SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — “That was not easy.”
Ohio State coach John Markell uttered those words after his team scored a goal 1:40 into overtime to lift the Buckeyes (20-7-3, 17-4-1 CCHA) to a 3-2 victory, completing the sweep of Lake Superior State (7-15-6, 6-9-5 CCHA).
Ohio State was able to get the overtime goal by working at the front of the Laker net. Bryce Anderson lifted the puck over Jeff Jakaitis to finish the win.
The Buckeyes were unable to get the puck in prime positions for most of the game, but buried their opportunities when they arose.
“I thought the team did a great job in front of Jeff Jakaitis,” said Lakers head coach Frank Anzalone. “There were very, very few big-time shots, and the few that they did score were more their thrust than their talent.”
The Buckeyes’ third goal, however, was a result of their talent. Down 2-1 going into the third, the Buckeyes came out and started to dominate the Lakers on the boards, resulting in a quick goal. Playing 4-on-4, OSU forward Dan Knapp skated past Colin Nicholson and wristed a shot right through Jakaitis’ pads from outside the circle.
“I thought we started to change the momentum a bit, change the style of play they were trying to play,” said Markell.
The momentum changed starting in the third after the Lakers had dominated the play for most of the first five periods of the weekend.
“Lake Superior won a number of periods; you’ve got to compliment them,” said Markell. “In the third, we were able to get the puck back. Our first forechecker was getting on [Lake Superior's] defenseman, and our second guy was getting lower, deeper, faster.”
OSU was able to take the victory even though their special teams did not come through as usual. The Buckeyes were held to one shot on two power-play opportunities, and allowed two power-play goals in two full chances. The Lakers’ third power play lasted 19 seconds before Ren Fauci was whistled for interference.
Lake Superior’s first power-play goal came on a rare line rush, when Ohio State goaltender Dave Caruso gave up a high rebound, which Nicholson tapped just enough to squeak over the red line.
Kyle Hood answered the goal 8:53 in the second in much the same matter as the overtime goal. Hood found the puck in front of the net during a scrum and lifted it over Jakaitis, who was trying to poke check the puck out of the crease area.
Fauci answered the goal with his second power-play goal of the series when his blue-line slap shot deflected off a Buckeye player into the net.
The Lakers had a great opportunity to make the game 3-1, but Steve McJannet’s slapper when he walked in on goal missed the net wide right.
“Those are the moments in time,” lamented Anzalone, “that you realize why you’re not a top team and why you have a losing record.”
Markell credited his team with being able to adapt to the Lakers’ grinding style and slow tempo.
“They keep guys back, they clog the middle; there’s nothing fancy,” said Markell. “Our guys worked hard and caught some breaks.”
Anzalone, however, credited the victories to Ohio State’s superior talent.
“They are a good team and have four or five very talented forwards,” said Anzalone. “We’re not at that level of talent. I don’t think we could work much harder than that, [but] we could probably have great goaltending. Right now, we have good goaltending.”
With the win, Ohio State moved within one point of Michigan for first-place in the CCHA after the Wolverines tied Michigan State twice over the weekend. The Lakers caught a break, as Miami, MSU and Alaska-Fairbanks are just two points ahead of them in a tie for sixth place in the conference.
Ohio State returns home next weekend to face Bowling Green in hopes of overtaking the CCHA lead from Michigan. The race for home ice should also heat up after next weekend when LSSU travels to Miami to take on the RedHawks.