COLUMBUS, Ohio — After allowing two power-play goals to Ferris State, the battered Buckeyes found themselves in familiar territory, playing catch up midway through another CCHA contest. But Saturday, Ohio State found offense from one of the unlikeliest sources: its 58th-ranked power play.
The Buckeyes scored twice with the man advantage in the second period and once more four-on-four in the third to come from behind and beat the Bulldogs 3-2 in the last-ever contest at Value City Arena for the team’s seniors.
“This was a special game for myself and the other seniors,” said assistant captain forward Rod Pelley. “There were emotions flying all over the place. It was a team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team.”
Sophomore Sam Campbell and junior Andrew Schembri netted the power-play goals, while sophomore Tom Fritsche had the third period game winner.
Campbell, who assisted on Fritsche’s goal, said that the level of intensity the team exhibited tonight “probably should have been there all year.” He added that “everyone wanted to bear down and get it done” for the seniors.
The victory broke a five-game winless streak for OSU, while the loss continued FSU’s winless ways; the Bulldogs are now 0-3-1 in their last four, including Friday night’s 3-3 tie in Columbus.
FSU head coach Bob Daniels said that “there wasn’t much difference” between Friday’s game and Saturday’s, except that FSU “didn’t get the goal to tie it up” in the loss.
“We played a pretty good road game,” said Daniels. “We just didn’t finish our chances.”
The game started much differently for the Buckeyes than every game in that winless streak because, in this one, OSU didn’t allow a goal within the first three minutes of regulation. Instead, it took until 12:59 in the first and a man advantage with excellent perimeter cycling for FSU to beat senior goaltender Dave Caruso for the 1-0 lead. Jeremy Scherlinck sent the puck from the right point to the left, where Matt Verdone one-touched it to Adam Welch at the top of the left circle. Welch sent it long, where it grazed Caruso’s glove and went up and in.
The Bulldogs went up 2-0 on Zac Pearson’s very fluky goal at 12:59 in the second. Welch shot and the puck went straight up into the air off of Adam Miller’s stick, only to land directly behind Caruso but out of the goal line. Pearson poked it home with a crowd of Buckeyes desperately trying to fill the net.
But at 14:40, Sam Campbell put one past FSU netminder Mitch O’Keefe long from the top the left circle on the power play, the end result of Dan Knapp’s sweet, backhanded feed from the bottom of the circle, and suddenly the Buckeyes were alive.
“I think the game turned a little bit when our guys started getting more physical,” said OSU head coach John Markell, who characterized the Friday match as “cautious.” “It’s pretty evident at we’re a better hockey team when we play more physical.”
Less than three minutes later, just after exiting the penalty box himself, Schembri tied the game for the Buckeyes, picking up the rebound of Sean Collin’s shot from the left point.
Fritsche’s game-winning goal came at 7:08 in the third when he backhanded in Campbell’s pass from behind the net. After the third OSU goal, the Bulldogs couldn’t crack the Buckeye defense.
“Ohio State played a strong game once they got up 3-2,” said Daniels. “We had to start pressuring moreto get the equalizer, and we just didn’t get it.”
With that third goal, said Markell, “the game got back to what it is supposed to be, banging it up and down the ice.”
The Bulldogs finished the night 2-8 on the power play, the Buckeyes 2-6. O’Keefe had 31 saves to Caruso’s 23, as OSU outshot FSU 34-25.
The three-point weekend vaulted Ohio State (15-15-5, 11-12-3 CCHA) into sole possession of seventh place in league standings with 25 points and ahead of Ferris State (14-13-7, 9-11-6 CCHA), who now ties Notre Dame with 24 points. Before this series, OSU trailed FSU in the standings.
Each team plays its last regular-season series next weekend. Ferris State is home-and-home with Michigan Feb. 24-25, while Ohio State travels to Northern Michigan. As the fifth through eighth teams host a first-round CCHA playoff series, the fate of each team depends on the outcome of next weekend’s series.
“I don’t think it’s any different than playing anyone else,” said Daniels of playing the Wolverines. “Every series is tough.”
Said Markell, “I think we need to get three points this weekend, no matter what anybody else does.”