BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — It was a special-teams kind of night for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who scored three times on the power play and twice shorthanded en route to a 7-0 win over Bowling Green.
After a scoreless first period that had all the markings of a classic goaltenders’ showdown, Ohio State exploded for four second-period goals, including Dave Steckel’s two shorthanders. Mike Betz made 26 saves in his 10th career shutout.
“We know they’re a hard-working team, and they were,” said OSU head coach John Markell of his alma mater, Bowling Green. “We were lucky they didn’t score [in the first] to get any kind of momentum built up.”
In spite of the five special-teams goals, it was Scott May’s fifth tally of the season at 3:20 in the second that held up as the game winner, a tenacious effort and a goal-scorer’s goal, the result of a Falcon turnover in the OSU end.
“Like most really good teams, they were very opportunistic,” said Scott Paluch, BGSU head coach. “Betz played extremely well. Most breakdowns that we had tonight were on special teams, and that clearly got the game in their favor.”
The Falcons outshot the Buckeyes 12-7 through the first 20 minutes, a period that saw outstanding saves from both Betz and BGSU netminder Jordan Sigalet. Sigalet was tested on the first shift of the game, stopping a rocket from Steckel before thwarting a hard-crashing Matt Waddell, who picked up Steckel’s rebound for OSU’s first two shots on net, both before the contest was a minute old.
Beginning with May’s second-period goal, every Falcon mistake ended up in the BGSU net. Sean Collins won the puck near the boards in the OSU end to begin the play. Collins passed up to Dave Barton; May took the puck into the BGSU zone and threaded his way through and around two defenders in the slot.
May went to the right in front of the Falcon crease, drawing Sigalet with him, then appeared to pass up to himself around a Falcon player and redirect the play left, putting the puck into the net behind Sigalet, who couldn’t reposition himself fast enough to make the stop.
May said that the highlight-reel goal was a thing of chance, not a thing of beauty. “The puck got away from me. I got Sigalet out of the net and then took the puck around him.”
Steckel’s two shorthanded goals — one from an interception by Paul Caponigri and the other a Steckel steal — were nearly identical, both with the senior forward breaking in alone and beating the BGSU netminder clean on the near side. In between those goals at 8:41 and 19:27 was Waddell’s power-play conversion at 16:28. The Buckeyes led 4-0 after two.
Nate Guenin, J.B. Bittner, and Andrew Schembri rounded out the scoring for OSU in the third, with Bittner’s and Schembri’s goals coming on the power play, Schembri’s seconds after the Buckeyes found themselves up five-on-three with BGSU’s Don Morrison and Jon Sitko in the box with minor calls 14 seconds apart late in the third.
The penalties piled up high and thick, with OSU seeing four for 11 minutes in the third to BGSU’s 6-for-12, but the animosity was clear from the start. After throwing a punch at BGSU’s Brett Pilkington, May found himself in the box for two at 19:35 in the third. May was provoked, however; Pilkington’s stick was between May’s legs for more than a comfortable duration of time.
“I was hurting there for longer than I should have,” said May, shrugging off the incident.
“I’m a little bit concerned when you do that,” said Markell. “We can’t take those kinds of penalties. There were a couple of broken sticks on the ice, and our guys were sitting in the box. Some of them were deserved.”
The Buckeyes finished the game shorthanded, after Dave Barton received a five-minute major penalty for crosschecking. It was then that OSU redoubled its efforts; the Falcons didn’t register a shot in the last four minutes.
“You can extend that to the last eight, nine minutes of the game,” said Betz of OSU’s defensive play. “I don’t think I saw a shot. I know how hard they work and how committed they are to the system, and that pays off.”
Steckel, who spent as much time killing penalties as he did on the offensive side, said that the Buckeyes take a lot of pride in their PK. “Especially in those last five minutes, to protect Mike’s shutout.”
The Buckeyes (11-5-0, 8-3-0 CCHA) take on perpetual clustermate Miami in a home-and-home series Dec. 5-6, hosting Friday and traveling Saturday. Next up for Bowling Green (3-7-5, 2-6-2 CCHA) is a pair of home games against Ferris State next weekend.