COLUMBUS, Ohio — A balanced scoring attack and nearly perfect goaltending propelled Ohio State past Minnesota State, 5-1, in the opening game of the inaugural Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena Wednesday.
Tom Fritsche led the Buckeyes with a goal and assist. OSU goaltender Dave Caruso made 31 saves in his 10th win of the season.
“It was a pretty rusty game,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought on our part Dave Caruso gave us an opportunity to win the game.
“It probably wasn’t a 5-1 game, especially if they would have scored a couple of goals on their power play. Territorially, it didn’t feel like that. Our power play came up big for us in the first period and we scored right away in the second period, right away in the third period. When you score at the opportune times, you can capture the momentum.”
It was that combination of OSU’s backbreaking scoring timing and stellar goaltending that made this game difficult for Mavericks. Dominic Maiani scored at 4:25 in the first, Bryce Anderson at 3:52 in the second, and Fritsche at 1:07 in the third to keep the momentum going OSU’s way.
With less than two minutes to go in the first and just as Nate Guenin was exiting the penalty box after a successful OSU kill, Caruso made an impressive kick-save on David Backes to preserve a 2-1 lead. Backes broke in alone and skated across the crease, forcing Caruso to split and prevent what should have been the tying goal.
“Obviously, I thought their goalie played extremely well,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting. “We’re a team that’s built to play in a big rink … and I thought Ohio State did a very good job of bottling us up in the neutral zone as well as in the offensive zone. I think we created enough opportunities; we just have to bear down and score some of those.”
Maiani made it 1-0 for OSU at 4:25 in the first on the first shot of a power play. After Mankato cleared its zone, Caruso passed up to Sean Collins, Collins passed to Maiani in the neutral zone, and Maiani shot from the right went through Jon Volp’s five-hole for the early lead.
At 9:01, Johann Kroll made it 2-0 from the top of the right circle, but Jeff Marler answered with the Mavericks’ only goal at 17:11 to make it 2-1 after one. Marler’s goal, which squibbed by both Collins and Caruso, is one that the OSU goaltender said he misplayed.
“I’ll just call it a floater, like a sinker ball, coming from the point — I think a wrist shot — and it kind of came here and I tried to vacuum it, when I should have scooped it like a baseball shortstop instead, so I did the wrong thing. I tried to wet-dry vacuum it, but I should’ve baseballed it.”
Anderson’s unassisted wraparound was the only scoring of the second period, giving OSU a 3-1 lead after two.
Fritsche’s goal early in the third came from close in — really close in, as in the crease — and Matt Beaudoin scored on the power play at 17:07 to make it a 5-1 final.
Fritsche was actually in the crease, nearly on the goaltender, when he scored his third goal of the season, but Jutting said that the Mavericks weren’t questioning the goal. “I don’t know. The referee felt it was a goal. Don’t give him that shot and he doesn’t wind up there.”
The Buckeyes were 2-for-6 on the power play to the Mavericks’ 0-for-9 in a game that was physical right from the start, culminating with Maverick Adam Gerlach’s check from behind that resulted in a five-minute major and game disqualification at 19:51. While Gerlach clearly meant to check Buckeye Kyle Hood, both coaches agreed that there didn’t seem to be any intent to harm.
“You don’t like to see these things happen for either team,” said Jutting. “He’s about as mature a kid as you’re going to find. He’d never do anything intentionally like that. He felt bad.”
Markell said, “I don’t think it was intentional. Troy felt bad about it. Hopefully [Hood] will be okay.” The OSU rookie skated off the ice on his own.
While the Mavericks had the man advantage more often than the Buckeyes, Markell said that in order to compete against Colorado College Thursday night in the final day of the Classic, OSU has to play a cleaner game.
“If we’re in the box that much — they’ve got one of the best power plays we’ve ever seen, at least on tape. We’re going to have to pay attention to that.”
The Buckeyes (12-5-2, 9-2-1 CCHA) face the Tigers at 8:05 p.m., while the Mavericks (7-10-2, 4-9-1 WCHA) play Miami at 5:05 p.m.
Jutting, meanwhile, said there was just one thing that Minnesota State has to do differently against Miami Thursday.
“We need to win.”