DETROIT — They are the Super Six team that refuses to die. After coming from behind three times against second-seeded Miami, No. 4 seed Ohio State won 4-3 in overtime to advance to the CCHA championship game.
J.B. Bittner had the game-winning goal just 23 seconds into OT. Paul Caponigri and Rod Pelley each had a goal and an assist, and Dave Caruso made 18 saves in the game.
“I actually said, ‘Let’s get it done right here, first shift,’ and we got lucky,” said Bittner, the OSU captain. “We got the puck in, we got a bounce, and it ended up that Paul … made a good play there to me in front of the net [with] the goalie out of position.”
It was the second consecutive game in which the Buckeyes battled from behind three times, sent a game to overtime, and won to advance. Ohio State has led neither of its Super Six opponents in 130:01 of tournament play.
“It shows our perseverance and our determination,” said head coach John Markell. “They keep coming back. These guys come to compete. You know there are going to be bounces out there, it’s how you respond to it, and our guys are responding the right way.”
“It’s hard to say what happened in overtime, but I thought both teams played well,” said Blasi. “Every time we play Ohio State, I think it’s one-goal games or overtime games, so we kind of expected it going into tonight. Give Ohio State credit. They found a way to win.”
Mike Kompon had two goals for Miami, including the first in the game, a coast-to-coast, unassisted, power-play tally. Taking the puck from behind the RedHawk net, Kompon skated clear up the middle of the ice, unimpeded, and beat Caruso five-hole at 16:36 to give Miami a 1-0 lead after one.
Pelley’s goal at 6:36 was the first tie of the game, the result of a Miami turnover at the OSU blue line. Reed Whiting stripped the puck and passed up to Pelley, skating left through the neutral zone. Pelley passed to Caponigri, who did an immediate 180 just before the RedHawk zone to touch it back to Pelley. Pelley’s blast from the top of the slot beat Miami goaltender Brandon Crawford-West clean on the stick side.
Skating four-on-four, Todd Grant gave Miami the lead again at 15:51 fed by Chris Michael, who stole the puck in the left OSU faceoff circle. It was 2-1 Miami after two.
Caponigri’s equalizer at 5:28 in the second was a beauty. Pelley fought to keep the puck in the RedHawk zone along the boards near the right circle. After the puck squirted free to Bittner, the captain centered to Caponigri; Caponigri drew Crawford-West left and reversed direction, going from forehand to backhand, and popped it in right to make it a 2-2 game.
But Miami regained the lead — again — at 9:46 on Kompon’s second goal of the game, a rebound of Greg Hogeboom’s initial shot. Caruso came out to challenge Hogeboom and made that save, but left a wide-open net for Kompon’s 14th of the season.
The third tying goal was Dan Knapp’s quick-thinking pickup of a Miami turnover. Andy Greene banked the puck off the backboards behind the RedHawk net, and it bounced right to Knapp’s stick near the left post. It was 3-3 at 12:54.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, Caruso made the save of the game by stoning Greg Hogeboom from point-blank range. Hogeboom had the puck behind the left side of the OSU cage, and swooped around to fire hard. His shot went where it should have — up and long — but Caruso made a lightning-quick grab and skated out of the crease with his glove held high, puck safely inside.
Caruso said the save looked easy because it was. “It’s part of the warmup Kenny Bernard and I do, this little turning thing, so it was just like a day at the office. I just had to make the save.”
The Buckeyes caught a lucky break with less than a minute to go when Derek Edwardson, crashing in, missed on the open right side of the net.
In overtime, Bittner scored with a backhanded shot that caught Crawford-West by surprise and — again — Ohio State lived to play another day.
“We knew we played last night, and we knew that Michigan played one game and they’re rested up,” said Bittner, explaining the need to keep overtime short.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” said Kompon. “It hurts, but like Coach said, give credit to Ohio State. They played well, we played well; that’s hockey. You win some, you lose some. Good luck to them tomorrow.”
Miami was 1-for-2 on the power play, OSU 0-for-2. Crawford-West made 24 saves as OSU outshot Miami 28-21.
Saturday, the Buckeyes (25-15-0) take on the Wolverines for the Mason Cup at 7:05 p.m.
“It’s going to be our job to match their intensity tomorrow,” said Markell. “Obviously, they just have one game under their belt; we have two. We’re not going to allow them to out-will us. We got ourselves into this situation, we feel we’re well-matched against them, and it’s going to come down to who’s going to work harder.”
Miami (22-13-4) plays Northern Michigan in the third-place game at 3:35.