DURHAM, N.H. — This might not be the time to try out new “Knock, knock” jokes on Ohio State coach John Markell.
Not after his Buckeyes lost the opening round of the Ice Breaker Tournament to New Hampshire, 5-1, when a key turning point may have been a protocol violation penalty arising out of the wrong door being knocked on.
UNH led after the first period, 1-0, and was already on the power play. That advantage, however, became a five-on-three because Ohio State was late to take the ice. Brett Hemingway scored the first of his two goals just 27 seconds later and an Ohio State tally eight minutes later would be as close as it got.
“It was frustrating — a bit of a momentum-changer — when we came out of the dressing room late and got a five-on-three for it,” Markell said. “When they scored that goal, I thought it was big. I thought we were playing well up to that point. We were pretty positive about what was happening.
“And apparently they were banging on the wrong door. Letting us know [it was time to start the period], they were banging on the wrong door. St. Cloud says they were getting mad; apparently they were having a meeting. They were banging on the wrong door.
“We weren’t out there in time and it cost us the game. [It] at least cost us the momentum.”
In the end, UNH would score four power-play goals, two by Hemingway, to finish 4-for-11 while holding Ohio State to 1-for-8.
“It’s a lot easier to play on the power play with all these new rule enforcements,” he said. “They can’t clutch and grab and do all the things they used to. It definitely gives us a lot more room to show our skills.
“I was fortunate enough to get a couple lucky bounces and I was able to put them away.”
The Wildcats would also finish with a 28-18 shot advantage.
“Five-on-five, I thought we did some good things and we handled the specialty situations well for one weekend into the season,” said UNH coach Richard Umile.
New Hampshire will now face St. Lawrence in the Ice Breaker championship game. The Saints tied St. Cloud, 1-1, but advanced by winning the shootout.
“St. Lawrence really comes after you on their forecheck,” said Umile. “we’re going to have a tough time handling that tomorrow. They’ve had our number the last couple outings.”
Since replacing goaltender Mike Ayers and several veteran defensemen has been considered this year’s biggest challenge for UNH, the lone goal allowed was a promising first step. Jeff Pietrasiak stopped 17 of 18 shots, 14 of which came on OSU power plays.
“Jeff was our backbone tonight,” said defenseman Brian Yandle. “He looked like Mike Ayers back there.”
Ohio State will be shorthanded when it faces St. Cloud in the consolation game with Rod Pelley sidelined due to injury and Andrew Schembri serving a suspension for a game disqualification for spearing as tempters erupted late in the third period.
“I saw a lot of positive things from our young guys and our older guys and we can build on it,” said Markell. “We’re going to have to do that in less than 24 hours.”
The first period needed all of seven seconds before the first penalty was called, symbolic of things to come. Penalties of seemingly all shapes would be in the offing: from old-fashioned elbowing and hooking to the newfangled obstruction-interference now in vogue, to protocol violations to a boatload of roughing infractions in the closing minutes.
On this the first of many power plays, UNH’s best chance came near the end of the power play when Sean Collins took a pass on the far post but couldn’t redirect it on net.
The Wildcats, after killing off a penalty of their own, capitalized on their next man advantage with a goal at 5:54. And a pretty one it was. Jacob Micflikier, on the right post, fed Mark Kolanos on the left side where he roofed it.
The see-saw of penalties continued, but the score remained 1-0. Ohio State’s best chance while a man up came from their Sean Collins, not to be confused with his UNH counterpart, at 8:15, forcing a nice save by Pietrasiak.
The controversial protocol violation put UNH up two men opening the second period and Hemingway made it 2-0 at the 27-second mark, taking a rebound off the back boards and from a sharp angle flipping it into the net.
OSU went on an extended five-on-three power play of its own when UNH picked up successive penalties at 4:33, 5:26 and 6:18. The Buckeyes were not able to solve Pietrasiak, however, until captain JB Bittner buried it at 7:59. The tally was the 28th of his career.
At 16:22, UNH regained the two-goal lead with the only even strength goal of the evening. Brian Yandle, facing inside pressure, spun around to the outside, avoiding the defender and then found Preston Callander on the far post where the senior roofed it.
“Preston just got open,” Yandle said. “He’s such a great player. He just knows where to be at all times. It was pretty easy to just slide it over there. That was the easy part. Then he put it away, a great finish.”
Considering the high number of penalties, the game remained up for grabs until Hemingway iced it with 2:35 remaining in the third on the rebound of a Justin Aikins shot.
Tempers began to flare and then escalated after Schembri’s spearing of Daniel Winnik. Freshman Mike Radja scored his first collegiate goal on the five-on-three that arose from the spearing major.