COLUMBUS, Ohio — After battling from behind three times in the game, the No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes finally pulled ahead when it counted, beating No. 11 Ferris State, 5-4, in overtime to advance to the CCHA Super Six championship series in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena next weekend.
Freshman John Dingle had the game-winner at 4:40 in OT, picking up a loose puck in the crease that bounced off the back of Bryce Anderson after Rod Pelley fired from the left circle. Dingle backhanded the puck past Bulldog goaltender Mike Brown, ending Ferris State’s season one game after Brown, a senior, earned the 1-0 overtime shutout win to force the third game.
OSU head coach John Markell said that the character the Buckeyes “displayed numerous times, especially at home here” was key to gutting out a win with a freshman-heavy hockey team.
“It was enormous for us to get these kids through this experience,” said Markell. “That first playoff series as young collegians is really, really tough, especially when we only had two seniors in the lineup.”
The Buckeye freshmen led the way in scoring, with Dingle’s game-winning goal, Tom Fritsche’s goal and two assists, and Jason DeSantis’s game-tying goal with less than a minute to go in regulation.
Markell said that the Buckeye freshmen were only doing their jobs. “They’re here to play hockey. That’s why we recruited them here. We’re excited about the fact that they’ve got that kind of experience because they’re going to need it from here on in.”
Sophomore Matt Beaudoin had two goals in the game, including a shorthanded tally midway through the third to cut FSU’s lead to one.
Dave Caruso made 20 saves in his 24th win of the season, but the goaltending story of the weekend was the play of Brown, who stopped 30 in his final collegiate game and 106 in the three-game set.
“We imposed our will on Ferris,” said Markell. “You’ve got to compliment not only Ferris but our league. That’s how tough our league is. You look at Ferris State. Do they deserve to be where they are? No. It just goes to show you that a goal here, a goal there can change a season. That’s a very good hockey club and they gave us fits all weekend.”
FSU senior Derek Nesbitt had two goals in the contest, including a four-on-three power-play goal at 4:56 in the first, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 game after one. Nesbitt’s shot from the slot on a pass from Greg Rallo hit Caruso in the blocker and then squibbed into the net, slow-motion, just crossing the goal line before Caruso could reach back to glove it.
It was 2-1 after two as the Buckeyes and Bulldogs exchanged goals in the middle stanza, with Matt Beaudoin netting his first of the night at 2:48, on the power play. Beaudoin, camped at the left post, took Andrew Schembri’s cross-crease pass and put it in short side, scoring at 2:48 on the same shot — same setup — that he’d missed on just seconds before.
Nesbitt scored his second at 12:58, also on the power play, picking up the rebound of Rallo’s shot, which hit Buckeye defender Nate Guenin in the skate and bounced back to Nesbitt at the top of the left circle. Nesbitt’s shot beat Caruso long and clean to give the Bulldogs the lead again.
While the Bulldogs played the same trapping style that shut down the Buckeyes in their 1-0 Saturday win through the first two periods of this contest, FSU head coach Bob Daniels said he knew that an FSU victory was a long way off.
“I guess I never really thought we had it,” said Daniels. “I remember saying to one of the assistants on the way out of the ice to the third [period], ‘Boy, we’ve got a lot of hockey ahead of us here.’ I just knew the last 20 minutes, regardless of how that went, would take an eternity.
“We knew there was going to be a late surge, and we knew we were going to have to be strong around the net and get some breaks. I thought that when the puck hit the pipe in one of their scrambles around the net, for the moment I thought, ‘Gee, maybe things will bounce our way here.’”
The Buckeyes came out with a renewed effort in the third, starting with Fritsche’s goal from the right circle at 1:58 to once again tie the game, but the Bulldogs took a 4-2 lead on goals by Matt Stefanishion at 3:18 and Jeff Legue at 6:18, and it looked as though FSU would pull off the upset.
Until Beaudoin scored shorthanded at 9:55, that is. Beaudoin stole the puck in the OSU zone and passed up to Kenny Bernard, who shuffled back to the streaking Beaudoin. Beaudoin’s rocket from the bottom of the left circle beat Brown far side.
“When Matt buried that … you could feel it on the bench that it was going, that we were rolling,” said Dingle.
From that point on, the Buckeyes did roll, firing on Brown nearly at will and keeping the majority of the play confined to the FSU zone. Then, with less than a minute to go and Caruso about to leave the ice for the extra attacker, DeSantis launched a rocket from the top of the left circle and tied the game with 49.8 seconds to go in regulation.
Daniels said that he thought the Bulldogs did “a pretty good job of surviving” the momentum from Beaudoin’s shorthanded goal, but that giving up the tying marker in the closing minute of play was a killer.
“Once we got down to under two minutes, I felt pretty good about the fact that any momentum they may have gained from scoring the third goal was gone. Now it was just a matter for us to try to grind the clock down.
“Had they tied with maybe three minutes to go in the period, I think it would have been a little easier. It was a pretty down locker room. I thought the object at that point as coaches was to pick the kids up. You didn’t want them to go out there deflated. We certainly didn’t sit back and hope to win. I thought our kids put their best foot forward in overtime.”
FSU went 2-for-7 on the power play and Legue’s goal came three seconds after a man-advantage expired. OSU was 1-for-6 on the PP tonight.
Ferris State ends the 2004-05 season with a 13-22-4 record.
Ohio State (26-9-4) will enter the Super Six tournament as the No. 2 seed, playing the highest remaining seed after Thursday’s contests.