COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the second consecutive night, the Ohio State Buckeyes blanked the Lake Superior State Lakers, winning 4-0 and earning their first CCHA sweep of the season.
The Bucks owed the shutout to senior goaltender Dave Caruso, who stopped 27 shots including back-to-back five-on-three LSSU power plays in the third period.
“Dave Caruso won that hockey game for us tonight,” said head coach John Markell. “You’re going to win some games you’re not supposed to win during the season, and you’re going to lose some games you’re not supposed to lose. You’ve just got to make sure you don’t lose too many of those.”
LSSU head coach Jim Roque had a different perspective on the Buckeye win. Roque said that he was “pretty proud” of the Lakers, and added, “I don’t think we’re good enough to beat Ohio State and three officials. We’re not good enough to do that.”
Roque contended that the officiating was slanted OSU’s way for the series, even though the Buckeyes were averaging more minutes per game than any other team in the CCHA before this series. In Friday’s contest, only five penalties were assessed three for LSSU, two for OSU and in tonight’s game the Lakers had 11 penalties for 22 minutes, while the Buckeyes had nine for 18.
After last night’s contest, Roque hinted that he could put together a highlight reel of missed penalties for the officiating crew of Mark Wilkins, Brian Hill, and Bruce Vida, and that’s exactly what he did and claimed the crew retaliated by taking it out on the Lakers.
“I showed the officials before the game tonight some clips, and the supervisor [Neil Armstrong] here, and they decided, proceeded, to stick it to my team. So, a rookie coach got taken out to the woodshed tonight, and that’s the way it goes.
“I screwed it up for my team. It’s my fault. My guys played hard, played a lot of chances. I don’t need to see the video tonight; we were outstanding. And we were good last night. We were very good last night.
“He’s [Wilkins] apologizing before the game that he missed two checking from behind, it doesn’t help me today. And you guys on Tuesday night won the game because of a checking from behind in the third against State.
“Proud of my guys, though. We came here to pass the test and we passed with flying colors. We’re going to be a good team. I like our team.”
The Tuesday-night game to which Roque referred was OSU’s 3-2 home win over Michigan State. Andrew Schembri’s game-tying goal in that contest was scored on a five-minute OSU power play.
Officiating aside, the Lakers just didn’t see things go their way right from the start of this game. In the first period, the Lakers dinged the OSU pipes twice and Steve McJannet hit the side of an open net on a two-on-one breakway. But it would have taken more than bounces to beat Caruso tonight.
“I compliment Lake Superior,” said Markell. “That’s a good hockey club. They’re consistent, they’re big, they’re powerful, they play with emotion, and they ran into a hot goaltender this weekend. Obviously, they’re going places. I thought we had a more solid effort last night, but Caruso was the difference here tonight.”
Mathieu Beaudoin netted his second goal of the weekend on the power play at 4:40 in the first to give OSU a 1-0 lead, hitting the top shelf behind Laker goaltender Jeff Jakaitis on a feed from Kyle Hood.
The Buckeyes scored three goals in the second period, two even strength and one on the power play. At 12:25, Tyson Strachan fired from near the blue line and found the net through traffic; all the screened Jakaitis could do was look over his right shoulder as the puck passed by.
At 18:22, Bryce Anderson popped Kenny Bernard’s rebounded shot up and over the legs of a spread-eagle Jakaitis, and at 19:12, Matt Waddel’s shot from the top of the slot floated up and in on the power play to give OSU a 4-0 lead.
Throughout the game Caruso earned his keep, especially in two saves for which he played more like a center fielder than a goaltender. With a little more than halfway to go in the second and John Dingle in the box for interference, Caruso dove across the crease to play the puck as though he was playing a long fly ball, making a crowd-pleasing catch and impressive save to keep the momentum going OSU’s way. In the third, he similarly jumped off his feet to use his glove like a ballplayer. Both moves clearly fed the energy of the Buckeyes squad.
“I was seeing the puck good,” said Caruso. “After the first period when they had a couple of posts, they were right on. I felt good just seeing the puck and stopping it.”
The win is the fifth of the season for Caruso and the Buckeyes, and their third in a row after skidding along a four-game losing streak prior to their win over Michigan State. Caruso said the key to the shutouts and his improved play was his focusing on what he “needed to do” and “wanted to do.”
“I wasn’t being aggressive enough,” said Caruso. “My whole key to my game is when I’m aggressive but I’m still patient, using my skating ability. I just try to be aggressive, and the guys behind me, I trust in them that they’re going to do their job. Then I’ve got to do my job, which is stop that initial shot and keep the rebound in a safe area.”
For his part, Markell said that he thought the games both night were well played. “I watched yesterday’s game, and there might have been one or two penalties, one penalty on each side that might have been called last night, but home cooking? Why would there be home cooking? We came into this series the most penalized team in the league. I thought we played a pretty clean game. We were moving our feet today, and you can see there were a few more penalties because we weren’t moving our feet the we can, and we understand that. I thought [it was] very fair.”
The Buckeyes, who improve to 5-4-1 (4-4-1 CCHA) are on the road for Thanksgiving weekend against Notre Dame, while the Lakers (4-5-3, 3-5-2 CCHA) host Robert Morris Nov. 25-26.