COLUMBUS, Ohio — With less than four minutes left in regulation, the Ohio State Buckeyes scored two goals 14 seconds apart to send their game against the Miami RedHawks into overtime, and that’s the way it ended, a 2-2 decision that capped a three-point weekend for the Buckeyes.
Rod Pelley had the goal that evened things up and assisted on OSU’s first tally, and for the RedHawks, goaltender Brandon Crawford-West was spectacular, stopping 37 shots as OSU outshot Miami 39-17. Crawford-West made 76 saves in the home-and-home series.
“He’s a good goalie,” said Buckeye Dan Knapp, who was stymied by Crawford-West on a point-blank shot with one minute remaining in overtime. “When he’s on, he’s on. A lot of shots we put in the middle of his breadbasket there. There were a few that he stuck his pad out and got and maybe he shouldn’t have. When there’s a playoff atmosphere like that, you’re going to run into a hot goalie sooner or later. It’s better we learn to deal with it now than next weekend.”
The Buckeyes, who finished the regular season in second place in the CCHA with a record of 24-8-4 (21-5-2 CCHA), will host 11th-place Ferris State next weekend for the opening round of the league playoffs.
The single point sealed Miami’s playoff fate, sending the seventh-place RedHawks (15-16-5, 11-13-4 CCHA) to East Lansing next weekend to play the sixth-place Michigan State Spartans.
“I just told the guys, too, that I’m actually kind of glad that we’re going on the road,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “This is a big week on campus for midterm exams. I remember last year it was really a distraction, right up until Friday with guys’ exams, so maybe it’s a blessing. Who knows? I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.”
Matt Davis and Chris Michael had the goals for Miami, with Dominic Maiani scoring first for OSU.
Matt Davis scored at 18:13 in the first, just one second after a penalty on Maiani had expired, and while referee Steve Piotrowski’s arm was raised to signal a delayed penalty against Matt Beaudoin. Davis’ brother Nathan sent the puck from the right circle to him at the top of the slot. The younger Davis’ shot was blocked by OSU captain JB Bittner, but the puck ricocheted right back to Matt Davis’ stick. He fired, beating OSU goalie Dave Caruso high on the right side.
After a scoreless second period, the RedHawks took a 2-0 lead on Michael’s goal on a sweet feed from Marty Guerin. Guerin picked up the loose puck in the left Miami faceoff circle and skated down the right wing, crossed to the top of the slot, and shuffled over to a streaking Michael, who never broke stride while tipping in the puck five-hole.
The Buckeyes can thank their three seniors — Bittner, Lee Spector, and Thomas Welsh — and a junior who didn’t want to let them down for the late surge in offense. Pelley said that he didn’t want to the seniors to lose their last regular-season home game, and so redoubled his efforts.
“Just before I went out there [before the first goal], JB was sitting next to me and I turned and I looked at him, just thinking in my head, ‘This is going to be not as good — their senior night is not going to be half the tribute it should be.’”
The next shift, Pelley wound up from the left point and let one rip, creating a rebound off Crawford-West’s chest that came back eight feet to Maiani, who put it up and over Crawford-West’s left shoulder at 16:25.
At 16:39, Bittner was more directly involved, sending the puck from the left behind the Miami net to Pelley camped near the right post. Pelley, who was caught on the ice during a shift change, sent it cleanly past Crawford-West short side to tie the game.
Blasi said that the OSU home crowd had something to do with the Buckeyes’ comeback, but that the number of penalties assessed was a larger factor.
“We had to kill a lot of penalties tonight. You’ve got to understand [that] Brandon was tired, but more importantly, the guys that we use in those situations were out there a lot tonight. We’re not going to comment on refereeing, but when you’re killing five-on-threes for two minutes and you use five guys, it’s going to take its toll.
“Ohio State was coming, though. How the PairWise has ranked them I-don’t-know-what, is beyond me. If they’re not a top-10 team in the country, then I shouldn’t be coaching.”
Miami was 0-for-6 on the power play while holding the league-leading OSU man advantage to 0-for-8. The RedHawk PK blocked shot after shot, but the Buckeyes maintained that their power play was off as well because of their bye last weekend and the absence of sophomore defenseman Sean Collins, who was injured in Friday night’s 3-1 OSU win in Oxford. Collins is expected to play next weekend.
“We were a perimeter power play tonight,” said Markell. “We weren’t shooting pucks the way we can. We’ve got to recognize that and make some adjustments. If anything this weekend, our power play was off, and that’s from having two weeks off. We’ve got to get that back and we’ve got to really practice that.”
The shot-blocking was part of the game plan, said Blasi. “It’s something that goes unnoticed, but I would say in the last two nights we’ve blocked 45 shots. We work on that. Those are things that people don’t see that we work on constantly, and there are certain guys on our team that are pretty good at it.”
Caruso finished the night with 15 saves and brought his record to 22-6-4 on the season. OSU’s 78.6 win percentage record in CCHA play is the best in Buckeye history, surpassing the previous best of the 1979-80 squad (72.5).