COLUMBUS, Ohio — One night after beating the Falcons 7-2 in Bowling Green, the No. 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves having to come from behind to earn a single point, ultimately tying BGSU 2-2 in their home opener at Value City Arena tonight.
It was John Dingle’s one-timer from high in the slot at 4:03 in the third that knotted the game to force the overtime. Tom Fritsche assisted on both Buckeye goals as Jonathan Matsumoto did for Bowling Green but it was Matsumoto who almost won the game for the Falcons, dinging one off the right post with less than a minute left in the extra session.
The most solid player tonight for either squad, though, was BGSU netminder Jon Horrell, who saved 41 of 43 Buckeye shots on goal.
After OSU opened the scoring on the power play at 2:26 in the first, Horrell was flawless until Dingle’s goal and stopped all five of OSU’s overtime chances, including three with the man advantage.
“First off, to rebound right from the first power-play goal they get shows quite a bit,” said BGSU head coach Scott Paluch. “To withstand the early pressures of playing on the road but I thought he did a great job with his rebound control tonight. There were a lot of shots from within tight that he kept in safer areas, didn’t allow too much back.”
OSU outshot BGSU 20-4 in the first period but came out of the opening stanza behind 2-1, something head coach John Markell called “puzzling.”
“They came with a better effort, and obviously we had about ten seconds in the defensive zone [where] we made two mistakes, and they put two pucks in.”
Kyle Hood capitalized on the OSU power play early for the fleeting 1-0 Buckeye lead, on a feed from Fritsche out of the right corner. But the Falcons rebounded quickly to even the score, taking advantage of a Buckeye defensive breakdown to pressure OSU netminder Dave Caruso.
Alex Foster stole the puck in the right OSU circle and fed Matsumoto off the board in the corner who the skated around the top of the zone and behind the Buckeye net left, where he banked the puck off the back bottom bar of the cage for Foster, who took it and stuffed it between the right post and Caruso’s leg for the game-tying goal at 3:27.
Mike Falk made a pretty play at 17:38 for the go-ahead tally, taking a pass from Matsumoto and going high left on Caruso, who went down right to guard Falk.
After a scoreless and lackluster second period, the Buckeye returned to the ice with intensity in the third and used their speed to create the opportunity that led to Dingle’s marker before losing steam as play progressed.
It looked as though the Buckeyes would play the last four minutes of the game a man down, as Kenny Bernard was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind at 15:44, but BGSU’s Mike Nesdill earned five minutes of his own for the same infraction at 17:02, evening the playing field and giving the Bucks an advantage in OT.
Horrell, however, was up to the task.
“He was strong,” said Dingle. “We were peppering him pretty good there and he was making some pretty big saves, but we weren’t putting the puck coaches were screaming at us to get the puck high and get it moving, and that’s what we have to work on.
“We’re playing against good guys here. Goalies are going to make that first save in this league. We’ve got to mix it up a little bit, and that’s what we weren’t doing. We didn’t have that spice with our shots.”
“He definitely made some big saves,” added Fritsche. “We didn’t make the right shots, but he did make some big saves at the right times.”
Horrell ended the night with 41 saves to Caruso’s 17. BGSU went 0-for-8 on the power play; OSU was 1-for-7.
The point was the first the Falcons have taken from the Buckeyes under fourth-year head coach Scott Paluch. “I thought it was a terrific college hockey game and a real important game for our club after last night,” said Paluch. “This has been an extremely tough place for us to play the last couple of years and I think our guys really rallied this morning.
“I said all week long in preparation that I really believe is easily a top-two team in the country with the experience they have and how much they can put on you in so many different ways. I’m really proud of how our team responded tonight.”
The Falcons (0-3-1, 0-1-1 CCHA) return to Bowling Green to host Ferris State in the first game of a Thursday-Saturday, home-and-home series this week, while the Buckeyes (2-1-1, 1-0-1 CCHA) travel to Western Michigan to face the Broncos next weekend.
“This team’s learning how to compete, learning how to handle pressure, and we got a point,” said Markell. “We have to continue the learning process. We found a way to put a puck in the net that could have easily been lost. That will be an important point down the line.”