centering rocket at 11:57, and JB Bittner netted his fifth on the Buckeye power play at 18:34, banking in the goal off a Nanook defender in front of the UAF crease. OSU led 3-1 after one.
But in spite of limiting the Nanooks to four shots in the first and no shots through 11 minutes of the second period, the score was 3-2 after because of Curtis Fraser’s second of the season. Fraser — who had been robbed by Betz’s lightning-quick glove on his previous shift — picked up Cam Keith’s rebound on UAF’s eighth shot of the game at 16:57 to bring the Nanooks to within one.
“I thought at points in the second period, we weren’t quite the team we were in the first,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “It seemed to be that after a penalty that we’d kill off, we’d come back and be a little bit lackadaisical. We’ve got to come back and understand that we set the tempo.”
The Buckeyes certainly set the tempo from the drop of the puck in the third, scoring 58 seconds into the final stanza, an even-strength goal by Rod Pelley that simply took the wind out of UAF’s sails for more than 10 minutes.
“That third goal turned out to be quite a bubble burster,” said Gadowsky. “Although we may not have deserved to be in the game [at that point] we were…and that was a tough goal to give up. In the end it didn’t matter, because we didn’t get anything done offensively anyway.”
Predictably, the teams mixed it up toward the end of the third period, with four penalties called — two for each side — at 19:19, three penalties resulting in a UAF power play at 19:57, and a final minor of the night assessed to Buckeye Bryce Anderson — two for cross-checking — at 20:00.
“Obviously, I wasn’t happy with the liberties they were taking at the end,” said Markell. “That’s at the referee’s discretion.”
Markell said that one of the “liberties” the Nanooks took with the Buckeyes was the amount of contact Mike Betz saw in the game. “How many times did you see the goalie knocked over tonight? It was that type of game.”
Betz himself said that the game was intense. “I look online and you see where the CCHA does the twenty questions, and they ask the hardest team to play against, and it’s Michigan, Michigan State, teams like thatbut by far I always put Alaska-Fairbanks because they are the most intense, the most fierce, the most physical games by far.”
Betz also offered an opinion about his own relationship with UAF’s Aaron Voros, who had four minors in the game tonight. “It seems like every game we play, Number 34 runs into Number 34, somehow, someway.”
Both Gadowksy and Markell said that the ways in which their teams returned to the ice tonight after each team’s respective performance a week ago made the difference in the game. Last weekend, the Nanooks swept the Ferris State Bulldogs, the CCHA’s 2002-03 regular-season champions, in Fairbanks, while OSU lost at home to the CHA’s top team, Mercyhurst.
“The first period Saturday night was possibly the best fifteen minutes we’ve played that I’ve seen in Nanook hockey,” said Gadowsky, “and this first period would have to rank at the other end of the spectrum.”
“What I liked was the response from last weekend,” said Markell. “Do I think we played our best game? No. There are still things to work on.”
And, as predictably as were the final-minute penalties, each coach complimented the other’s team. “I thought they played an excellent game as a nice solid team game,” said Gadowsky of the Buckeyes. “It wasn’t as though they had individuals flying up and down the ice. They played as a unit. They got the puck out, they got it deep, they forechecked very well. They played an excellent team game.”
Markell liked UAF’s tenacity. “I thought that UAF is a good hockey team. I thought we battled and we got the win, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
“I thought we won the first, they won the second, and right at the end they were getting the step on us because we were losing the draws. That’s a compliment to their centermen.”
The lovefest continues Saturday night, when UAF (3-4-0, 2-1-0 CCHA) challenges OSU (5-3-0, 4-1-0 CCHA) again in Value City Arena. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.