EAST LANSING, Mich. — After Friday’s game, in which coach John Markell and his Buckeyes felt outplayed, Ohio State responded in a big way on Saturday night, setting the tone early and often in a dominating 5-1 win over Michigan State.
It may have all started with a Saturday morning skate which featured more than the usual routine to get the blood flowing.
“Coach had a fire under him and he lit a fire under us. He challenged some guys that he felt didn’t show up yesterday,” said assistant captain Nate Guenin.
“I’m pleased with the way we responded,” said Markell. “Obviously that loss hurt last night and this is the kind of team you want to be coaching coming down the pipe. I respect the fact that the guys came back. It hurt and they responded in a big way and that’s what you have to do this time of year.”
Unlike Friday, when the Spartans took advantage of the most-penalized team in the country, the Buckeyes’ physical play gave them a decided advantage, and they used it to take the Spartans out of their element.
“We were confident last night; tonight we were very uncertain,” said Spartan coach Rick Comley. “We were not as good tonight. it wasn’t that the players weren’t ready to play. but we did not have the same quality lineup that we had last night either.”
“We just have to stay out of the type of game that they want to get us into,” said MSU captain Jim Slater. “A lot of it is 4-on-4 and 4-on-3 and they’ve got the best special teams in our league. We knew that coming in, but we took some bad penalties.”
Despite giving up the lone MSU tally of the game, OSU used an extraordinary special-teams effort in the second period to break the game open. The Buckeyes combined a pair of power-play goals from Rod Pelley and Dave Barton with three straight kills to ride a 4-1 lead to victory.
Ohio State seemed to thrive under the physical conditions. The CCHA’s best special teams were out in force on Saturday, with Ohio State going 3-for-8 on the power play while holding MSU to one goal in six attempts.
“It’s tough on the body; it’s a rough and tough game. We saw tonight that they came back and really took it to us. We tried to come back with some hits and some physical play of our own,” said Spartan assistant captain Drew Miller.
Yet, Michigan State seemed to be worn down, both mentally and physically, after a grueling weekend with one of the toughest and best teams in the CCHA. A fatigued Spartan team succumbed to the rough-and-tumble Buckeyes’ play, giving OSU six power plays in the third period to squash comeback hopes.
“I don’t know what the numbers were, but it felt like we were in the box for the entire period. It makes it pretty tough to stage a comeback when you’re in the box,” said Slater.
“When you take two warriors out of the lineup tonight like David Booth and Cory Potter, you’re not going to be as good of a team. There were mistakes made tonight by players who had to play a lot more than they normally do,” said Comley.
Despite limited action, Ohio State’s David Caruso played strong in net. An evening removed from being lifted in favor of his backup, Caruso rose to the occasion with an answer for all the traffic and the pucks that MSU threw at him.
His counterpart, Dominic Vicari, hardly struggled in net despite giving up five goals on 31 shots. OSU beat him three times on the power play including once on a 4-on-3 as well as an even-strength goal during a delayed penalty.
Slater was the lone bright spot for Michigan State, notching his 13th goal of the season on the power play for the Spartans’ only tally of the game.
The Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them in the chase for the regular-season title, but kept their hopes alive. They’ll have two weeks to prepare for their last series of the season with Miami.