COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a scoreless first period, the Ohio State Buckeyes erupted for five goals in the second period, including three in a two-minute span — two by freshman Sam Campbell 1:02 apart — en route to their 5-1 win and series sweep of the Northern Michigan Wildcats.
“We expected them to come out hard,” said OSU captain JB Bittner. “I don’t think we played a very good period there in the first. We wanted to pick it up in the second. I think they had the better of the play for the first half of the game until that penalty, and that was the difference in the game.”
That penalty was Wildcat Pat Bateman’s two-minute minor for roughing, a five-minute major for head-butting, and a game disqualification, resulting in seven minutes of man-advantage for the Buckeyes at 6:46 in the second. Domenic Maiani tipped in Dan Fritsche’s shot from the top of the slot for the first OSU goal at 7:05, and Campbell’s first goal came toward the end of the power play at 13:11.
“I was proud of how [the Buckeyes] came back in the second period,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I want to compliment Northern Michigan. I think they played a great game. Certainly, the momentum could have swung a different way if we hadn’t scored that second goal on the seven-minute power play.”
The two goals on Bateman’s penalty gave the Buckeyes all the momentum they needed.
Campbell’s second goal just after the power play expired at 14:13, a breakaway on which he recovered his own rebound first blocked by NMU’s Matt Maunu, made it 3-0 in a hurry and opened floodgates that didn’t close until the end of the stanza.
At 15:04, seconds after Rod Pelley won a faceoff at the left dot in the NMU zone and passed back to Sean Collins at the top of the circle, Collins fired through traffic and beat a screened Bill Zaniboni to make it 4-0.
Then at 18:43, just after Wildcat Bobby Selden hit the right pipe on the NMU power play, Lee Spector took the puck the length of the ice and grazed the right post to score shorthanded and unassisted, making it 5-0 after two.
Andrew Contois ruined Ian Keserich’s shutout at 16:14 in the third scoring even strength, the only Wildcat goal of the weekend. The decision to play Keserich instead of junior Dave Caruso, who had last night’s 2-0 win, was a coaches’ decision, said Markell.
“It’s nothing big, just something I’d like to keep within our team, within our family,” said Markell. “We have two capable goaltenders.”
Keserich said, “I was informed maybe two-and-a-half hours before the game that I’d be playing.”
Maiani’s goal was his second of the weekend, his sixth in eight games. Five of OSU’s eight goals on the weekend came from freshmen. In their last five games, all wins, the Buckeyes have outscored their opponents 24-5.
“I’m not used to it,” said Bittner. “I think we have a couple of freshmen there that are really putting some points on the board … and I think that’s the big difference. We’ve always had only one freshman chipping in offensively. That’s the big thing; we’re getting freshmen players to chip in right away.”
“Going into this game tonight, we don’t know who’s going to score,” said Markell. “It was pretty evident who had to score for us last year. When they were having an off game, we thought, ‘Uh-oh. We’re going to have to win this one 2-1.’
“Any night one of these kids can explode and they’re hungry to do that, which is great. They’re naive in a way. That’s what’s fun about standing behind the bench right now. You know these kids are going to be there and you see it in the upperclassmen … that they feed off that. And our younger guys feed off our experienced guys. It’s a nice little tandem to have.”
The Buckeyes were 2-for-7 on the power play, the Wildcats 0-for-9. Keserich made 31 saves in his second win of the season. Zaniboni had 29 stops in his first loss of the year.
The game was the second league loss of the season for the Wildcats (8-3-0, 6-2-0 CCHA). In four games at Value City Arena dating back to 2001, the Wildcats are winless against the Buckeyes and have scored just two goals in the VCA.
Ohio State (9-3-0, 7-1-0 CCHA) increases its CCHA point total and extends its first-place lead. Going into the weekend, OSU and Michigan were tied, but the Wolverines were idle this weekend.
“We had a good home stand here and we knew that if we could get maybe some separation from some other teams in the league and have people chasing us — I know Michigan only has one loss also — but we wanted to play that [way] this year instead of trying to play catch-up,” said Bittner. “Take care of business early in the season, and I think we did a good job of that this weekend.”
The Wildcats take next weekend off and return to action in a home-and-home series against Lake Superior State Nov. 26-27, traveling the first night.
Next weekend, the Buckeyes head to Omaha for two against the Mavericks.