COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Zac Pearson’s breakaway goal at 1:09 in overtime, No. 11 seed Ferris State Bulldogs stunned No. 2 Ohio State with a 1-0 victory in Columbus to force a deciding third game Sunday night in this best-of-3 first-round CCHA playoff series.
FSU goaltender Mike Brown, a senior, made 36 saves in his second shutout of the season, the 10th of his career.
“That was a superb performance by Mike,” said Bulldog head coach Bob Daniels. “Not only did he make good saves, but he looked extremely solid in net. He looked right under control, looked very comfortable in the situation.”
In two games so far this weekend, Brown has a total of 76 saves as the Buckeyes have outshot the Bulldogs 80-40.
“On a team like that, you have to score and you have to score early,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “We had opportunities, but we couldn’t get it by Brown. We have to create a few more opportunities for ourselves … and our guys are going to have to respond the right way.
“I didn’t think we played that bad of a game. Obviously, it came down to a bounce. The kid made a good play and beat our defenseman one-on-one and then he beat our goalie.”
The game-winning play began when Bulldog Mark Bomersback checked Buckeye Matt Waddell into the boards in the FSU zone, sending the puck to nearby Joe Van Culin, who touched it to Pearson.
Pearson skated in alone with Buckeyes Tyson Strachan and JB Bittner back, deked Strachan in the right circle, moved to the slot, took the puck from backhand to forehand, and beat Ohio State goaltender Dave Caruso high on the glove side, clean.
Brown was on his game right from the drop of the puck, stopping a shot by Bittner at the one-minute mark. Bittner broke in alone, threaded the FSU defense, and while being pulled down by Van Culin managed to get off a great shot from in front of the center of the crease, only to be thwarted by Brown for the first of four times in the contest.
Late in the second period, Brown was spectacular on a series with three Buckeyes crashing the net, saving Kyle Hood’s initial blast, Bittner’s rebound attempt, and finally directing the puck behind the net with plenty of traffic in the crease.
In the third, Brown made a fantastic, dramatic glove save on Sean Collins’ one-timer to preserve the tie.
But even though OSU doubled Ferris State’s shots on net, what opportunities the Bulldogs had in the game were quality. Caruso looked particularly impressive stopping Jeff Legue twice alone, once in the first and then again on Legue’s shorthanded breakaway in the second.
The Bulldogs as a team did a better job in the neutral zone, limiting OSU’s chances of getting the puck deep into the FSU zone, a key difference in Saturday’s game, said Daniels.
“I did think today that we did do a better job of taking … care of the puck. Yesterday, I thought we turned it over a lot … where we tried to do too much with it. Tonight I thought we did a better job of dummying down our game a little bit and just making conservative, strong plays with the puck and not trying to over-gamble.
“There’s no question that last night they generated a lot through the neutral zone. A lot of that was by their discipline in their systems and getting us to turn the puck over, and — bang! — they’re transition’s very good.
“If nothing else, we needed to take better care of the puck. If they were going to come down at us, we wanted them to have to travel a little further in the rink, instead of maybe blueline in on us.”
Markell was disappointed with the Buckeye power play, which went 0-for-8 in the contest. “I thought our power play that’s been making the difference wasn’t there tonight — not that they weren’t trying — and we’ll have to take a look at that.”
The Bulldogs were 0-for-6 on the power play, as both teams spent significant time in the box, something that concerns Daniels for Sunday’s rubber game.
“I thought as a team, we still had some lazy penalties, if you will. I don’t how many hooks we had. That was one thing coming into tonight; we really wanted to reduce the number of lazy and unnecessary penalties. Maybe to an extent we were better, but I tell you, we know we’re playing with fire with Ohio State’s power play as good as it is.
“It’s also a very taxing situation, because we only use three sets of forwards and maybe five defensemen to kill, so those guys get awfully worn out. We’ve got to do a better job of that tomorrow.”
Ferris State (13-12-4) and Ohio State (25-9-4) will meet again Sunday night at 7:05 to decide the series. It will be the seventh game this season between the clustermates. OSU holds a 4-2-0 edge in the contests, but both FSU wins were in overtime, both in Value City Arena. The Bulldogs are the only team to have beaten OSU twice in Columbus this season.
The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to the CCHA Super Six Tournament in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena next weekend.
“We can’t live in the past,” said Markell. It happened, and we have to move forward. Now we’ve got a one-game shot here to keep moving on.”
For Ohio State, “moving on” refers to games beyond the CCHA Super Six; with the loss, the Buckeyes dropped from ninth to 15th in the PairWise Rankings, virtually out of the NCAA tournament.