COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes led 3-0 after 20 minutes, but two early third-period Falcon goals kept this one close as Ohio State squeaked by Bowling Green State, 3-2, in the opening game of their first-round CCHA playoff series.
“We weren’t paying attention to detail, everything we worked on last week,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I think it built from the last shift of the second period. I give them credit. Bowling Green came in here and played hard, exactly the way we told the guys they would. We didn’t play a 60-minute hockey game here tonight.”
BGSU head coach Scott Paluch said that he was proud of the way his team came back against the nationally-ranked Buckeyes. “The whole game I thought we did some things necessary to win the hockey game. Even when it was 3-0 we were still doing the things that we needed to do to be successful.
“We gave up too many second chances in the first and second period. As I’ve said all along, Ohio State is a deeper team, forward-wise; they’re going to capitalize when you give them those second chances.”
Matt Beaudoin scored the first OSU goal at 9:04 in the first, picking up his own rebound and putting it past Jordan Sigalet glove-side for the 1-0 lead. The tally was the third shot that Sigalet faced in quick succession, having stopped not just Beaudoin’s first but Dave Steckel’s blast from the left circle.
With less than a minute left in the first period, Paul Caponigri stole the puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone on Sigalet to extend OSU’s lead to 2-0 after two.
Steckel picked up his second assist of the night on Bryce Anderson’s goal at 4:04 in the second. Steckel passed up to Anderson, who was breaking into the BGSU zone; Anderson shook off a defender and went in alone, scoring on a single shot to make it 3-0.
But two Falcon goals before the six-minute mark in the third period made the score more indicative of how closely the game was actually played. At 3:51, Mark Wires finally got one past Mike Betz after the OSU netminder had fended off a series of shots in succession, then at 5:02, Ryan Barnett tipped in Brian Escobedo’s shot from the right point to cut the lead to one goal.
After an OSU timeout, the Buckeyes seemed to return to form but Bowling Green did not relent; without the play of Betz, especially when the Falcons pulled Sigalet for the extra attacker with 1:16 to go, the game might have gone the other way.
“I thought he was the difference-maker,” said Markell. “He came up with some great saves. Bowling Green didn’t quit. Mike Betz played like a true senior, a leader on this team, and a lot of guys in that dressing room can thank him for playing that way.”
Betz was impressive throughout the contest, making a spread-eagle split save on Jonathan Sigalet’s point-blank shot midway through the second, stopping James Unger on a BGSU two-on-one midway through the third, and stoning Brett Pilkington during the closing seconds of the game.
“Awesome,” said Steckel. “That kid came to play. Pretty much the backbone of the team tonight. I thought he kept it 3-0.”
Betz finished the night with 28 saves on 30 BGSU shots. Sigalet showed why he was the league’s pick for the All-Conference First Team, stopping 37 of the 40 shots he faced.
Neither team scored on the power play in the disciplined hockey game, with BGSU going 0-for-3 and OSU 0-for-1.
Bowling Green (11-17-9) and Ohio State (22-15-0) will meet again Saturday night in the best-of-three series, and Markell said that his squad needs a better effort to win and advance to the CCHA Super Six.
“I know we can play better than that. We just did it a week ago. We have to prepare ourselves for a tough match here tomorrow. This time of year, you take the win, you watch the video, and try to get [the players] back on the habits that made us a successful hockey club all year.”