COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a game that featured the best penalty-killing team in the CCHA against the team with the second-best power-play unit, something had to give.
Saturday, it was the Ohio State power-play unit that stepped up and sent visiting Western Michigan home to the tune of three power-play goals.
The Buckeyes (18-7-3, 14-4-1 CCHA) soundly defeated the Broncos (10-10-1, 5-12-1 CCHA) to push their home record this season to 11-2. OSU used solid specialty-teams play — one shorthanded goal, six penalties killed and the aforementioned power-play goals — to keep WMU from ever looking comfortable.
“Hats off to Ohio State,” WMU coach Jim Culhane said. “All those loose-puck one-on-one battles — we didn’t win very many of those. We felt like we wanted it, but we didn’t do it out on the ice. The score is indicative of that.”
OSU did not take long to get on the board. Freshman defenseman Kyle Hood took a pass from freshman forward Tom Fritsche on the wing and hammered home a slapshot through WMU freshman goaltender Daniel Bellissimo’s five-hole.
It was the start of a long night for the Broncos. The Buckeyes scored three in the first, three in the second and one in the third en route to the 7-0 victory.
Leading the way for OSU was Fritsche, who recorded his first career hat trick by scoring three goals in a span of nine minutes. The native of Parma, Ohio, leads the Buckeyes with 31 points this season, with five of those coming this weekend. He was paced by sophomore forward Matt Beaudoin, who recorded two goals, one of which came shorthanded.
“It’s great,” Fritsche said of his hat trick. “I think in my whole career I’ve had three, maybe. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Beaudoin credited his linemates for the numbers he has put up on the power play.
“Obviously our power play was amazing again tonight,” he said. “There’s something clicking between Fritsche, me and (sophomore forward Andrew) Schembri.”
Bellissimo was shaken up after a collision with senior Buckeye forward Lee Spector, but stayed in the game until he was pulled at 5:42 of the second period. His replacement, junior Eric Marvin, stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced in only his second game this season. The collision came at 6:38 of the first period, and OSU had a 1-0 lead.
“He was pretty sore,” Culhane said. “I’m not sure — the first time (for) Danny being in the building, he’s a young guy. I think we’re both still learning about each other and what he’s made of.”
“I don’t know if that collision hurt Bellissimo, but it must’ve. I don’t know what happened — he was laying funny, and that might’ve had an effect on their team.”
In contrast, junior Buckeye netminder Dave Caruso earned his second shutout of the season, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
“The guys played well in front of me,” Caruso said. “I saw a lot of shots. I don’t think they really created too many scoring chances, so that’s props to the D.”
The Broncos’ best opportunity to climb back into the game came at the beginning of the second period. OSU’s junior forward Rod Pelley was assessed two minor penalties, and WMU held a man advantage for four minutes. However, Beaudoin took a loose puck and skated up the ice, faked a pass to Fritsche and wristed a shot over a diving defenseman and past Bellissimo, killing any momentum the Broncos had hoped to gain with the power play.
“When we got that shorthanded goal, our guys kinda settled in,” Markell said. “Specialty teams … have to be clicking for you to be successful in this league.”
The Buckeyes had three power-play chances in the third period but did not score. When sophomore defenseman Sean Collins blasted a slapshot from the top of the slot that Marvin never saw coming, the scoring — and the game — were effectively over.
“I don’t think it was our best game (this year), but everything was clicking,” Beaudoin said. “We’ve played better games than that but that was one of our good games.”