COLUMBUS, Ohio — Miami’s regular-season title hopes evaporated when Ohio State scored at 18:49 in the third period to lift the Buckeyes 5-4 over the RedHawks in the season finale at Value City Arena.
“My initial thought is disappointment,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “We knew with 10 minutes left in the game that Michigan State had won.”
With Michigan State’s win over Michigan, the RedHawks could have taken the regular-season CCHA championship outright with two points tonight. Instead, the game ended with the losing coach upset about the game-winning goal, just as last night’s 4-3 overtime Miami win in Oxford had ended.
“From my vantage point,” said Blasi, “the net was off and it looked like he kicked it in.”
The “he” was Lee Spector, the Buckeye player to whom the goal was awarded, but the puck more likely went in off the skate of RedHawk defenseman Andy Greene, who along with Spector and another RedHawk was one of three players in the Miami crease other than goaltender Brandon Crawford-West.
The goal was made possible by Chris Olsgard, who threaded Greene and Taylor Hustead to bring the puck into the Miami zone, then fired on net from behind the goal line in the left corner. The puck went to the crease, and appeared to go in off the skate of the player closest to Olsgard, Greene, before the net came off its moorings.
“There were two or three chances where I was going down the wall and didn’t even get a shot on,” said Olsgard. “All I was thinking when I got through the D there was trying to get a shot on net. I heard LeeI kind of threw it at the net, and it went.”
The Buckeyes controlled the game through the first 30 minutes, making quick work of three power plays to take a 4-2 lead going into the third, but OSU’s undisciplined play coupled with Miami’s renewed intensity toward the end nearly reversed the RedHawks’ fortunes.
Todd Grant’s unassisted goal at 11:08 in the first period gave Miami its only lead of the night, but Dan Knapp answered with his first tally of the night 53 seconds later — just 18 seconds into an OSU power play — to tie it up, 1-1.
Rod Pelley’s power-play goal at 4:04 in the second — 19 seconds after Ben Tharp took a seat for interference — made it 2-1 Ohio State, and Knapp’s second goal of the night at 13:10 off a scramble for the puck in front of Crawford-West gave the Buckeyes a 3-1 lead, but Ohio State soon found itself having to kill its second five-on-three disadvantage of the night against the league’s top power play. Five seconds after Dave Steckel’s tripping penalty expired and with Matt Waddell still in the box for boarding, Chris Michael converted on the Miami power play, putting one up and over Mike Betz’s glove to bring the RedHawks to within one at 17:25.
Any momentum the RedHawks could take from the power-play goal disappeared when the Buckeyes answered with a power-play goal of their own 49 seconds later when Dave Steckel tipped in Sean Collins’ blast from the top of the slot, 11 seconds into Derek Edwardson’s hooking penalty.
Ohio State had a 4-2 lead going into the third, but two goals by Mike Kompon made it a 4-4 game even before the RedHawks heard the news of Michigan’s loss. Kompon and Hogeboom skated into the Buckeye zone two-on-one, with Hogeboom carrying the puck down the left wing, Kompon on the right. Drawing Betz left to defend, Hogeboom fed Kompon, whose 11th goal of the season at 1:38 made it a 4-3 game.
Kompon took a page from the OSU playbook at 8:19 when he evened it up on the Miami power play just 28 seconds after Scott May was sent to the box for charging. The one-timer from the top of the slot beat Betz on the glove side and tied the game 4-4.
“I thought we played a disciplined game at first to get the lead at 4-2, and the discipline was giving us what we need,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “Being undisciplined, the penalties, put us in the position to tie or lose the game.
“But we’ll take the win, enjoy it. It was good for the seniors.”
Olsgard, a senior, said that the Buckeyes were thinking about their ability to play the spoiler going into this match. “We didn’t want anyone to win a title on our ice. That was great motivation for us, not to let them win. That was the guiding force for me, personally.”
OSU finished the night 3-for-4 on the power play to Miami’s 2-for-7. Mike Betz had 24 saves on 28 shots; Brandon Crawford-West stopped 18 of the 23 he saw.
Ohio State (21-15-0, 16-12-0 CCHA) finishes the regular season in fourth place and will host Bowling Green in a best-of-three, first-round CCHA playoff series. The Buckeyes will play this series in Value City Arena, hosting at the VCA for the first time in five years. Last season, OSU stayed home in the opening round of the playoffs but hosted Nebraska-Omaha in Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL Blue Jackets, because of scheduling conflicts at the Schott.
“It’s nice for the seniors to be able to play in their own building,” said Markell.
Miami (20-12-4, 17-8-3 CCHA) finishes the regular season in second place and will host Lake Superior State in Goggin Arena next weekend.
“To come so close and not get it is disappointing, obviously,” said Blasi, “but it is what it is, and we move forward and now we’re playing for another championship, and it starts Friday.
“We put ourselves in a great position all year long to play for a championship, and that’s where we were tonight. We’re extremely proud of our team. I think we have a gutty team that comes to play regardless of the situation. It’s disappointing, but the way we played in that third period, I just love every single one of those guys.”