COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a three-goal second period, four points from Sean Collins and 37 saves from Dave Caruso, Ohio State came from behind to beat Alaska-Fairbanks, 5-2, completing a two-game sweep of the Nanooks in Value City Arena and preserving a perfect home record on the season.
“We can thank Dave Caruso for that game,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “He gave us an opportunity to find our legs. It’s funny. We’re the team not traveling and we were trying to find our legs.
“I thought Alaska beat us to every puck for the first period — probably the first period and a half — won all the rebounds, out-emotioned us, except for one guy, and that was Dave Caruso.”
The junior netminder persevered through a first period that saw three UAF power plays, including one midway through the stanza that led to Jared Sylvestre’s goal, but even though the Nanooks outshoot the Buckeyes 18-9 in the first 20 minutes, the score was tied 1-1 at the first intermission.
“I thought the first period was as well as we played all year,” said UAF head coach Tavis MacMillan. “We had energy, we had jump, we were winning pucks, we were winning races to pucks, and when there was a battle for a puck we were winning that battle. We were creating opportunities.
“I thought Caruso played very well in that first period on the chances that we did have. Even though it was a tie game after one, I felt very good.”
Although the game was more disciplined than Friday night’s 2-1 Buckeye win, OSU went 3-for-8 on the power play — including two five-on-three tallies — and the Nanooks had the power-play goal in the first. UAF, down two goals going into the third period, found itself killing penalties for long stretches, including Corbin Schmidt’s five-minute major for high-sticking at 7:04.
“I liked our team discipline,” said MacMillan. “In a game like that, I wanted our guys to be more disciplined in the end. I’m sure they felt frustrated.”
Sylvestre’s goal was a rebound of Darcy Campbell’s initial shot. Jason Grinevitch passed out from the boards at the far side of the left circle to Campbell at the left point; the big rebound came to Sylvestre right of the crease, and the senior put it past Caruso clean for the 1-0 lead.
Dan Knapp, who had two goals in the contest, tied it with OSU’s first five-on-three goal at 15:51, one-timing it past UAF’s Wylie Rogers after taking a diagonal cross-slot pass from Nate Guenin at the right point.
Kelly Czuy scored unassisted at the 39-second mark to open the second period and give UAF its second lead of the night, OSU answered with three goals to go ahead 4-2.
Domenic Maiani’s tying goal at 11:58 was the result of some of Collins’ hard work on the night. Collins fired hard at the net but hit the boards behind the cage; the rebound came to Maiani at the left post and the freshman’s seventh goal of the season beat Rogers on the short side.
“The second goal they scored was most disappointing for me,” said MacMillan. “We have a faceoff, we get a guy kicked out. The other guy goes in and loses. They get a great scoring chance off a clean faceoff win. We get a whistle, the other forward we wanted to take the faceoff loses it again, very clean, and the same thing happened and they score. That’s two of our older players, two of our team leaders right there.
“That was a huge goal.”
Lee Spector’s game-winner at 16:08 was a pickup of Matt Beaudoin’s rebound. Knapp added a power-play goal at 19:13 to make it 4-2 after two, and Collins’ lone goal was OSU’s second with the two-man advantage, at 10:09 in the third.
In all, Collins had a hand in all but the first Buckeye goal of the game. “I can’t even remember the last time I had four points in a game. It might have been like PeeWees or something. I’ve been a defenseman all my life so never got the chance to be glory boy and go out and get all the points.”
The four-point weekend kept the Buckeyes in first place in the CCHA, one point ahead of Michigan, and extended OSU’s home win streak to seven this season, 12 games overall, but Markell was less than satisfied with the manner in which all of that was accomplished.
“We’re happy with the win. How we got it, I’m not happy as a coach. You’ve got to compliment Alaska. They put it on the line for 60 minutes and we were fortunate enough to come out ahead.”
The back-to-back losses are the first for the Nanooks this season. “We looked like a team that had a lot of freshmen in the lineup tonight, and I say that … [because] unfortunately I thought it was our older guys that looked young,” said MacMillan.
UAF (6-6-0, 5-5-0 CCHA) returns to Fairbanks to face Northern Michigan next weekend, while OSU (11-4-1, 9-2-1 CCHA) will travel to face Clarkson in nonconference action.