COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dave Steckel had two goals to cap a four-point weekend as the Buckeyes beat the Falcons, 5-2, to advance to the CCHA Super Six.
“I thought our guys came to play tonight,” said Ohio State head coach John Markell. “I thought Bowling Green came to play. Look at the scores — it’s tough to put teams away. I want to compliment them. They came in and they played hard. They gave us everything we thought they were going to give us plus more.”
Steckel’s second goal held up to be the game winner in a contest that OSU dominated from the initial drop of the puck. BGSU netminder Jordan Sigalet made 40 saves on 45 shots as the Buckeyes held the Falcons to fewer than 10 shots per period.
“I thought Ohio State did a tremendous job tonight of coming out and having that killer instinct in Game 2 of a series,” said BGSU head coach Scott Paluch. “They controlled a lot of the tempo. We were able to stick around.
“Jordan made a lot of saves to give us an opportunity in the third period but for most of the night, though, Ohio State, they used their size well and really controlled a good portion of the game, going for that knockout punch. A lot of credit to Ohio State.”
The story of the game may be the story of two spears. Buckeye defenseman Sean Collins will miss Thursday’s CCHA quarterfinal because of a game disqualification associated with a spearing call. Collins was given a five-minute major for spearing BGSU defenseman Jon Sitko at 12:26 in the third period.
Sitko, however, speared Steckel in the first period, and there was no call. Steckel was on the ice after being slashed by Bryan Dobek, and while down was speared by Stiko. Referee Kevin Hall and assistant referees Paul Tunison and Barry Pochmara were looking away from the play.
Both Steckel and Markell said that they didn’t think that Collins’ third-period infraction was a retaliatory act, but Tunison made the call.
“I’m a little disappointed in that,” said Markell. “I think what happened was, was that it was kind of a chippy game and he was trying to defend himself and reared back … and the stick got caught in between. I haven’t seen it on tape yet, but there was no jousting action. I thought Kevin Hall called a great game, let the teams play.”
Steckel added, “I don’t think Collins went after him at all. After he shot the puck in, he rode up that guy’s stick and went into him. I didn’t see the whole thing, but I think that’s what happened.”
Just as they did last night, the Buckeyes led 2-0 after the first period, this time on goals by Collins and Steckel. Collins’ tally was a one-timer from right of the crease at 7:54, and Steckel’s goal was a heartbreaker for BGSU fans at 16:42.
Just after successfully killing off nearly two full minutes of a five-on-three Buckeye advantage, Sigalet made two saves on J.B. Bittner from close range, the second a spectacular skate save while on his back, legs in the air. The second rebound, however, went right to Steckel’s stick for the easy goal.
Mike Falk cut the lead to one at 15:27 in the second. The Falcons cycled the puck behind the Buckeye net where it came to Brett Pilkington in the left circle; Pilkington passed right to Falk, who put the puck in short side to make it 2-1 at the end of two.
In the third period, the Falcons played gutty hockey, pulling Sigalet while on the power play for Collins’ five-minute major late in the stanza to give themselves a two-man advantage. At 15:44, however, the Buckeyes used the strategy to their own advantage. Scott May’s second attempt on the empty net brought a goal, and OSU led 4-1.
“We were struggling all night long creating any offense on the power play,” said Paluch. “We were down two goals and we … tried to get the extra man and change a little of what we were not able to do throughout the game on the power play. To their credit, they did a great job on the six-on-four as well.”
OSU’s three-goal lead lasted less than a minute. Steve Brudzewski converted on the five-minute penalty at 16:07 to cut the OSU lead to two again, but Doug Andress capped the game for the Buckeyes with the second empty-net goal of the night at 19:07, bringing the final score to 5-2.
“I thought towards the end we played with our size,” said Markell, “and it might have worn them down a little bit, but, hey, that was a good CCHA college hockey game and a good game for the fans.”
BGSU finished 1-for-5 on the power play to OSU’s 0-for-5. Mike Betz gets the win with 13 saves, but senior Kelly Holowaty stopped two in the final minute of the game.
Bowling Green ends its season with a final record of 11-18-9. The Buckeyes (23-15-0) will play either the winner of the WMU-Notre Dame or UNO-Michigan series, both of which will be decided Sunday.