BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — “In O’Keefe we trust, all others must pay cash.”
That sign in the crowd was the story of the game, that’s for sure.
Goaltender Mitch O’Keefe made 44 saves while Adam Miller notched a goal and an assist to help Ferris State sweep Ohio State by a score of 2-1.
The game-winning goal came in the third period. At that point, Ohio State’s frustration began to show as it took another penalty, giving the Bulldogs an opportunity to extend their lead. Dan Reidel made the Buckeyes pay at 7:09 to make it 2-0. Miller wristed a shot that went off the left pad of Caruso and right out to a wide open Reidel. Caruso sprawled out to make the save, but Reidel made no mistake as he put the puck into the net.
“I thought O’Keefe played extremely well tonight,” Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said. “He was the difference tonight that’s for sure. I can’t remember the last time we had sweep of a series at home and it sure feels good to get one tonight.”
“When you put the puck on net 75 times and only score 1 goal, it’s very frustrating,” Ohio State coach John Markell said. “It was the story of our season. We had over 80 man games lost to injury, and we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Coming off the dominating performance in the third period from last night’s game, Ohio State resumed its pressure through the entire first period. The Buckeyes never let up, outshooting the Bulldogs, 14-6, as the period came to a close. The power play was a big factor in the game with each team having three chances. Ohio State generated six shots with the extra man and kept the Bulldogs to only one. Bulldog goaltender O’Keefe was stellar once again keeping the hard working Buckeyes off the scoresheet. Ohio State goaltender Caruso, in possibly the last game of his collegiate career, played flawlessly as well.
The Buckeyes came out shooting again the second period. O’Keefe kept the game scoreless as the game approached the half way point. Sam Campbell had the best chance at the 8:30 mark when he found himself in on a breakaway opportunity. He tried going between the legs of O’Keefe, but the goaltender went down into the butterfly quickly and made the save easily. Caruso did his part as well, coming up with strong saves as the Buckeye defense kept the Bulldogs chances to the outside.
The third period began much like the previous two. Ohio State had 1:35 left on a power play chance, and had two great scoring chances on O’Keefe. The Bulldog goaltender continued his dominating performance in net. Finally, Adam Miller broke the scoreless tie with the first power-play chance of the period for the Bulldogs. Jeremy Scherlink fed Miller at the right side of the net. Miller wristed a puck that went off the skate of an Ohio State defenseman and through the legs of Caruso at 5:18 to make it 1-0.
Ohio State finally got on the board after almost six periods of shutout hockey by O’Keefe. Matt Waddell centered the puck for Kenny Bernard who scored top shelf on O’Keefe to make it 2-1 at 11:42. That was as close as Ohio State would come, though.
While fatigue seems to be a factor in the closing minutes of some games, this one was an exception. Both teams had their skating legs right to the end, further showcasing the conditioning of these great student athletes.
“They fought to the end,” Markell said. “That is the one thing everyone will remember. There were periods through the season where they could have played better. However, they worked hard right up to the end and that I am proud of. I feel really bad for the seniors who worked hard through the years to have it end here. We have a lot to work on.”
“We are going to take 48 hours and enjoy the moment,” Daniels said. “Then its time to put it past us and look to our next opponent.”